Time to Reconfigure Philadelphia’s Broad Street With Dedicated Bike Lanes

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Everybody who rides a bike can tell you which roads seem the most dangerous to bike on, but to get city or state government to spend money and political capital on reconfiguring roads for bike and pedestrian safety, you need to actually be able to prove that the roads are dangerous.

That’s what makes the Bike Coalition’s new interactive map of bike crashes in Philadelphia such a powerful tool. Once people know which streets have the most bike crashes, they can start asking politicians for changes to the streets to make them safer.

Unsurprisingly, the most crash-prone street is Broad Street, with elevated numbers of crashes on other wide streets like Spring Garden, Washington Ave, and Market:

Screen shot 2013-12-11 at 9.55.36 AM

  1. Broad & Spruce – 10 crashes
  2. Broad & Pine – 9 crashes
  3. Broad & Spring Garden – 9 crashes
  4. 34th & Spruce – 8 crashes
  5. Broad & Washington – 7 crashes
  6. Broad & Vine – 7 crashes
  7. Schuylkill Ave & Chestnut – 6 crashes
  8. 38th & Spruce – 6 crashes
  9. 38th & Market – 6 crashes
  10. 16th & Arch/BFP area – 5 crashes
  11. 30th & Chestnut – 5 crashes
  12. Broad & Walnut – 5 crashes
  13. 5th & Market – 5 crashes
  14. 22nd & Market – 5 crashes

The Bike Coalition points out that these are not weighted for cycling volume (that’s forthcoming), so one thing this data could be telling us is just that these streets see the most bike traffic. It is also only a map of reported crashes, which is problematic since so many bike collisions go unreported.

But come on: six of the top 14 locations are on Broad Street in Center City, and every cyclist you know hates riding on Broad.

It is time to turn Broad Street from a traffic sewer into a grand avenue. The city is nearing a tipping point in terms of urban biking. We’re getting bike share next year, and bike commuting numbers in Center City and South Philly are in the range of big biking cities like Portland and Milwaukee. The two major streets bisecting Center City need dedicated space for bikes, and we need to start thinking about creating more woonerf streets (especially in South Philly) where cars are the lowest priority mode share.

Here is Steve Stofka’s idea for how Broad St. might look as a grand avenue. Currently there are 4 travel lanes, 2 parking lanes, and a big useless median wasting space in the middle. Instead, we could have a separated bike and parking space, with 2 bus-only lanes, and 2 car lanes:

The second example contrasts Philadelphia’s Broad Street–a classic example of a grand avenue converted into atraffic sewer arterial, with Paris’ Av. Kléber. The former looks like this on Streetmix.

and the latter, this.

I find myself going into Stroad to Boulevard territory here: notice that there is 30′ of pedestrian realm on either side of the street, versus 16′ on Broad Street. The bike and parking functions are both elements of a single shared service street, which the sidewalk spills onto; transit islands can also be installed on the green medians separating the two realms from one another. The bottom line isn’t just that there is more people space–and less car space–on the Av. Kléber; it’s also that one perceives of the Av. Kléber as being more humanized, and narrow, than one does of Broad, which feels more autocentric, and wide.

I like the idea of using the green medians for bus boarding, and for Bus Rapid Transit along Broad Street. Remember, we’re talking about possibly extending the Broad Street subway line down to the Navy Yard – a worthwhile idea, but one which will cost about $300 million.

How much less than that would it cost to reconfigure the road like this and dedicate lanes to buses? Or why not do both and have two good rapid transit options on Broad Street that can support more population density along the corridor?

(via Randy LoBasso)

This entry was posted in Environment, Land Use, Transportation.

9 Responses to Time to Reconfigure Philadelphia’s Broad Street With Dedicated Bike Lanes

  1. Tim says:

    I love the idea of multiway boulevards, but you have to carefully design the access lane space to be pedestrian and bike friendly. If it’s just asphalt, things will look like a tiny 7 foot sidewalk, when it’s really a ~30 foot ped realm.

    Pushing towards full blown BRT is probably a waste of resources with the BSL underneath, but local bus service on Broad is still important and bus shelters on the medians are a good idea.

    One random concern – How do the subway entrance fit into this? You’d probably have to end the access lanes early at certain intersections to accommodate.

    Cool idea though. Probably a good idea for our other wide streets: Girard, Washington, Lehigh, etc.

  2. Tsuyoshi says:

    Bike lanes on Broad Street would be a good thing. I’ve been a little puzzled that they don’t exist already. Much like I am puzzled at the widespread practice of parking on the median.

    I would say, though, that dedicated lanes for buses would probably be a waste of space. The ridership on the 4 is pretty low. I would argue that the ridership on the subway is pretty low too (I take it every day and I can count the number of times I couldn’t find a seat on one hand), so it’s not just that the bus is too slow.

    I would even say that, given the paucity of development on Broad, it’s just too wide. There is not much traffic at all, either by car or by bike or by foot. Suspending my disbelief that such a change is politically possible, it might not be a bad idea to just take two lanes (eliminate the parking spaces) and put a park down the middle.

  3. David says:

    Wouldn’t the new bike lanes just get jammed up with people driving up and down looking for parking?

  4. It’s probably even simpler than this. I imagine if you overlay a similar heat map of car accidents ontop of the bicycle crash map, you will see a lot of fender benders on broad too. Look at the way broad street is treated by motorists. Double parked cars, delivery, aggressively trying to beat lights. First step will be enforcing already existing laws.

  5. Tsuyoshi says:

    Judging from the Washington, Snyder, and Oregon bike lanes, the answer is: no. The bike lanes won’t be clogged with people looking for parking, they will be clogged by people simply parking in the bike lanes.