Thursday, May 19, 2016

More on the Pine and Spruce Bike Lanes

Welcome to Pine Street.
In Flex Posts on Pine and Spruce I defended the proposed upgrade of the bike lanes on those streets from buffered (a painted buffer zone on the pavement) to protected (flex posts added to the buffer zone).

Mindful that people do need to drop off groceries and perform similar chores, I proposed adding two loading zones to the parking lane in each block, across the street from the bike lane. Several people I have spoken to have dismissed this proposal out of hand, saying the local residents will never accept it. Presumably the only sufficiently convenient solution is to continue to allow residents to pull up in the bike lane in front of their front door.

So I went for another walk - actually several walks - and scribbled in my notebook and thought.

Let me start by concentrating on CCRAville, the area west of Broad that I am most familiar with.

People seem to think they currently have the right to stop in any bike lane in CCRAville to unload groceries, children, perhaps an aged and infirm grandmother. However, the bike lane side of the 14, 15, 16, and 1700 blocks of Pine is currently placarded as no stopping. Likewise the 1400 and 1800 blocks of Spruce. And for good measure the bike lane on 22nd street is no stopping from South to Market, except for a brief no parking zone near the Greenfield School.

No stopping means no stopping.

How can the City be so heartless? Well, there are options to parking in the bike lane. They may be a bit further from your front door, but they may also be safer - not just for bicyclists, but for you, your children, your grandmother.

Many of the buildings on the south side of Pine and the north side of Spruce (where the bike lanes are) have rear access. The poster children for this are the 15, 17, and 1800 blocks of Pine (backing on Waverly) and the 14, 17, 18, and 1900 blocks of Spruce (backing on Bach Place and Manning).

On many other blocks at least some of the buildings have rear access - for instance the 1900 and 2000 blocks of Pine.

Other blocks are more difficult to categorize. The 1400 block of Pine, for instance, contains Symphony House and Peirce College. In addition to fronting on Pine, Peirce has access from Waverly, 15th, and Carlisle. Symphony House fronts on Broad and has a loading dock on Pine.

These buildings would not be inconvenienced by a protected bicycle lane on Pine, but a protected lane would reduce the number of stories like the one that follows here.

A Story
One weekend morning, probably a year ago, my wife and I were driving down Pine to the grocery store. There was a bicyclist in the bike lane a bit ahead of us. And then, as we approached Broad, a car with Florida plates roared up behind the bicyclist and proceeded to follow him very closely and abuse him verbally.

We all stopped for a red light at Broad. I lowered my passenger window and told the motorist that he was driving in a bicycle lane. He did not take my comment well.

The light changed and we all went forward across Broad. The Florida motorist continued in the bicycle lane and turned on 12th.

Little Streets
Back to the west side of Broad. I previously mentioned Carlisle street, which runs north-south in the block between Broad and 15th. There are a lot of these little north-south streets in the neighborhood. They get very little traffic, and they strike me as good places for a motorist to pull over - safer, frankly, than the hurly-burly of Pine and Spruce.

On Pine, heading west from Broad (the bike lane ends at 22nd), you have Carlisle, Hicks, Smedley, Chadwick (which hits a stub of Cypress that runs to 17th by Tenth Presbyterian), Bouvier, Uber, Capital, and Van Pelt.

Coming back down Spruce from 22nd, you have Van Pelt again, then Smedley and Hicks.

There are also a whole bunch of mews - walkways that run behind buildings. I have one on my block. It extends, with interruptions, the full length of the block. I and others have spent a good amount of time over the years pruning the vegetation and raking and sweeping the beautiful stone pavers placed there by a long-gone generation.

Many of the mews in the neighborhood appear disused and neglected. Maybe people should have another look.

One more extraneous comment. As I walk around the neighborhood I still see a good bit of razor wire. The technology for security and surveillance has improved dramatically, and the razor wire makes a bad impression on the tourists.

East of Broad
Let's go back east of Broad for a quick look. The 1300 block of Pine is no stopping, as is about half of the 1300 block of Spruce. Then you get to the bike lane on 13th street, which is no stopping from Locust north beyond Chestnut, about halfway to Market. This commercial corridor is also well supplied with loading zones.

Here's an idea. I think the basic problem with protected bike lanes is that they're new - well, new to Philadelphia. People have trouble visualizing how they will work. So let's show them how it works. Right on 13th street. All you need to do is put in the flex posts. Literally. And let the demonstration project provide proof of concept for all to see.

Let's do it right now. Not in 2018. Right now.

Rear access on 2300 block of Spruce, from Manning.
About the manhole cover at the beginning of this story: For a very long time I thought that concrete manhole covers had only been an emergency measure during World War II. Clearly I was wrong. Thomas P. Greger received U.S. Patent No. 536,621 on April 2, 1895. If you'd like to read the patent, click here.

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