Long time coming: Protected bike lane on West Chestnut Street

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Perhaps the most interesting news to come out of this year’s Vision Zero Philadelphia Conference in March was the city’s Bike/Ped Coordinator Jeannette Brugger announcing a protected bike lane coming to 11 blocks of West Chestnut Street.

This is a project the Bicycle Coalition has been working on for six years. And there’s only one hurdle left: On April 19, Philadelphia is hosting an open house at The Enterprise Center at 4548 Market Street where the public can come to learn and comment on the benefits of such a lane. From there, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell still needs to introduce an ordinance to approve the project.

But understanding the organizing and civic work that got to this point is important. There are all sorts of moving parts — about 20 steps in all before a lane can be installed — and in spite of what you may have heard, “cynically complaining on the Internet” is not one of them.

Back in 2011, former Bicycle Coalition staffer Susan Dannenberg led meetings throughout Philadelphia with neighborhood leaders, elected officials, business associations, community organizations, and constituents to talk about how to make Chestnut Street safe for the residents and road users.  

Dannenberg and others gave presentations, held meetings, conducted walkability audits and answered questions in West Philly neighborhoods throughout the West Chestnut Street corridor. There was a common refrain from all parties: The speeds of motor vehicles had to be reduced.

Meanwhile, the Streets Department conducted a traffic study of the street. Streets looked at the impact of putting Chestnut Street on a road diet from three lanes to two lanes and adding a parking-protected bike lane, to make sure there would be no negative impacts.

Such changes, according to the study’s conclusion, would reduce speed, reduce weaving behavior, and cut down on crashes.

Reducing the lane of traffic would have minimal impacts on motor vehicle travel between 34th and 45th Streets. Travel time, it was found, may increase by a single minute.

Experts might call the idea of reducing lanes and adding a protected bike lane, “a no-freakin-brainer.”

Now, it’s important for people to show up. The city’s second parking-protected bike lane will happen — if the community wants it.

The public is invited to open house at any time between 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. on April 19 at The Enterprise Center.

Randy LoBasso is communications manager for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.