Monday, November 13, 2017

Getting Kids Back on Their Bikes

In 2012, Professor Peter G. Furth penned the following words: "It is this writer's opinion that the turning point will be when children begin again riding bikes to school in large numbers. When bicycle infrastructure and children's safety become intertwined, funding for bicycle infrastructure will be secure."

This is in an article he contributed to a book called City Cycling, which was edited by John Pucher and Ralph Buehler and published by MIT Press. The quote is on page 135.

I think Furth is right, but I also think there's a chicken-and-egg problem here. How do you get large numbers of kids riding to school without a network of protected bike lanes?

With decent bike lanes, you can get a lot of kids on bikes. We know this. The Europeans have been doing it for years, and even in this country there is the occasional bright spot. In Davis, California, 43.4 percent of high-school boys and 30 percent of high-school girls commute to school by bike. (For more on this, see Why Are European and American Bicycling So Different?)

But what about a place like Philadelphia, where we do not have a network of protected bike lanes and where the anti-bike forces in and out of government are mounting a very effective campaign of resistance to bicycling.

It's interesting. Even in Philly kids are getting to school by bike. Parents are riding their small kids to school in cargo bikes, tagalongs, and child seats affixed to bicycles. And older kids are riding their own bikes, either accompanied by a parent or by themselves.

I don't have any numbers for this, but all you really have to do is use your eyes. The numbers are not huge, but despite the utter inadequacy of our cycling infrastructure, children are riding bikes to school.

We'll never see numbers like Davis without a significant upgrade to the built environment, and I think that means we may never cross Professor Furth's threshold.

So we'll plateau, the same way we have in adult bicycling in this town. And people on bikes will get hurt unnecessarily. And some of them will be children.

There's a way out of this impasse. Build the protected bike lanes. They're not terribly expensive.

Message to City Hall. The bicyclists are not going away. Make a space for them on our streets. Life will get better for everybody.

For an overview of the decline in walking and biking to school in the United States, click here.

For a story on how parents in Philadelphia are teaching their children to ride bikes, click here.

See also Intraday Biking, Is It a Curve or Is It a Turn? and Running of the Bulls on Lombard Street.

Monday, November 6, 2017

City Beautiful Sprouts on Cypress Street


If the Center City Residents' Association were to give out a prize for most improved street, I would nominate the 2400 block of Cypress for the 2017 award. Last year I wrote a story about this block and the neighboring blocks of Delancey and Panama. The other two are in great shape; I think they're among the nicest blocks in Philadelphia. The trick is they're being treated as small streets while poor Cypress is being treated as a service alley. Which it is. This is the land of the garage doors.

But people do live here, and many of them would like Cypress to look nicer. So a group of neighbors on the south side decided to go for color, painting their respectably white facades a variety of very nice colors. Also adding a few shutters. And a potted plant or two.

2106. Note the houses on the left, before they were painted.

All of a sudden the street has come alive.

There are further opportunities for improvement.

Let's take the north side of the street first. It's a respectable row of garage doors (see the shot from 2016 above). The problem is that the doors aren't tall enough to provide a sense of enclosure, and the street space dribbles out over the parking pads and back yards, bleeds over the back facades of the buildings to the north and basically evaporates into the sky. Not what you want in a cozy little urban street.

I don't think we need to put false-front second floors on these garage doors, but we need to do something to arrest the eye. Perhaps the suggestion of a screen - you could string LED lights above the doors. That might work.

Or maybe you just need to fill the space with some trees. Here's what things look like on the 2100 block of Cypress. You'll notice the rear facades of the buildings almost vanish in the presence of these trees.

Trees take a while, of course. A good reason to get started soon.

2100 Cypress.

I don't have any other ideas, but I expect an architect could come up with a few. Maybe a class at an architecture school would like to take this block on as a project.

Finally, a tough nut - the street itself. The City should repave the street and restore the sidewalks, not because I think people will walk on them but because the sidewalks will provide visual definition to the street. If a city street and its flanking buildings are an outdoor room, the floor is a critical organizing element. (See Gordon Cullen and the Outdoor Floor.)

I understand that this is a low-traffic street, and I also know that the City currently lacks the money, the equipment, and the trained workforce to mount an adequate repaving program for our streets. However, efforts are under way to change that situation.

And if some daylight does open up, I think this block should be on people's minds. It is certainly one of our more ramshackle streets, and it is right next to the Schuylkill River Park, which has seen large amounts of public and private investment in recent years.

