Friday, April 23, 2010

I Have a Dream of Taking Back MLK Drive

Martin Luther King Drive, a park road running through the gem of Philadelphia's park system that has become a throughway. MLK Drive's car-oriented design has lead to:
  • Excessive speeding by motorists through an active recreation area
  • Difficult-to-cross intersections with roads leading up to West Fairmount Park
  • Narrowing of the "trail" to less than five feet crossing the MLK Bridge
Speeding on MLK Drive has taken it's toll on our youngest bicyclists. On May 13th, 2006, six-year Old Riley Boyle was killed by an elderly women who slammed into the "closed road" swing gates at 50 miles per hour. Three years later on May 21, 2009, a father and his 4-year-old son on a bicycle and "tag-along" were severely injured when crossing MLK Drive at the mid-block crosswalk below the Art Museum. They were struck by a fast moving SUV driver who veered left into the center "pedestrian refuge" island to avoid the car that had stopped at the crosswalk to let the bicyclists cross.  Following that crash, the Streets Department take measures to make the crosswalk safer, culminating with signal lights in November 2009.  

I have a dream that one day MLK Drive will be taken back for the people. Where one can bicycle safely on the road 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It's slower moving, with bike lanes, two lanes of traffic, a center strip of greenery and a sidepath that is free of tree roots and debris for those choose to ride or stroll the riverside path.

I have a dream that I can take my children to the Please Touch Museum, the Philadelphia Zoo, the Japanese House and all the other great attractions of West Fairmount Park without playing chicken with the free flowing traffic turning right off the Sweet Briar Cut Off.

It's just a dream, but if we all work together we can take it back. Visit our I Have a Dream of Taking Back MLK Drive Facebook Page and share your vision and ideas for taking back Philly's MLK Drive so that it can become a safe  park road.


Peter said...

I have the same dream for Kelly Drive.

Mr. Dan said...

I could get behind that. Think how fun it would be to walk along a green zone during the races and walk-a-thons that travel through MLK drive every year.

Riding on the foot path always makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong. People are walking two abreast, or running in packs, leaving no good way to ride at more than walking speed without being in the road. In the road traffic is blowing past.

Greening that area and making a dedicated bike lane would be fantastic. I believe more people would be drawn to recreate if this dream came true.

Erin said...

Think how much MORE fun it would be if recreational traffic, including runners, bicycles, and races, were not shunted to just one road! There are so many more interesting places in Philadelphia to ride, walk, and run than the drives, but the focus on the drives as *the* only appropriate place to do these things limits people's confidence and imagination--and allows drivers to see recreational riders in other places as not belonging there.

Andrew J. Besold said...

And while your at it put Kelly Drive on a major road diet so there could be room for bike lanes. I personally would like to see both Kelly Drive and MLK completely closed to motor vehicle traffic.

It's bad enough that a major part of the western side of Fairmount Park was relinquished to the Pennsylvania Rail Road so many years ago and then again to build the Schuylkill River Expressway. I don't see why these two roads which comprise a major and the most popular portion of the park should continue to serve the needs of motorists passing through.

Parks for people! Not for cars!

Nate Foster said...

A related issue that I've often wondered about: why did no pedestrian signs go up in Fairmount park? They're at West River and Montgomery (contradicting the white crosswalk painted across the drive) and at Sweetbriar and Lansdowne.

Unknown said...

There is a bike path that works great. Why do you think you need to ride in traffic? I would much rather have a completely car free zone (and do). Let's get that working even better instead of concentrating on mixing bikes in with autos - that is just stupid. The bridge situation needs to be remedied by providing enough space for bike traffic.

Andrew J. Besold said...


Because roadies doing 20mph+ should have a safe place to ride their bikes in the street (where they belong at that speed) so they don't crash into the hundreds of pedestrians fighting over what little space is left for them after that cars bullied their way in Fairmount PARK.

Even when riding a bike at slower speeds, where their are high volumes of pedestrians, bikes and peds don't mix. Last September, I was riding my bike (loaded for a multi-day tour to gettysburg and back) really slow in front of the boathouses (<10mph) and nearly ran over a small child who bolted from his parents from the complete opposite side of the trail.

Again, parks are for people to recreate and NOT as just another shortcut for drivers to speed through.