Friday, June 13, 2014

The Great Bicycle Highway to South Philly

I finally figured out why the bike lane treatment on 11th Street runs only from Bainbridge Street down to Washington, instead of continuing south to Reed Street.

It turns out that the Great Bicycle Highway to South Philly does exist.  It turns left on Washington Avenue and runs east on Washington to Moyamensing, where it turns right and runs all the way south to Snyder.

Washington Avenue
There is no way to know this when you're standing at 11th and Washington.  There are no bike lanes marked at Washington; this is true from 11th down to 7th, on the other side of the Italian Market.

Bike lanes are painted for several blocks east of 7th, until Washington sprouts an additional, separate lane that looks a bit like an exit lane from an Interstate but isn't.

I've often wondered what the city's engineers were thinking when they laid out this stretch of Washington.  The road is simply much too wide -- and, I have to say, poorly organized.  There's a buffer lane painted between the east- and west-bound lanes.  Would be a nice spot for a pedestrian-friendly median with curbs and trees.  The spare eastbound lane could be eliminated and the open space put to use as open space.  For instance, Jefferson Square, between 3rd and 4th, could be expanded to the north.

And there's plenty of room for a cycle track, as there is on Moyamensing, a nice wide street already equipped with bicycle lanes north- and south-bound.

Moyamensing is so wide that the traffic engineers blessed it with head-in parking for much of its length.  At the risk of belaboring the obvious, I think it's a very bad idea to stripe a bicycle lane directly on the rear bumpers of a bunch of cars parked head-in.  The drivers haven't got much of a chance of seeing the bicyclists, and the bicyclists have almost no time to react when a parked car backs into the bike lane.

On 11th Street, the engineers were at least trying.  There are a number of signs telling people to park back in, rather than head in.  For 11th Street, I recommended a two-way cycle track next to the sidewalk,with the parked cars between the cycle track and the moving cars.  (See blog post, April 10, 2014.)  I recommend the same thing on Moyamensing.

Discoveries on the way home
This section of Moyamensing ends in a T intersection at Snyder, which has very nice bike lanes east- and west-bound.  I gave some thought to heading west, looking for a route further south.  But then I decided to bag it and headed my bike east to Delaware Avenue, thinking I would ride the bike lane there north to Center City.

As I approached Tasker, I decided to take a detour.  I'd been to a Planning Commission meeting where there had been considerable discussion about Tasker as an important way to get to the river, and how access to the river was a key component of the master plan for this part of the city.  So I turned right on Tasker and rode past the back sides of Home Depot and Walmart, expecting to dead end at some point.

To my considerable surprise, instead of a dead end I found a gate to something called the Delaware River Trail.  I had never heard of this charming walk-bike trail, which runs through industrial ruins in the process of becoming gardens.  (This involves using plants that work on concrete slabs, essentially as slow-motion jackhammers.)

Several piers are slated for renovation.  They are intended primarily for fishing and sitting outside by the water on a fine day.  (You can tell the difference between these two activities by the presence or absence of a fishing pole.)

When I go out on a ramble, I'm always happy to stumble onto something that's entirely new to me.  Mission accomplished, I rode up Delaware to the cycle track at Spring Garden, rode the cycle track, then rode across Spring Garden to the Schuylkill Banks, and thence home.

It is getting easier to get around town on a bike.

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