Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Our Response to Yesterday's Inquirer Article

Yesterday's article in the Inquirer that pitted bicyclists against other path users contained some inaccuracies that we would like to address:

The Bicycle Coalition has been in discussions with Fairmount Park for over a year to improve safety on the River Drive pathways.

Due in part to our encouragement, Fairmount Park staff developed a re-striping plan for the entire loop (and the trail down on Schuylkill Banks) to help keep everyone to the right and at safe speeds. Fairmount Park is putting the final touches on the plan, and will be putting it out to bid this fall.

We also met with the Police Department about enforcing vehicular speed limits to make it safer for peds/bikes to cross MLK Drive, for bicyclists who are in the traffic lanes during normal hours and for people on the path who are vulnerable when cars lose control and crash up onto the path. We urged the Police Department to enforce the speed limit and to put up “driver feedback” signs (placed under a speed limit sign saying “your speed is……”). We have also been urging the Administration to fix the path on MLK Drive that has been damaged by tree roots.

This problem has finally risen to the point where Fairmount Park are the Streets Department meeting in the fall to figure out how to pay for repaving. The Coalition has also initiated a Bicycle Ambassador program to get trained bicyclists out on the trail to engage all trail users about safety.

In the long term we urge the City to reinstate full weekend closings to MLK Drive and to consider an extreme makeover on the Drive that would slow traffic down, invite cyclists to use the roadway and breathe life into an underused section of the park.

Martin Luther King Drive Road Diet

An incredibly simple rendering of a two lane MLK Drive with bike lanes and center greenspace.


Anonymous said...

NOTE: this was just sent to the INQ> as a letter to the editor, but unlikely to see daylight, so posting it here.

For a century, cyclists have enjoyed Fairmount Park's byways,
including the Kelly and Martin Luther King Drives; and for a century,
they've been derided as "scorchers" for going too fast around
pedestrians, runners and even slower cyclists. (Bikers and Walkers
Collide, Inquirer, Aug. 18th)

What's changed is that so much of the space where faster cyclists once
rode has now been dedicated to automobile traffic. On both sides of
the Schuylkill, the Drives have been turned into de facto speedways,
with many drivers going double the limit. To make it easier for rush
hour hotrodders, cyclists are banned, and the police ignore speeders
and reckless drivers. Many drivers argue that enjoying a leafy (though
short and totally glassed-in) run through the Park is their
birthright, and that anyone slower belongs on the path.

Nearly every month a car leaves the road or crosses the yellow stripes
into another vehicle. Safety glass, smashed tree trunks and twisted
bumpers are a regular sight along both Drives and throughout Fairmount

A crackdown on speeding cyclists could help crowding in the short
term. But it's clear that Philadelphians and tourists love to bike
through the Park, and bikes move faster than walkers. We can expect
twice as many users in the next few years. What's really needed is for
the Park Commission, PennDOT and the Philadelphia Streets Department
to do what they've always done so readily for cars--open up more space
for cyclists.

The current role of the Drives as junior Expressways can be easily
reversed; the right hand lanes should have a 20mph maximum limit, SUV
and truck bans should be firmly enforced (with special stickers for
regatta vehicles and such), and the 35mph speed limit should be
enforced immediately, and perhaps lowered to 30 even 25mph. An ill-
conceived "compromise" currently opens the upper stretch of the MLK
Drive to weekend auto traffic at noon. The MLK through-traffic
closures should last the entire day on weekends--and run year round.
Permanent stop signals should be placed along both Drives to make it
easier for families and visitors to cross. Such measures would add at
most 10 minutes to commute times over the Drive's four miles, and
allow faster cyclists and cars to co-exist.

Pedestrians and cyclists are the lifeblood of the Fairmount Park
Drives. Cars are killing Fairmount Park (and literally killing its
A civilized city that loves its citizens, and its visitors, should
make room for them. Signage and enforcement will cost little or
nothing and will reap immediate benefits in park quality, increased
tourism and lives saved. If traffic jams shift more riders onto SEPTA
and make Philadelphia into a more energy-efficient metropolis, that's
an added bonus. It's time to shut down the speeders--and free the
River Drives.

--Michael McGettigan
Trophy Bikes University City

Anonymous said...

Re-paving Martin Luther King Drive's bike path and letting cyclists know it's a viable alternative to Kelly Drive's path is a good step, and also making the access to the West River easier around Eakins Oval and the Schulkyll Banks path....
But a more radical solution would be to eliminate two lanes of auto traffic, one in each direction, on Kelly Drive, and replace them with barrier-protected BIKE ONLY lanes. This would have a big impact on not only the safety issue for skaters, runners and walkers, but would force drivers who use Kelly Drive as a commuter speedway to find more appropriate routes into and out of Center City. Like the drives in Central Park in New York, Kelly Drive should be reclaimed as a leisurely roadway, tourist-friendly, and not a venue for road rage and reckless driving.

Mike Dee said...

that rendering will get all of us on the Tuesday night drives ride killed.

Anonymous said...

When the city finally gets around to looking at traffic calming measures I hope they first do their research. There are alternatives to speed bumps and rumble strips – both of which can be real hazards for bicyclist and others. www.stopspeeders.org has a links to over a dozen studies that look at a variety of means used to slow traffic. Turns out that a radar speedcheck sign (Your Speed Is..) cost about the same as a speedbump but is typically MORE effective, LESS noisy and FAR safer.