A snowstorm postponed one vote, poor attendance another and a mail-in vote a third, but after approximately two months of public meetings, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has gathered votes of support for the Fairmount Ave Bike Lanes from three area civic associations.
The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) have been working extensively to gather feedback on proposed bike lanes that would span Fairmount Ave from Broad Street to the Art Museum. After surveying area businesses, the Bicycle Coalition began meeting with area civic associations in hopes that the civics will write letters of support for the lanes.
Both the Fairmount Civic Association and Francisville Neighborhood Development Corporation have voted in support of the lanes. An unofficial show of hands indicated that the Spring Garden Civic Association supports the lanes, but the group will conduct a formal vote via mail and e-mail before writing a formal letter. The Bike Coalition’s estimated tally is at least 120 people in support of the lane and three people opposed to the lane.
With each of the three civic groups, the Bicycle Coalition had to adjust to different operating rules and standards. Sarah Clark Stuart, Bicycle Coalition policy director, said that was not difficult but it did require time and patience.
“Not every bike lane might need this kind of vetting prior to being installed but in some cases it does,” Clark said.
“It’s somewhat done on a case-by-case basis,” she said. “Fairmount was unusual in that it traverses three different neighborhoods, and there was a sense we needed to make sure the lanes would be welcome and wanted and not imposed.”
Prior to the meetings, the Bicycle Coalition canvassed 65 area businesses. Of the 40 stores and restaurants the Bicycle Coalition was able to get in touch with, 80 percent were supportive of bike lanes.
“The support has been consistently high across all the community organizations – the civics and the business community,” Clark said. “We’re confident this support is solid and deep. That’s really heartening and very encouraging.”
While there are some people who are not supportive of the lanes, Clark said she thinks that opinion is rooted in bias towards bicyclists with bad behaviors. She said some people get startled or annoyed by rule-breaking bicyclists or simply resist change.
One concern that did come up in the public meetings was double parking, which is a common occurrence on the wider-than-most avenue. Clark said the coalition and MOTU tried to address that concern as directly as possible and that perhaps bike lanes would reduce the amount of cars double parking.
The next step in the process is meeting with Councilman Bill Greenlee and Council President Darrell Clarke. The Bicycle Coalition has already reached out to schedule meetings with them and hopes they will back the proposed lanes.
Part of meeting with the civics and having them write letters of support was done to encourage Greenlee and Clarke to support the lanes as well.
“We did want to present them this level of support that’s out there in the community,” Clark said.
Though meeting with the civic groups has been a lengthy process, Clark said it has taught the Bicycle Coalition that it is worth the time to get that level of support and feedback. She hopes the bike lanes have a greater chance of getting installed because of it and that the community will appreciate they were consulted.
“We have put in a lot of time but it was well worth it and now we have irrefutable community support,” she said. “I think it was an extremely worth while investment of our time.”
If all goes according to plan, the bike lanes will be added to an existing Streets Department road-striping contract and painted in during the 2013 paving season.