Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bike Share Rolls Closer to Philadelphia with Vendor and Timeline Announcement

Today the City of Philadelphia moved one big step closer to the launch of our much-anticipated, much-needed bike share system. A Philadelphia Inquirer article this morning names the City's selected vendors for supplying the equipment, running the system, and marketing the naming rights. An official press conference is set for 2:00 PM today on the Art Museum steps.
Mayor Nutter checking out bike share bikes at an exhibition in Rittenhouse Square this time last year.

The City has selected vendors whose resum├ęs give us confidence in their ability to deliver a world-class bike share system. The equipment vendor, B Cycle, has a good track record of providing high-quality, reliable bike share bikes. For the curious, they are not the bike share company which drew some attention recently for declaring bankruptcy.

Bicycle Transit Systems (aka Bicycle Trans) has been selected to run the system. On paper they are a new firm, but they are staffed by people with extensive knowledge of launching and running other cities' bike share systems. And they are based in Philadelphia!

Philadelphia is also doing something smart in splitting off the corporate sponsorship piece and hiring Front Row Marketing to pursue that funding directly. This should allow us to maximize the money obtained through sponsorship. (Just spit-balling here, but what about "Ryan Howard's Bike Share System?" He's looking better this season, but supporting bicycling would help us forget that .198 average against lefties the past 3 seasons.)

For those curious about our role in this, we have been advisers to the city's deliberations up to this point, and will be taking a lead role in the equity component of bike share - making sure the system is accessible to all Philadelphians. But we will not be running the system.

Philadelphia is behind other cities in the adoption and implementation of a bike share system. But one advantage of this is that we can learn from the best practices honed in those other cities. (One example of that is hiring a marketing firm explicitly to secure corporate sponsorship.) And we are pleased that Philadelphia is taking the time to get this right, and launch in the spring when adoption will be easiest.

If you like your news fresh and locally-sourced, you can attend the press conference today at 2PM at the Art Museum Steps. You can also check out the Philadelphia Inquirer and WHYY Newsworks coverage.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

New Report Finds Evidence That Greater Bicycling Means Greater Safety

The Alliance for Biking & Walking released a major benchmarking report covering data and research on walking and bicycling across the country. The goal is to identify trends and examine how they relate to public health, safety, and social and economic well-being.

There's a lot of juicy information in here, and you should do the "informed citizen" thing and check it out yourself. (We're not Upworthy, we're not going to turn their report into a listacle and chew it for you.) But we're pulling out one chart to share because we are especially heartened by its findings:

Cities With More Biking and Walking See Lower Fatality Rates
One of the report's findings is that bicycling and walking fatality rates are lower in cities where more people bike or walk to work. This supports the "safety in numbers" argument and the intuitive understanding that as bicyclists become more common on streets, drivers and bicyclists learn how to share that street safely.
Orange dots represent bicyclist fatality rates -- i.e., the number of people who have died while biking as a portion of the number of people who bike to work. The grey line indicates the percentage of the population who bikes to work, and the green line shows correlation between the two.

Now, infrastructure and education remain critical components of a safe bicycling environment. Given two streets with the same rates of bicyclist traffic, the street with a protected bicycle lane will have lower rates of bicycle crashes (and likely car crashes too). But this report should be encouraging to those of us in the Greater Philadelphia Region who care about safe walking and biking. Among all the reasons to bike to work, you are making all bicyclists safer by doing so.

Read more of the findings on the Alliance for Biking & Walking's website here.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Are You Ready for the National Bike Challenge? Registration Is Open

Any and all bicycle trips count! Warning: the bicyclist shown here is an immortal professional. Do not attempt.
This year's National Bike Challenge is nearly here! Registration is open at, where you can set up teams and workplaces and log practice miles. The challenge begins for real on May 1st, and runs through September 30th. (Miles recorded during April won't count towards your final totals.)

What is the National Bike Challenge
In a nutshell, it is a nation-wide friendly competition to encourage bicycling by making it a contest. Using the website or one of three(!) smartphone apps, you can log the trips you take by bicycle. You are awarded points for those trips, and points allow for competition on a individual, team, workplace, school, city, and state level.

The challenge rewards riding frequency over distance. It's about using your bike for a wide variety of trips, and encouraging others to give it a try! You can register anytime, even after the start on May 1st. For more information, check out the site's FAQ.

What Is New This Year
The League of American Bicyclists, who runs this program, overhauled the website for this year. The site's functionality, the leaderboards, and other mechanics have been tweaked. They have also facilitated integration with three apps: Endomondo, MapMyRun, and Moves. (No Strava integration yet.)

Why Should I Do This
  • If you already bike regularly, it can be a fun way to compete against your fellow bicycling friends. Form two teams of friends and place a wager on monthly or summer-long totals.
  • The Challenge offers a fun, engaging framework through which to encourage a partner, friend, or coworker to give bicycling a try.
  • The League of American Bicyclists offers prizes based on points level, up to and including new bicycles.
  • Workplaces that encourage bicycle commuting have healthier, more productive employees.
  • Pride and glory.
The challenge begins May 1st. Register today, get your profile and team set up, and start bicycling!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

How to Keep the South Street Bridge Bike Lane Safe After CHOP Expansion

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has proposed a new building for Schuylkill Avenue with driveways that will connect to the South Street Bridge. We testified on the project at the April 1st Civic Design Review meeting and sent a letter to CHOP today that further clarifies our concerns about the impact of the driveways on the bike lane.

