Report: Philly area bridges are bad for bicyclists

benjamin franklin bridge
The Benjamin Franklin Bridge is the only bridge spanning the Delaware River bicyclists can actually ride across. (Credit: Rikard Larma / Metro).

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia on Thursday released an analysis of bicycle and pedestrian access to area bridges spanning the Delaware River.

The report, “Crossover: Bridge Ahead Impassable,” found only five of 12 bridges studied were accessible to bicyclists or pedestrians, stunting burgeoning alternative transit networks in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

“Municipalities on both sides of the river are investing heavily in better and safer bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure,” Bicycle Coalition Research Director John Boyle said in a statement.

“But the benefits of these networks are stymied by bridges which, somewhat ironically, serve as barriers to connection.”

Of the five bridges where bicyclists are allowed, access is further limited by other restrictions.

For example, the Benjamin Franklin Bridge is the only bridge bicyclists are permitted to actually ride across, rather than walk their bikes to the other side.

Still, the report notes the Ben Franklin lacks directional signage, has no plan for snow removal, doesn’t have a clear method for rider to connect to bike lanes on either the Philadelphia or Camden, N.J. side and is only open to pedestrians and bicyclists from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the spring and summer and from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the fall and winter.

“The ‘Complete Streets’ concept driving much of this investment does not exempt bridges,” Boyle said.

“Traveling from Pennsylvania to New Jersey should not require immediate automobile access, especially when communities on both sides of the river are seeking to facilitate cross-river access to drive economic activity.”

Bicycles are totally banned from the Betsy Ross, Commodore Barry and Walt Whitman bridges, with the report calling the failure to include a pedestrian or bicycle path in the ongoing redecking of the Walt Whitman “a missed opportunity.”

The reports recommends retrofitting bridges with accommodations for bicyclists and pedestrians when they undergo major rehab projects and collaborating between transit agencies, police departments and taxi operators to provide reliable transportation services over bridges where bikes aren’t allowed.

It also urges all bridges open to bicycles connect on either side with bike lanes, sidewalks and major trails.

“As far as we know, this report is the first comprehensive examination of bicycle-pedestrian access across the Delaware,” Boyle said.

“Our region needs more travel choices between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Bicycling and walking are already legitimate and important transportation options for people traveling between both states.

“Whether for commuting or recreational purposes, by itself or combined with mass transit, regional planners are responding to demand by emphasizing bicycle access on both sides of the Delaware. This emphasis extends to pedestrian access as well, as the same infrastructure typically supports both modes of travel.”


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