This area is a gem, and the 2400 block of Cypress may be the only remaining flaw.

The residents of this street can paint, and string LED lights, and plant trees, but they can't repave the street. Only the City can do that.

Here's another thing that only the City can do (at least legally) - tow away this derelict car at the corner of 25th and Cypress. A resident of the street asked me to mention it. The car has apparently been there for months. Recently it sprouted a ticket from our friends at the Philadelphia Parking Authority. The ticket is dated October 16. There have been many contacts with various City departments, but so far no tow truck. I'd say the thing is inoperable and abandoned, but of course that is just my layman's opinion.

Let's not end this story on that note. It's too much of a downer.

Let's have a look at what's behind one of those garage doors on the north side.

As I said, people live here. They're doing what is within their power to do. The City, in my opinion, should do its bit.

(See also Alleys, A Tale of Three Alleys, This Isn't Just Any Alley.)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Looking Three Ways at Chestnut Street

Driving, Walking, Biking

Graffito, Chestnut bike lane.

The new parking-protected bike lane on Chestnut Street in West Philadelphia has been the subject of some controversy, and so I decided to spend a bit of time with it. Let's take driving first.

The bike lane extends from 45th to 33rd Streets. I've driven this stretch several times since the bike lane was installed, and while this is at best a convenience sample, my impression is that there are fewer abrupt lane changes, and speeds are generally slower. I'm guessing there may be higher speeds at night; I did notice one very wrecked car in the parking lane on one of my trips. Overall, from my point of view as a driver, a distinct improvement over prior conditions.

I also walked next to the lane on a pretty day, making sure to cross Chestnut Street several times (the various construction sites provided useful prompts).

Before the redesign, this stretch of Chestnut had three bustling lanes of automotive traffic. With the removal of one of those lanes, there are only two main vehicle lanes to cross, and that makes life a lot easier for the pedestrian.

In addition, the placement of the bike lane next to the curb means a pedestrian can walk out from the curb and across the bike lane and stand protected by the cars in the parking lane, which separates the bike lane from the main traffic lanes.

Divide and conquer, if you will. Standing at the island of safety with the bike lane behind me and only two lanes in front of me had an almost intimate feel, like being on Walnut or Chestnut in Center City. Not nirvana certainly, but way better than Market or JFK, where I sometimes feel like I'm being asked to walk across a football field during a kickoff return.

I rode the lane on an Indego bike (there's a bike-share station at 44th and Walnut and another at 33rd and Market). I think this is a simply lovely bike lane. One of the best things about the lane is that it's not blocked by cars, as other bike lanes in the city so often are. Even Uber drivers seem reluctant to  drive through the parked cars to get to the space by the curb.

The bike lane needs to be extended west of 45th Street, and we need to rebuild the older lane that runs on Chestnut east of of 33rd Street. I have a feeling that both of these things will happen, perhaps sooner rather than later.

Bike Count
On the morning of Wednesday, October 18, I finally got around to doing a bike count. I sat outside of the Starbucks at 34th and Chestnut and counted 97 bicycles in 90 minutes, running from 7:55 a.m. to 9:25 a.m. This is hardly the volume we see on the South Street bridge during the morning rush, but it is more than one bike per minute, and the lane is still less than two months old.

I counted all bicycles at 34th and Chestnut that entered or exited the intersection on Chestnut. (There was a fair amount of traffic that entered from 34th and continued south on 34th. I did not count that.)

I broke the flow down into ten-minute subsets. The peak came at 8:45-8:55, with 18 bikes. The low point was 8:15-8:25, with four bikes.

Of the 97 total bicycles, eight were in the main vehicle lanes rather than the bike lane. Five were on the sidewalk, two heading west and three heading east. There were five Indego bikes, and one scooter in the bike lane.

Only eight bikes turned right from Chestnut onto 34th. I had expected to see more turning traffic, because there's a bike lane on 34th that takes you to the bike lane on Spruce, which takes you over the South Street bridge. If I were commuting to Center City from this area, that is the route I would take.

Performing as Designed
This bike lane is in the district of Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who originally favored the new lane but started to backpedal when constituents complained. The Councilwoman has been remarkably non-specific about the nature of the complaints. Is it possible that none of them are from pedestrians or bicyclists, and all of them are coming from irate drivers?

