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Could protected bike lanes be going up in NoLibs in the near future?

The proposed bike lanes on 5th and 6th streets would go from Spring Garden Street to Market Street. The 2nd Street protected bike lane would go from Spring Garden to Race Street.

The 500 block of N. 6th Street, pictured here, will be affected in the potential bike lane renovations.

Last Tuesday night, representatives from the city’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability (OTIS) were on hand at Yards Brewing Company for an open house to get feedback for information regarding three potential protected bike lanes on 2nd, 5th and 6th streets in Northern Liberties. The proposed bike lanes on 5th and 6th streets would go from Spring Garden Street to Market Street. The 2nd Street protected bike lane would go from Spring Garden to Race Street. The bike lanes would be protected by delineator posts. All three streets are one way.

“We’re trying to create a high-quality bike network for the entire city,” said Chris Puchalsky, director of policy & strategic Initiatives for OTIS. “The idea is that we want to give people the option to get most places in the city…on a high-quality bike lane.”

The bike lanes would be placed on the left side of the road, which is advantageous because trucks and other large vehicles have smaller blind spots on their left side and it makes bicyclists more visible to drivers, improving safety.

Currently, there are a handful of protected bike lanes in Philadelphia. There’s two in Center City; on Market Street and JFK Boulevard from 15th Street to 20th Street. There are a few more in the Northeast, Puchalsky said.

“We’re going to add some protection to part of South Street right when you come over the bridge, and we’ve got some other wider plans that are still in development,” Puchalsky added.

According to Randy LoBosso, policy manager for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, there’s additional protected bike lanes on Chestnut Street in West Philly, along 22nd Street north of the Ben Franklin Parkway, in the 5th Street tunnel and a very short one between the old Yards Brewery and SugarHouse Casino,” he said.

Part of the presentation allowed residents to vote on whether they would prefer to allow either parking on 2nd Street between Vine and Race streets only during non-rush hour periods of the day, or to eliminate it completely. The vote, however, was non-binding and was just to get an idea of residents’ feelings. About 10 total parking spaces would be affected.

The plan to redo the bike lanes also includes plans to refresh crosswalks and roadway striping. If all goes as planned, OTIS is hoping to finish the public outreach portion of the project by the end of winter, go through the city’s procurement and contracting process in the summer, and begin construction in the fall.

LoBosso commended OTIS’s efforts to make the city more bikeable, calling the organization “dedicated to making the City of Philadelphia a safer, more walkable, more bikeable place.” However, LoBosso feels the group is hindered because it lacks necessary funding to make the city as bikeable as it could be.

“That’s why the Bicycle Coalition continues advocating for better funding for these projects, and, in 2019, is pushing for a specific line-item in the city budget for protected bike lanes and Vision Zero,” LoBosso said in an email. “Cities that have successfully implemented Vision Zero have dedicated funds for these items, and Philadelphia should, too.”

Still, LoBosso is “glad…to see these projects along 2nd, 5th and 6th streets move forward.”

“Hundreds of Philadelphians already use these streets to commute each day via bicycle,” he added. “Making them safer through protected lanes will not only give seasoned cyclists a better way to and from Center City, but will encourage more people to try out bicycling, either by using one of the Indego stations along these streets, or getting a bike of their own. That’ll help cut down on both congestion and pollution, something Philadelphia desperately needs.”

LoBosso said protected bike lanes have “made cyclists safer.”

He called for a connected network of protected bike lanes throughout the entire city, “not just in Center City and Northern Liberties.”

“There’s no reason someone who lives at Broad and Erie can’t bike to South Philly and back safely [and] separated from motor vehicle traffic,” he said, “Bicycling can be an easy, safe, stress-free mode of transportation for residents in every neighborhood, and to truly make cyclists safer, everyone [who’s] able to needs to have the option to get on a bicycle and not feel like they’re taking their life in their hands.”

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