Philadelphia cyclists displeased as Bicycle Coalition pushes for protected bike lanes


As Philadelphia’s population grows, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia – a nonprofit aiming to improve conditions for cyclists around the city – pushes yet another campaign.

Titled “Hub and Spoke”, the campaign aims to implement a network of new, protected bike lanes – separated from motor vehicle lanes “by a b

uffer, physical barrier, a parking lane or an off-road trail” – that would surround the greater Center City area at Spring Garden Street to the north, Washington Avenue to the south, the Delaware River Trail to the east, and the Schuylkill River Trail via a Christian Street to Grays Ferry Crescent trail to the west.

From 2014 to 2015, Philadelphia experienced a 14.4 percent increase in bicycle commuters citywide, marking a 2.2 percent citywide population of bicycle commuters. With Hub and Spoke, the Bicycle Coalition aims to “triple the percentage of people who use their bicycle to commute to work”, hoping to reach a total of 6.5 percent bicycle commuters of the total city population, according to the Hub and Spoke campaign page.

By installing protected lanes, the Bicycle Coalition hopes to promote a safer riding environment that would increase ridership and decrease fatalities.

However, existing riders are more concerned with conditions of currently existing Center City bike lanes, which to many seem unfit for safe ridership.

“I don’t feel safe riding on [Center City] lanes,” says Ron Borisovsky, a cyclist who commutes to Center City daily from his family home near City Ave. “Cars are always parking in those lanes, people open their doors without looking, and they’re consistently in a state of disrepair.”

“I rarely use the Center City lanes,” says Hale Pratt, “I guess that’s testament to their ineffectiveness. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to extend protected bike lanes, I’d just like to see current ones maintained first.”

Hub and Spoke, according to Bicycle Coalition Communications Manager Randy LoBasso, won’t be including the maintenance of Center City lanes in their campaign. “The main purpose of the campaign is to make reaching Center City more accessible to cyclists,” he says.

Plans for Spring Garden Street would include a path down the median of the street, LoBasso says. Yet questions arise of how truly safe a median path would be for cyclists entering the street. Cyclists would need to pass by turning cars, putting them in danger of being “t-boned” by a car, which by many is sardonically looked at as a rite of passage to biking in Philadelphia.

“So many streets already have the bike lane on one side of the street that switch to the other side randomly at intersections,” says Alex Chen. “We have to either cross in front of cars, which is dangerous, or wait until they all pass, which is time-consuming. I don’t see how entering a median lane would be any different.”

With a 1.1 mile protected lane recently completed in University City, the question for many cyclists remains whether Hub and Spoke would change the game for commuters, or simply offer easier access and heavier traffic to Center City’s web of disrepair.

“I think the city would really benefit from a unified city wide system for the bike lanes,” says Chen. “I don’t know how much help it would be if it’s just protected lanes here and there.”

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