Some drivers, not all. And what makes these unhappy folks unhappy? Are they dissatisfied because the street is performing as designed, and speeds are slower, and there are fewer opportunities for abrupt lane changes?

Let me close with an old bromide from Marketing 101: Complaining behavior is a skewed indicator of customer satisfaction.

Cargo bike, Chestnut Street.
See also Intraday Biking, No Turn on Red.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Running of the Bulls on Lombard Street

Lombard Street in the morning.
A few days ago a stop sign appeared on Lombard Street at Taney, which is a little street sitting between 26th and 27th, not far from the South Street bridge in Philadelphia. Until that point there had only been a stop sign for the drivers on Taney; the drivers coming down Lombard had no traffic controls between the stoplight at 26th and the stoplight at the bridge.

Everyone I've talked to thinks the addition of a stop sign at this intersection is a very good thing. Some would have preferred a stoplight, but they're pleased that at least something was done to calm the traffic here.

Happy ending to the story? Not quite. It turns out that there was a second part to the plan. Shortly after the stop sign went in at Taney, the traffic lights at 24th, 25th, and 26th went to blinking red. People initially assumed, and some still believe, that the lights were simply broken. No, it's all part of the plan. After a period of time on blinking red, the Streets Department intends to remove the traffic lights at these intersections and replace them with stop signs.

There have been several occasions during this year's saga on Lombard that I have had difficulty processing information. Why would you remove those traffic lights? Lombard Street is an access route for the Schuylkill Expressway, and it is well known for its unruly traffic.

Do Streets and Complete Streets Talk?
For months the City's Complete Streets office has been working on a redesign for this stretch of Lombard, for the bit of 27th Street that runs up from Lombard to the South Street bridge, and for South Street where it comes off the bridge and heads east.

The recent initiative adding stop signs and removing traffic lights from Lombard seems completely disconnected from the Complete Streets proposals.

There was a meeting back in July where the Complete Streets concept was presented to the community. I thought the meeting went well, and that there was a vigorous and thoughtful discussion of the issues. However, there was strong opposition from some near neighbors on Lombard to the idea of adding flex posts to protect the bike lane. Shortly after the meeting Councilman Kenyatta Johnson announced that he could not support the proposed changes because of the objections of the near neighbors. This of course does beg the question of the many parts of the plan that the near neighbors did not object to.

The Bicycle Coalition restarted the negotiation with a letter that focused on areas of presumed agreement, including the construction of raised crosswalks (a proven traffic calming device) and also the addition of loading zones to the parking lane. The loading zones in the parking lane are crucial because the bike lane won't work properly without them.

Meanwhile, Back on Lombard Street
There is a school at 25th and Lombard. The Philadelphia School has 478 students, ranging from pre-K to 8th grade, and buildings located both north and south of Lombard. The morning dropoff is a particularly busy time, with children and their parents arriving by foot, by car, by school bus, by SEPTA bus, by bicycle, and by scooter. Quite a few parents bring their children on cargo bikes.

However, children also cross Lombard throughout the day as they move from building to building for various activities and go to the nearby park for recess.

And, at the end of the day, there is dismissal, followed by after-school activities. This is a very active site all day long.

Did the planners take the school into consideration when they decided to remove the traffic lights, or was it all about cars and designing an optimal flow for motor vehicles while excluding consideration of all other users of the space? Perhaps one day we will know the answer to this question, but for now we do not.

Meanwhile, the traffic light at 25th has been replaced by TPS staff, who direct traffic and wave the handheld stop sign. So people who have other things to do are replacing a machine that should not have been removed from service.

Needless to say, the school and its staff consider the safety of the children to be a fundamental goal, and they will do what needs to be done. But shouldn't the City be trying to make their job easier rather than harder?

See also Is It a Curve or Is It a Turn? and Morning on Lombard Street.

Monday, October 2, 2017

At Least It Makes People Laugh

Philadelphia Parking Policy

Sunset Avenue Pavilion, Asbury Park.

I was at a meeting of the Asbury Park parking committee, and I found myself telling the story of Philly's ill-fated excursion into electric car parking. Briefly, the City offered to rent electric car owners the parking spot in front of their house, as a charging station. The car owner was responsible for installing the charging equipment. Apparently it never occurred to anybody involved in the decision-making that people might see this as an opportunity to get an exclusive parking spot at the curb in front of their home.

