Inquirer: 2 Center City bike lanes may become permanent

Inquirer: 2 Center City bike lanes may become permanent

Two Center City bike lanes have proven so successful that they should become permanent and new ones should be considered, according to a top city official.

Mayor Nutter is likely to approve a recommendation to continue the revised traffic configurations on Pine and Spruce Streets, said Rina Cutler, deputy mayor for transportation and utilities.

“He’s obviously been a fan of the notion that everybody needs to share the roadways,” said Cutler, who announced her intentions to a packed meeting at a University of the Arts auditorium last night.

Most of the 250 or so attendees were pleased, said Sarah Clark Stuart, campaign director for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

Dedicated lanes make riding safer and easier, while making sidewalks safer for pedestrians, she said.

In September, Pine and Spruce Streets lost a lane for cars and gained a six-foot-wide lane for bikes between 22d Street and Front Streets – creating the first east-west bike routes in Center City.

“It’s night and day compared to a lane that you share with cars, because there’s more distance between you and moving vehicles,” Stuart said. “You know you’re not going to get passed by inches.”

As a result, two-wheeled traffic nearly doubled on those streets – it went up to 103 bikes an hour at one Spruce Street intersection – while declining by more than 40 percent on adjacent sidewalks, according to a coalition count, Stuart said.

The city’s data showed that car traffic was not significantly hampered, Cutler said.

Adding more Center City routes – including at least one going north-south – is likely, the deputy mayor said.

“Our goal is to figure out locations where it is possible for that to happen,” she said. “I expect that these will not be the last ones.”

Encouraging bicycling can benefit the city in many ways, from restraining car traffic and pollution to improving health and fitness, Cutler said.

That’s why her department has been supporting all sorts of bike-friendly measures. New rack keep being installed, and the city now has 4,000 “bicycle parking spaces,” she said.

On blocks where the Parking Authority was installing payments kiosks, the city asked that meter poles be left, so they could be capped and used for locking bicycles.

The city is also exploring bike sharing programs, which would let would-be riders borrow a bike in one area and drop off for the next guy somewhere else.

As for recent City Council proposals to institute a bike-registration program and hike fines, Cutler said the administration will work with council to make sure the first priority is safety.

The coalition favors education and enforcement.

“The legislation is unproductive as it’s written,” Stuart said.

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