Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Parking on a Rainy Day

Yet another kerfuffle over bike lanes. A recent story focused on the 800 block of Pine - specifically the south side of the street. The north side is occupied by Pennsylvania Hospital, founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1751, and the nation's first hospital. My daughter, Alicia, was born there. As far as I know, it is not a participant in this controversy.

In the story, a resident of the south side expresses concerns about the protected bike lanes proposed for Pine and Spruce. My initial reaction was a trifle acerbic, undermining a promise I've made to Alicia to try to stay positive. So I decided to do something useful yesterday morning. I walked down to 8th and Pine and took pictures.

The proposed upgrade to the existing bike lanes on Pine and Spruce has already provoked a good bit of argument, including discussions at two meetings of the Washington Square West Civic Association. And it seems there will be yet more meetings.

Opponents complain of the hardship of not being able to park at the curb directly in front of their houses. If you listen to this argument in isolation, you may find yourself feeling some sympathy. After all, people need access to their houses. But when you look at the context, I submit that the picture changes.

One of the big things that people tend to overlook is rear access. I've already discussed access issues on Pine and Spruce west of Broad (see Flex Posts on Pine and Spruce and More on the Pine and Spruce Bike Lanes).  Let's have a look at rear access on the 800 block of Pine.

This is a view into the interior of the block from 8th Street. You can see that the buildings facing Pine (on the right) and Addison (on the left) are well provided with off-street parking. The access to this rather rather handsome lot is by a large curb cut on Pine, shown below. Vive la France.

While we're on Pine, here is a look at the existing bike lane.

A basic purpose of protected bike lanes is to keep trucks and cars from parking in the bike lane and blocking it, which of course renders it useless to bicyclists. Some would argue worse than useless, because the bicyclist then needs to leave the bike lane and merge with the moving cars and trucks in the motor-vehicle lane.

Okay, let's go to Addison and look at the kind of rear access available up near 9th Street.

The buildings at this end of the block are bigger, and some of the parking lots aren't as pretty. But some are quite lovely.

Here's another one that's not terrible.

Finally, in the mid-block, actual garages predominate.

There's basically enough off-street parking on this block to sink a battleship. I fail to see the hardship of asking residents to park in their off-street spots, instead of parking at the curb on Pine, where their presence does create a substantial hardship for bicyclists.

Well, you say, the people don't want to park at the curb very long, maybe 15 minutes. Surely not that many bicyclists would be inconvenienced.

The bike traffic numbers indicate otherwise. Even in the middle of the day, there are a lot of bikes whizzing around the streets of Center City. Last June 20, between 2:30 and 3:30 in the afternoon, I counted bikes at 16th and Spruce. On average there was one every 30 seconds. (See Intraday Biking.)

So if you parked in the bike lane there for 15 minutes, you'd have 30 bicyclists scrambling around you. An inconvenience ratio of 30 to 1. And in rush hour the number of bicyclists would be much higher.

To come back to the 800 block of Pine, here's what I think. If we can't put a protected bike lane on this block, we're not going to be able to put one anywhere in Center City. And I greatly fear that is going to be the outcome of the process we are currently enduring.

Mayor Kenney may indeed deliver his promised 30 miles of protected bike lanes. But will they be where the bicyclists need them, and where current and potential bike traffic demand them?

See also Vision Zero in Philadelphia.

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