(I remember talking with a garage manager a while back, when I was inventorying the parking spaces in Philadelphia's Rittenhouse area, where I live. After we got through the basic information on the garage - capacity, price - we chatted a bit, and he almost immediately volunteered that he wanted to buy an electric car and park it in front of his home in South Philly. His very own spot. Nobody else would be allowed to use it. He was just waiting for the price of electric cars to come down. As George Washington Plunkitt said, "I seen my opportunities and I took 'em.")

At any rate, the predictable happened in Philly, with electric car owners regularly calling the City when someone else parked in the spot, and many other residents expressing concern over the loss of a precious curbside spot; some questioned the wisdom of what might be seen as a government sanctioned conversion of public space into private property.

After a few more than 60 of these spots had been installed, mostly in wealthy neighborhoods in the older parts of Center City, where streets are narrow and on-street parking is perennially tight, City Council declared a moratorium on new spots. And now it is mulling its options. Rip out the existing spots? Grandfather them? Is there a more appropriate way to provide for charging stations, perhaps in large off-street garages?

This is what happens when you act without planning.

Anyway, my friendly and attentive audience at the Asbury Park parking committee listened to the story. And then they laughed. That's right. Philadelphia parking policy is a laughing-stock in Asbury Park.

And why not? It is such a shambles.

The Broad Street Median 
Here's another example - this one is pretty famous. In South Philly people park cars in the median strip of Broad Street. They have been doing this basically since there were cars. In addition to being unsafe, this practice is illegal under state law. And frankly the number of spots - about 200 - borders on the trivial.

But it's a grand tradition, and many long-term residents are as in love with median parking on Broad Street as they are with the (well-cleansed) memory of a former mayor named Saint Frank Rizzo.

The result: As did Admiral Nelson in the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, City Hall turns a blind eye on the Broad Street median.

A local civic group brought a lawsuit seeking to have the law enforced, but the suit was dismissed.

It's true that the cars of South Philly don't fit on the streets of South Philly. The solution (or at least part of the solution) is to build some large garages and let those who are willing to pay take their cars off the street. I've previously mentioned that the site of the old Moyamensing prison at 11th and Reed, currently host to an Acme grocery store and a large, suburban-style parking lot, could be redeveloped to include a large, multi-story parking structure. Another site for a garage as part of a redevelopment would be Broad and Washington.

Actually planning for parking, however, is hardly ever a part of Philadelphia's discourse on parking. The City seems to view parking management as a cash register and source of patronage jobs, and most citizens, while bemoaning the terrible state of parking, are strongly resistant to any changes in the status quo.

Next let's have a look at the meterUP mobile parking app, a good idea that collapsed because of elementary errors in planning. Being able to pay for your parking space with your smart phone is a very attractive idea. Pango, the vendor, had former Governor Ed Rendell on its board. And it was the low bidder. The program had a lovely launch - I still have the t-shirt - and had 20,000 active users when it collapsed in April of this year. Cause of death? "Financial problems." Possibly caused by not charging enough money.

We're now hearing that meterUP is coming back with the same name but a new vendor, possibly before the end of the year.

Asbury Park: Things Are Different
Meanwhile, Asbury Park has had a successful parking app for some time. This year we found a new vendor who had, in our opinion, a better mousetrap, and so we switched vendors, with no gap in service, and usage then increased substantially. That's how grown-ups do it.

I got started on the Asbury Park parking committee about two years ago, after my wife and I bought a small condo apartment and started spending quite a bit of time at the beach. At my very first meeting I was pleasantly surprised that people were talking about the importance of access and an 85 percent maximum occupancy rate. It put me in mind of a graduate seminar on parking policy.

And it's not all talk. Asbury Park has dynamic pricing. The system is not as sophisticated as the one in San Francisco, but the price at the meter does go up and down according to location, time of year, day of the week, and time of day. In Philly curbside parking rates vary by geographic location only.

A Small City
Asbury Park is a small city - about 16,000 year-round residents (the ones the Census counts - I'm in Asbury a lot, but the Census counts me in Philly). Its main calling card is its beach and related boardwalk, but it is also known for music and restaurants, among other things. (I can't resist mentioning the Zombie Walk - October 7 this year.)

There are two main areas for paid parking: the blocks along the beachfront, and the commercial corridor along Cookman Avenue, which extends westward from the beach along the southern border of the city and ends near the train station.