The two proposed driveways for the new CHOP office building seriously degrade the safety of the bike lane on the South Street Bridge. While it would be optimal if the project could be designed to require only one driveway, whether with one or two driveways we believe the safety of the bike lane can be restored by repositioning and protecting the bike lane.

The driveways onto the bridge came as a response to strong community desire, expressed at CHOP-held community meetings, that the project not create increased traffic on neighborhood streets. The second driveway was added to facilitate SEPTA buses reaching the site, as transit access is a priority and buses can't otherwise make the difficult turn from the bridge onto Schuylkill Avenue.

For bicyclists, adding one or two driveways creates additional turning conflicts, on a downhill, on the most bicycled bridge in Pennsylvania. Continuing the existing bike lane to the right of these new turning conflicts seriously degrades the safety of this bike lane.

To mitigate this danger, the bike lane should be:
  • Repositioned to the left of the vehicles turning into the new driveways. 
  • Protected from encroachment by vehicles crossing the bike lane to get to the right turn lane. 
This will require some sort of physical barrier to cars encroaching on the bike lane and also the creation of a right turn-only lane. There are design solutions in the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide that can restore the bike lane to its present safety level, such as flexible bollards that can be removed during snow season. Other cities have used these solutions but Philadelphia has not yet tried them.

We have asked for the chance to meet with CHOP and the Streets Department to develop a solution that repositions the bike lane and protects it from right-turning traffic.

We made a word choice error in an earlier blog post by suggesting that CHOP had only recently shared plans for the new building with the Bicycle Coalition. In fact, CHOP’s designs have been publicly available but we only commented on them earlier this month.

Peter Grollman, CHOP’s Vice President for Government Affairs, Community Relations & Advocacy, serves on the Bicycle Coalition board.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bikes, Food, and Music This Thursday on the Camden Waterfront

Correction - DRPA has announced that only the north walkway will be open on Thursday, from 5AM to midnight. The south walkway will be closed all day.

The combination of bikes, trails, live music, food trucks, and site-specific art installations typically makes us think of Philadelphia (woot woot!). But now Camden is getting into the act, with the Camden Night Gardens this Thursday.

The Camden Night Gardens is a free night time art and bike festival on the Camden Waterfront that will take place on Thursday, April 17th from 7:00PM-11:00PM. It will feature local artist performances (music and dance), digital and physically produced projections, site-specific art installations, an illuminated BMX performance, a water-based light production, the presentation of historic record players and recordings, a bike tune-up station and a bike parade.

The Riverfront State Prison used to loom over the Camden neighborhood north of the Ben Franklin Bridge. Now it's an empty lot and its perimeter road, known informally as the Jail Trail, offers unique views of the bridge and Philly skyline. This event is a community-oriented repurposing of that trail and land.

For the convenience of event goers both the north and south walkways of the Ben Franklin Bridge will be open until midnight.  For more information on the Camden Night Gardens visit the event's Facebook Page

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Parking Authority Follows Up on Blocked Bike Lane Complaints

The Parking Authority has given us the preliminary results of the #unblockbikelanes Twitter campaign and has promised us additional measures to improve the enforcement of parking restrictions in bike lanes.

This past December, we helped the Philadelphia Parking Authority launch a Twitter campaign to identify which bike lanes are most chronically blocked by motor vehicles. The PPA reports that over three months (approximately Jan-March), the #unblockbikelanes campaign generated 55 complaints covering 20 different streets. Over the same three months, the PPA and the Police Department wrote 264 tickets for parking in bike lanes at a subset of those locations.

We took the data they gave us and made a basic map comparing the location of complaints with the ticket locations. Red lines indicate where complaints were made and tickets written. Blue dots indicate where complaints were made but no tickets written. The thicker the red line, the more tickets were written on that street.

The main takeaway of this data is that the bulk of tickets are being written on the streets receiving the most complaints: Spruce & Pine Streets, N. 13th Street (between Filbert & Arch), and N. 22nd (near Lombard Street, in front of the 7-Eleven).

In addition to giving us this data, the PPA has told us they are committing to taking these actions to improve enforcement:

  • Have a supervisor do a test run of placing a PPA Officer on a "bike lane detail" to cover Spruce & Pine (Front to 22nd Street), 13th and 22nd Streets.
  • Direct more officers to enforcement on Fairmount Avenue.
  • Direct more enforcement during peak hours and assign supervisors to the entire lengths of Spruce and Pine Streets.
  • Direct more enforcement during morning peak hours on 22nd Street, especially at the intersection of Lombard and 22nd Street.
  • Assign more mobile units to 13th Street b/w Filbert and Arch Street between 8am - 2pm.
  • Have supervisors review the religious institutions' "courtesy" blocks with PPA Officers.
We appreciate the PPA being responsive to our concerns and the concerns of the thousands of bicyclists who use Philadelphia's bike lanes daily. Data shows that bike lanes make streets safer for all users, drivers included, so enforcing no-parking regulations in those lanes contributes to safer streets and fewer injuries all around.

UPDATE 12:15PM: In our meeting with the PPA, the topic of PPA vehicles blocking bike lanes was brought up. Our contact there said they have noticed those reports, and are instructing their officers to not do that. It is worth remembering that a PPA vehicle can stop in a bike lane to load or unload officers, same as a private vehicle or cab can load or unload passengers.