< Return to ALL NEWS

Bike Lane Flip

June 6, 2018


Summary: On Monday legislation to switch the bike lane to the left side of Spruce and Pine Streets as part of a repaving project scheduled for the fall of 2018, was
considered at a hearing by City Council’s Streets Committee, chaired by our Councilman Mark Squilla. Three members from our association including the president appeared before the Committee, and read the attached testimony into the record. The Committee voted unanimously to approve the legislation. The Committee’s vote combined the left side bike lane bill with more than 25 other bills in a single vote. Now it moves on to the full City Council.

Further Information on the Hearing & the Outcome: The city’s transportation department (“OTIS”) testified first at the hearing and did not present any new evidence to bolster their fairly weak case that left side bike lanes are safer. The two other civics on Spruce and Pine, Washington Square West and Center City Residents Association, both submitted testimony supporting the left side bike lane plan. There was testimony by people who have tragically sustained some very severe injuries while riding bikes, but there was no evidence presented that showed those accidents would have been avoided by left side bike lanes. There was a strong call for safety measures to protect cyclists and we testified that SHCA also wants more safety. We specifically pointed out the 13 recommendations in the Complete Streets study that SHCA commissioned in 2017. The City will be incorporating at least one of the recommendations (bike lane markings that continue through the intersection) as part of this repaving project.

In the end, the Committee voted unanimously to approve the legislation, and now it moves on to the full City Council. We were not at all surprised by this result. Our own Councilman sponsored the legislation and shepherded it through the committee. The City obtained the approval of the other two civics involved: Washington Square West and Center City Residents Association. The other members of the Streets Committee deferred to the councilmanic privilege of the two council members who represent the three civic areas, Councilmen Squilla and Kenyatta Johnson, because the bike lanes on Spruce and Pine are entirely within their districts.

On SHCA’s part, we believe that throughout the process we raised important and seriously warranted questions about the rationale for the left side bike lane. But those questions were not answered. The data that we requested in four separate meetings with OTIS was never provided. Specifically, OTIS declined to collect bike and vehicle turning counts on the intersections on the Spruce/Pine corridor.

Absent crucial bike turning counts, it is impossible to know whether left side bike lanes will increase or decrease the rate of bike accidents on Spruce and Pine.

OTIS repeatedly stated that the blind spot issue is the major reason for putting the bike lanes on the left hand. But, literally none of the expert sources in the transportation literature that OTIS cited as a basis for switching the lanes, states that this would be the remedy for the blind spot problem. By its own admission OTIS told SHCA that they are proceeding on limited data but with a strong belief that left side bike lanes will prevent accidents caused by the blind spot. The expert sources say that the best way to avoid blind spot crashes is to implement a public education campaign to encourage bicyclists (and pedestrians) to stay out of blind spots. The City is not doing this.

We certainly hope that the repaving project will provide more safety: smooth pavement, lane markings that you can actually see, and bike lane markings that go all the way through intersections (not currently the case and one of the recommendations from our Complete Streets study).

We thank the community for your involvement in analyzing this issue from a safe streets perspective. We thank those who attended meetings, circulated and signed the SHCA petition (which were personally delivered to Councilman Squilla) and spent time engaging with neighbors on this issue. We respectfully acknowledge those members of our community who agreed with the majority of our board that OTIS needed to do more to demonstrate that this lane change would lead to more safety, and those members who strongly felt that the left side bike lanes will improve safety. We intend to continue our efforts for safety for all users of our streets.

Society Hill Civic Association
Rosanne Loesch, President


Click here to read the full testimony.