A lot of people live on these blocks, so the City has the delicate task of balancing the needs of residents and visitors. Residents of the metered areas can purchase a resident parking permit. There are several permit zones and, as in Philadelphia, your permit is only good in your home zone.

In much of the city, curbside occupancy rates tend to be low, and the parking is free. As parking guru Donald Shoup puts it, if you don't have an access problem, you don't need meters.

The Five-to-Eight Zone
A problem arose near the beachfront. Parking is paid on the first two blocks west of the boardwalk - the 100 and 200 blocks. Residents of the third block in - the 300 block - were experiencing increasing difficulty finding convenient parking spots when they returned home from work or some other trip. The problem was worse in the summer, and especially on weekends. Parking on most 300 blocks was free, and the city was not ready to switch it to paid parking, so we came up with what we called the five-to-eight zone.

On selected blocks, one side of the street was placarded for resident-only parking between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. Residents of the 300 zone who purchased a permit had exclusive access to these spots at night. During the day, anybody could park there.

Why not make the spots exclusive both day and night? Our concern was that many residents would be away during the day, leaving many empty spots very close to the beach, and we wondered what beach visitors would think about not being allowed to park in those spots. On the other hand, we thought it reasonable to ask visitors, if they wished to stay after 5 p.m., perhaps to have dinner or go to a show at the Stone Pony or the Wonder Bar, to move their cars into the paid zone, where there would be spots for them.

The zone has worked pretty well. Resident complaints are down, at least on this topic, and visitors have not made a stink. Plans currently call for the metered area along the beach to expand into more of the 300 zone, at which point the overnight spots may go away. But it's been an interesting experiment.

Why Things Are Different
In Asbury Park, parking management is smart, well-informed, and nimble. Why are things in Philadelphia so different? I think the answer is simple: the mayor and the city council. In Asbury Park the city's leaders understand that access comes first, and then the money will come after (call it doing well by doing good). In Philly, as far as I can tell, everything starts and stops with the money.

How do we get Philly to do better? I don't know.

Sunset Lake, Asbury Park.
See also Parking Permits and Musical ChairsThe Pavements of Asbury Park, The Supreme Court and Parking, What Streets Can Learn From Boardwalks.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Finding Our Way to a Parking Policy

Boardwalk, Ocean Grove.
I prepared this crib sheet for a meeting on parking in Philadelphia. I thought I would share it here. - wkw


2 Books

- Donald Shoup, The High Cost of Free Parking (2011).

Shoup, who holds a Ph.D. in economics from Yale, has a very simple idea. He wants to replace our current, largely administrative, parking system with a market. The price of a parking spot will go up or down depending on demand for the spot. This is called "dynamic pricing."

The goal will be to maintain a peak occupancy rate of 85%, so people will be able to find a parking spot when they want one. The buzz word here is "access."

- Peter D. Norton, Fighting Traffic (2008).

Professor Norton looks at the question of why we have so many cars in our cities. It turns out that key decisions were made in the 1920s to build a monomodal ground transportation system focused on the private car, rather than a multimodal system that employed different types of vehicles as appropriate. Basic shortcomings of over-concentration on cars - such as congestion and crashes - were well known at the time and continue to be intractable.

3 Kinds of Parking

- At the curb. Cars are big and parking them on the street quickly swamps the street. Large garages are more efficient and effective.

Example: All the cars parked between Broad Street and the Schuylkill River on Spruce (11 blocks, 186 spots) and Pine (13 blocks, 215 spots) would fit comfortably in the nearby garage at 17th and South (546 spots).

- Large garages. Many urbanists don't like large garages because their blank walls are "street killers." Maybe they shouldn't have blank walls.

- Small garages. The classic example is the garage placed in a rowhouse where the living room should be. If the required curb cut eliminates a parking space, there is no net gain in parking spaces.

Some argue that there is a decline in net parking space, because the in-house garage is likely empty much of the time as the car gets used. An empty space at the curb or in a large garage can be occupied by another car.

Parking minimums for residential construction, in addition to being spatially inefficient, also drive up the cost of construction and make it that much harder for regular people to afford city living.

Shoup's 3 Recommendations

- Set the right price for curb parking. Numerous communities, most notably San Francisco, have successfully adopted dynamic pricing.

- Return parking revenue to pay for local public services. Shoup points to Old Pasadena: "Spending more than $1 million a year of meter money on new public services helped convert what had been a commercial skid row into one of the most popular tourist destinations in Southern California." (Shoup, p. xxviii.)

