There is no doubt about it, the City's recommendation to make the buffered bike lanes on Spruce and Pine Street permanent ranks as one of the most important wins for bicycling in the history of the 37-year-old organization.
Looking back there are at least scores and perhaps hundreds of points where we can call policy changes, trail openings or other physical improvements as victories (along with many defeats), but in my mind there are only two wins that can be marked as sea changes for bicycling in the Delaware Valley.
The first was in 1991 when SEPTA allowed bicycles on Regional Rail Trains. Before, you needed a permit and conductors were not always accommodating, but it was now possible for a bicyclist to bike two miles to a train station and disembark at a flung location such as Doylestown or Delaware. It offered for the first time true regional mobility for those who could not or chose not to travel by car.
This victory opened up a deliberate campaign to make the rest of the extensive regional public transportation network bike compatible including the SEPTA bus fleet, NJ TRANSIT and PATCO. While bikes on transit is now standard practice in most of the country, the big old transit systems in the Northeast US continue to resist, and I have doubts to this day that SEPTA would have ever allowed bikes on trains or buses without the constant pressure from the Bicycle Coalition. Our credit for this victory is undisputed.
The second was in 1995 when the city applied for and was awarded 3 million dollars to develop and implement the citywide bicycle network. This resulted in a planned 300 mile network of bike lanes and trails. Of the original 300 miles of bike lanes more than 200 miles were built, along with nearly 1000 bike racks and 2000 share the road signs. Looking at the other bicycle and pedestrian plans around the region none of them have been implemented to the degree that this plan was (which by the way was never coalesced into an official planning document).
I hear from critics of the bike lane network within the bicycling community these days that it's worthless and doesn't take you anywhere. That school of thought has some some merit. Implementation and maintenance has been less than perfect and newer innovative bike facility designs are being rolled out in cities like Baltimore. But most of those critics don't recall when the Walnut Street Bridge, Columbus Blvd and Spring Garden Streets were shoulder-less, virtual expressways. In 1987 Bicycling Magazine named Philadelphia the worst city for bicycling in the country.
It's hard to say which victory has or will have the greatest impact. Geographically these transformations took place on a macro, meso and a micro level respectfully, but all have demonstrated that what was thought to be impossible can be made routine.