|Lombard Street in the morning.|
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.