- Remove minimum parking requirements. "Like alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, minimum parking requirements do more harm than good and should be repealed." (P. xxxi.)

See also Measuring the Health of a Parking System and The Supreme Court and Parking.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Is It a Curve or Is It a Turn?

Making the turn, child in tow.
I've been looking at the intersection of 27th Street and Lombard Street in Philadelphia. It's a key part of the westbound access to the South Street bridge. The one thing I know for sure is that it is not an intersection. There is no westward extension of Lombard, past the intersection; and there is no 27th Street north of the intersection. 27th here is a one-block stub leading south to the bridge. There's another one-block stub of 27th just the other side of South, which feeds cars onto the bridge from Schuylkill Avenue.

Lombard and 27th are effectively one street that bends awkwardly at approximately 90 degrees, at the point where the nomenclature changes.

So this 90 degree thingy, is it a curve, or is it a turn? The people who designed and built this little stretch of road seem to have been genuinely conflicted by this question.

Lombard and 27th Street come together.
Here's another way of expressing the dilemma: Is it a city street, or is it an access ramp to the bridge and the Schuylkill Expressway, aka I-76?

Points in favor of ramp. There's no traffic light at Taney, the cross street just before 27th. (I think the ramp vibe starts at Taney.) There is also no traffic light at 27th, where there is, admittedly, no cross traffic. But the lack of a signal at these locations is a signal.

As you come to the turn, you'll notice the designers have gone to considerable effort to at least make it look like it's not a full 90 degree turn. The road widens substantially at the corner and the curbs don't form right angles, but instead present gentle, wide curves. On the inner side of the turn, this effect is enhanced by the judicious use of paint. All this encourages people to act as if they're swinging along on an interstate access ramp.

Finally, there are no crosswalks at Lombard and 27th. I personally think you'd have to be insane to try to walk across the street here, crosswalks or no crosswalks. But it's another little clue that this is not a city street.

(There are no crosswalks across Lombard at Taney either. People do walk across the street in this area with some regularity. Remember, there are lots and lots of people walking on the bridge, and they have to get there somehow.)

Points against ramp. If the turn at Lombard and 27th actually was an interstate access ramp, the curve would be banked.  A banked roadway makes it easier for cars to turn; it also means that all drainage goes to the low side of the bank, which in this case would be the left side of the road.

Instead, the street at this point has a crown in the middle and drains to both sides. This means that people on the right side of the road are turning on a surface that has reverse camber.  The problem with reverse camber in a turn is that it tends to throw you off the road. Which is why curves are generally banked.

Not surprisingly motorists tend to steer through this area slightly to the left of the crown, where the camber helps them turn. When they do this they need to avoid a large storm drain located in a depression in the pavement. They can do this by going to the right of the storm drain, or by straddling it. You don't want to put a wheel in that depression.

A storm drain for the motorists.
My friend Bill Marston thinks the drain probably started life next to the curb, but then the curb moved several feet closer to the building. If we accept this line of thinking, the streets engineers wasted their time moving the curb, because the bulk of the traffic is going to the right of the drain, and the motorists who are straddling could easily move to the right. So you have the appearance of a wider street, but not the reality. (The gap between the curb and the grate is 6' 6". I measured it.)

What's going on? I think the cartway's profile here is driven less by the needs of drivers and more by some thorny issues of drainage. The intersection of 27th and Lombard is at the bottom of two hills, one running down Lombard and the other coming down 27th from the bridge. When it rains, this intersection is definitely collecting storm water from a pretty wide area.

In addition to watching motorists, I've been watching bicyclists navigate through this area. They're hardly ever in the bike lane at the corner. They're to the left of it, I think for two main reasons: First, the higher route allows for a gentler curve. Second, there is a fearsome storm drain designed to catch the wheels of bicycles and eat them, and it's located at the curb in a particularly infelicitous spot. (I've also heard comments about gravel gathering in this spot. I wouldn't be surprised, since it's at the bottom of two hills. I just didn't see it.)

Storm drain in the bike lane.
I don't have solutions for any of these issues, but as we redo the bike lane in this section, I just wanted people to be aware of some of the design challenges.

Riding the curve.
See also Morning on Lombard Street, No Turn On Red, Put Traffic Lights on the Schuylkill Expressway.