Monday, January 9, 2012

Philadelphia Bicycle Lanes 2012

When is a bike lane a not a bike lane........wait for it......when it's in Philadelphia.

In past columns I've addressed the problem that cyclists face in Philadelphia. Bicycle lanes are treated as parking spaces, loading zones, and lanes of travel for cars. This problem is not unique to Philadelphia, but so far most of the attempts to address this problem are nothing more than venting. That does nothing to shame or change the behavior of drivers. These include My Bike Lane, new addition BKME, and a website run by a tattoo shop whose storefront faces a bike lane. While all this allows cyclists to vent it does nothing to change the driver’s behavior.

One of the most egregious and ongoing problems is the parking permits that are issued by the Beth Zion-Beth Israel Synagogue at 300 South 18th Street  and the Tenth Presbyterian Church at 1701 Delancey Street . These permits make it appear that people attending services can legally park in the bicycle lanes, when in reality they can't. So how did this happen?

This is courtesy of Charles Carmalt, Pedestrian & Bicycle Coordinator, Office of Transportation & Utilities of the City of Philadelphia. Who in a letter (Scroll down to see it) to the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia stated; During that period, my personal observations and my discussions with representatives of churches and synagogues made me realize that the issue was more complex than just allowing people to park for an hour or two on Sunday mornings. Services on religious holidays can create unexpected parking during the week.  Several Center City religious institutions generate a substantial amount of revenue from weddings, which are usually held on Saturday afternoons at churches and on Sunday afternoons at synagogues.  As a result, parking , including parking of limousines, will frequently occur in the afternoon.

Mr. Carmalt has opened a Pandora's box with this decision. By this logic any number of businesses, especially restaurants, could claim that they to need to use bicycle lanes for their customers because of the revenue they generate. No business or institution should be able to use bicycle lanes free of charge, when the parking is for revenue generation. Philadelphia is full of private and publicly operated parking lots that can accommodate these needs. Sharing the roads does not mean taking advantage of a loophole to fatten ones wallet.

So what steps are being taken to resolve this?
Recently a Facebook page has been created, The Philadelphia Bicycle Advocates, and plans to take on this issue with Mayor Nutter on Monday, January 23, 2012.

What would I do?
Any kind of counter protest will make cyclist appear as unreasonable towards religious institutions that only need a little extra parking one day a week. The religious institutions will parade elderly members who will need access to convenient parking.

The only viable solution will be to get some concessions from the Mayor’s office. Like extending the closure of River Dr. on Sunday mornings from 6am to 12:00pm to the full day for the entire length. As well as stepped  upped enforcement and ticketing of those people who park in the bicycle lanes the rest of the week.


  1. There was a change in permitted parking for 10th Pres this year. Parking is permitted in bike lanes during morning services and then later for evening services, but not in between. It is however allowed on North-South Streets throughout the day. I assume the city also allows this practice because of the business brought to local restaurants and stores.

  2. It isn't just the bike lanes cars park in on Sundays. They also park on the 1600 block of Lombard in the right driving lane. This restricts this major thorofare to just one lane. Cars remain parked there all day long. Occasionally, a car is left overnight interfering in the Monday morning rush hour.