The new two-way bike lane on Parkside Avenue alongside West Fairmount Park. (Ethan Solomon)

A new two-way, partially-protected bike lane was recently installed on Parkside Avenue in West Philadelphia, creating a more organized street, safer for bicycling and walking in that section of the city.

 

The project, which runs from 52nd Street to Girard Avenue, not only creates new, better bicycle infrastructure, but shortens crossing distances for pedestrians, creates pedestrian refuges, and better connects neighbors to Fairmount Park and the new Centennial Commons in West Fairmount Park, which opened on Wednesday, June 13.

 

Similar to the new protected bike lanes on West Chestnut Street in West Philadelphia and JFK and Market Streets in Center City, the infrastructure helps better organize the street. Cyclists know where to be, drivers know where to be, and both know where they, and pedestrians should and will be.

 

These kinds of streets changes basically work for everyone.

 

And Parkside Avenue, a main entryway to Fairmount Park, needed some changes. There were 147 reported crashes on the corridor between 2012 and 2016, which injured 120 people, putting the Avenue on the city’s high-injury network.

 

Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., the Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems (OTIS), and neighborhood stakeholders were instrumental in getting the bike lanes created and installed—and actually continued working together after hitting several snags and disagreements.

Additional bike lanes are being put in Fairmount Park on parts of Lansdowne Drive and South Concourse Drive.

The end goal of this particular corridor is to have fully-protected bike lanes. Unfortunately, since this is a PennDOT project, the lanes alongside parking were installed as standard bike lanes, between moving traffic and parked cars, rather than between parked cars and the sidewalk.

In order for the parking and bike lanes to be flipped, the state Legislature needs to pass Senate Bill 788, which was introduced by State Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Phila). The bill would allow for parking-protected bike lanes on PennDOT roads installed by PennDOT crews.

Currently, parking-protected bike lanes are OK on state roads, like Chestnut Street, but PennDOT crews will not install them. Weird, right? The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, and others, have been traveling to Harrisburg to advocate for this, and many other, bills throughout the Spring.

Once the bill is passed, it's hard to say when the lanes will be restriped for protection, but OTIS says they'll likely happen "this season," and are currently seeking additional grants for even more updates to the street.

This project is a big step for Parkside Avenue, and for making this particular area more bike-friendly, which is especially important considering the tremendous work Indego Bike Share and the Better Bike Share Partnership has been doing to get more people on bikes in the area.