Philadelphia Parking Authority bike officers to take to the streets to keep bike lanes open

The officers will be tasked with keeping cars from illegally parking in bike lanes in Philadelphia in order to stop cyclists from being forced into the streets.

A protected bike lane near 15th Street

A protected bike lane near 15th Street and Market Street in Philadelphia. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

The Philadelphia Parking Authority is adding a force of bike-mounted enforcement officers to help keep bike lanes clear.

In the past decade, 41 cyclists have been killed and over 100 injured on city streets. Corrine O’Connor of the PPA said their goal is to keep the designated bike lanes clear so riders don’t have to go into lanes of vehicular traffic. It’s all part of a bike lane enforcement initiative that will include the traditional enforcement officers on foot and in vehicles in addition to the bike riding PPA group.

“A targeted assignment of eight new bike lane enforcement officers who will focus exclusively on patrolling and issuing tickets for any illegally parked vehicles that block bike lanes in Center City, University City, and South Philadelphia,” O’Connor said.

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O’Connor said this is more of an enhancement, as opposed to a first-time effort to keep cyclists and drivers from coming together in a sometimes fatal collision.

“The people in the Philadelphia Police Department issued over 25,700 bike lane violations since 2014. While our enforcement efforts aim to encourage compliance with bike lane regulations, the staggering number of violations speaks to the need that more enforcement action is required.

Sarah Stewart, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia said this isn’t a radical new idea. She brought it to the PPA back in 2014.

“To have a team of parking enforcement officers who are going to be able to sustainably and efficiently hold motorists accountable and keep the bike lanes clear for who those lanes were designed for, which are bicyclists, is incredibly important,” Stewart said.

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The change isn’t going to happen overnight. The eight officers will all be current members of the PPA, since the hiring specifications call for someone with at least six months experience with the agency. That will also give them assistance in knowing the current parking rules and regulations, according to O’Connor.

They will have to undergo training to be a bicycle officer, which is expected to happen over the summer, with the new unit taking to the streets in the fall.

In the meantime, PPA enforcement agents in vehicles and on foot have been told to be extra vigilant in enforcing the bike lanes.

The city of Philadelphia doubled the amount of protected bike lanes in 2021 to more than 16 miles, with even more being planned as part of the city’s Vision Zero initiative.

The expansion last year focused on north-sound connections in Center City, along the Delaware River, and in the Parkside, Kingsessing, and Kensington neighborhoods. A study released earlier this year showed protected lanes are responsible for a decrease in bike crashes with vehicles and also in slowing down vehicular traffic.

The study also shows bike counts are up 96% where dedicated bike lanes had been installed, particularly on JFK Boulevard and Market Street in Center City.

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