A quest for safe cycling on Main Street

Manayunk resident Darlene Messina is on a mission to make Main Street more bike-friendly.

For years, she says, cycling along the busy commercial corridor has been an activity reserved for riders with enough nerve to negotiate cars, buses and pedestrians with few safety precautions on their side.

“So many cyclists do their route through there, but it is a very unfriendly neighborhood to bicyclists,” says Messina.

To start addressing this irony, Messina and other residents will sit down with officials from the city’s Streets Department at next Tuesday’s City Committee meeting of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

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During the regularly scheduled monthly meeting, the three parties will look to hash out some tangible tactics to help minimize the peril along a mile or so stretch from Green Lane to SEPTA’s Wissahickon Transfer Center.

In the immediate future, Messina says she’d like to see the city consider three ideas for making the route safer for cyclists.

The first would be installing signage that promotes Manayunk as a bike-friendly community. This could include installing more ‘Share the Road’ signs.

“I don’t expect behaviors to change right away,” says Messina. “I think it just sort of acknowledges the cycling community as an important part of the community.”

Messina would also like to see sharrows painted on the pavement. The street markings, placed a short distance from parked cars, helps announce to drivers that they need to share the road with bikers. Though ultimately, she’d prefer the city to install formal bike lanes.

Lastly, Messina wants the speed limit of 25 miles per hour – particularly between Shurs Lane and Ridge Avenue – more strictly enforced. She says speeding cars and buses make the area in front of the transfer station, where Main Street spills into the intersection of Ridge Avenue, Kelly Drive, Lincoln Drive and City Avenue, the hairiest stage of the ride.

“It’s congested almost all of the time,” says Messina. “You have people crossing the street trying to catch one bus from one side of the street making a transfer. It’s just out of control.”

“I’m amazed that [an accident] hasn’t happened,” adds Messina.

Messina is optimistic about the city’s response. The timing of the discussion, she adds, is perfect for making a push for these improvements.

PennDOT’s $20 million project to fix the Gustine Lake Interchange is underway for several more months. The construction, located seconds south of the SEPTA transfer station, will ultimately replace four bridges, remove a fifth and relocate two ramps.

A trail construction project known as the Wissahickon Gateway Project, has also recently taken its first strides towards bike safety with Fairmount Park starting in on an engineering study. When completed, bikers would be able to circumvent the most congested span of Main Street by riding behind a section just north of the SEPTA Transfer Center along the Schuylkill River to the Penncoyd Bridge.

Overall, Messina’s suggestions are about making Manayunk more enjoyable for residents and visitors biking to and from Center City.

“Cycling is a component and element of a livable community. Having members have that option as a safe option [is important],” says Messina.

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