On Wednesday, the city announced plans to upgrade the bicycle lanes near the South Street Bridge by adding flexible delineator posts by “mid 2018.”
The existing, painted bike lanes on 27th Street between Lombard and South Streets and on South Street between the bridge and 21st Street will be repainted and have plastic divider poles installed. The move comes two weeks following the death of a cyclist who was fatally struck by a trash truck while riding in an unprotected bike lane on Spruce Street. Soon after the crash, the city restriped the faded bike lanes on Spruce and Pine Streets.
In July, the city held a public meeting to consider a six-month pilot of the protected bike lanes. The city has decided to skip the test run and simply make a permanent upgrade. But the proposal in July also considered extending the bike lane protection down Lombard Street; Lombard’s painted bike lanes will remain unprotected.
Protected bike lanes prevent automobiles from travelling or stopping in bike lanes, separating bicycle and automotive traffic more effectively than merely painted lanes. The city has 2.5 miles of protected bike lanes in its network and plans to expand that total by 30 by 2022. In comparison, there are around 200 miles of unprotected bike lanes and 2,575 miles of streets, total.
Unlike many bike infrastructure projects, this one received broad support from the local community groups. According to the city, the project is supported by South of South Neighbors Association, Center City Residents Association, and South Street West Business Association, as well as Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, who represents the area. Local neighbors often oppose protected bike lanes, complaining that they unfairly burden them for the benefit of bicyclists who pass through, but do not live in, the neighborhood. Bike safety advocates retort that their safety should not come second to the occasional inconvenience of some neighbors, whose primary gripe stems from the removed ability to load and unload cars directly in front of their homes.
The protected bicycle lanes will be paid for out of a grant from Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development’s Multimodal Transportation Fund. Safety advocates have criticized the city for moving slowly on using state and federal grants previously awarded to fund bicycle infrastructure upgrades.
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