Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Morning on Lombard Street

Bike lane, Lombard Street.
My friend Jim Campbell suggested that I have a look at the intersection of Lombard and 22nd, for congestion and cars blocking the bike lane that starts at 22nd and then runs down Lombard, across the South Street bridge, and out to Penn, HUP, CHOP, and other points in West Philly.

So this morning I took a walk, arriving at 22nd and Lombard before 8 a.m. I was going to do traffic counts, but the situation was patently obvious and, I thought, better explained by photographs.

The initial thought was that motorists coming up 22nd were turning and, finding the car lane full, jumping over to the bike lane. They do this, and often go in the bike lane for several blocks before they're able to squeeze into the car lane.

Lombard is very crowded in the morning. We'll get to the reason for that in a little bit. At any rate there's a solid line of cars from 22nd street down onto the bridge at 27th and South. The good news is that the traffic is moving very slowly, which reduces the crash risks.

In addition to the motorists turning from 22nd, we have motorists on Lombard coming directly across the intersection and entering the bike lane. Lombard has two car lanes up to 22nd street. The right-hand lane is marked as a right-turn only lane at 22nd. Some drivers just go straight.

Among them are the bus drivers. There is a bus stop on the east side of 22nd and Lombard, in the right-turn only lane. After receiving and discharging passengers in the bus stop, bus drivers then have a choice. They can go directly across 22nd into the bike lane, or they can move to the left and change lanes in the middle of an intersection.

Recommendation # 1. Eliminate the bus stop at 22nd. There are bus stops on almost every block along Lombard. One stop will not be missed greatly, and the change will make life a lot easier for bus drivers and the people who need to maneuver around them.

Recommendation # 2. Add some flex posts at the beginning of the bike lane to prevent cars and buses from driving down the lane.

And now to the question of why Lombard jams the way it does every weekday morning. Bridge traffic, you say. Yes, but there is a more precise answer. The vast majority of the cars on the bridge are headed for the northbound entrance to the Schuylkill Expressway.

I walked up on the bridge and had a look this morning. (Not my first visit.) The bridge conveniently sprouts three westbound lanes - the middle lane heading to West Philly, the left lane for the Schuylkill southbound, and the right lane for the Schuylkill northbound. The left and center lanes are uncrowded and flow freely. The right lane is a solid line of cars for its entire length.

Recommendation # 3. Close the northbound entrance to the Schuylkill Expressway from the South Street bridge.

First of all, the entrance is dangerous. Drivers have to merge to the right onto the Schuylkill, into the fast lane. And of course there is that blind spot that cars have on their right side, looking to the rear.

Second. it doesn't make a lot of sense to load northbound traffic onto the Schuylkill here. South Street is a southern gateway to Center City. It should be for people arriving from the south and departing to the south.

Why load more northbound traffic onto a road that is already jammed with northbound traffic? Why not wait until at least some of these people get off at Center City, and then you only have to worry about the people headed to King of Prussia.

Third, there's plenty of room on the bridges further north. I walked up there this morning, as well. Walnut, Market, JFK westbound. Little House on the Prairie.

A traffic department worth its salt would be looking for ways to balance these flows.

I'm aware that 22nd street is heavily traveled in the morning and afternoon. But the genius of a street grid is that there are options - basically any even-numbered street. And 16th at Love Park is five lanes wide. Versus one lane on Lombard.

Every once in a while my camera gives me a gift.
See also Love Park Redesign: Why Are There Still Five Lanes on 16th Street?


  1. This deserves a better comment (a statement of respect!) than my low-glucosed brain machine is capable of refining at the moment, yet I am aftraid it will not be remembered — so I post this here, in pre-desperation resolve that I might luckily encounter it another hour, another day. TY, Bill, Jim Campbell, Bob Thomas, John Boyle, Sarah Clark etc et al

  2. This is one example of why the 22nd St bike lane should be a parking protected bike lane on the LEFT side of 22nd.