Monday, August 15, 2011

Chinatown's Opposition To Bike Lanes is Based on Assumptions, not Facts

According to - Wilson Wan, who organized the petition at the suggestion of of 1st District City Council candidate Mark Squilla, said he hopes to gather more than 1,000 signatures over the weekend before presenting the petition to the Mayor's Office.

"Tenth Street is so small, if they want one lane for parking and another for bikes, that will jam up the traffic," said Wan. "People come down to Chinatown because it's convenient. If there's traffic then it will no longer be convenient for them. All the businesses will lose customers and some might be forced to close."

"A lot of people are upset," said Squilla, who stopped by to support the petition. "They think that the proposed bike lanes are infringing on their convenience."

To say Chinatown is "convenient" for motorists is a bit disingenuous. It is convenient to park in Chinatown if you stop in a travel lane and put on your flashers. Indeed delivery trucks and double parking are two of the reasons that traffic crawls on 10th.

But do bike lanes really have a negative economic impact on an urban street? Several studies say no, that the opposite is true. A 2009 study of Bloor Street, a commercial street in Toronto, Ontario showed that encouraging bicycling is good for business: people who had biked and walked to the area reported that they spent more money in the area per month than those who drove there.

Another survey interviewed merchants on Valencia St in San Francisco. Valencia was restriped, with lanes reduced from 4 to 2 along with bike lanes. 66% of the merchants interviewed stated that the bike lanes had a positive impact on their business.

The Philadelphia Streets Department has conducted a traffic study and determined that the newer smarter traffic configuration can handle the current existing volume. Some at Jefferson Hospital predicted that the new bike lane would inflame the congestion that was already there. That hasn't happened, which is good news for the emergency vehicles that have to access the hospital.

There is no doubt that Chinatown's incredible competition for space means that there is no perfect solution for everyone, those bike lanes will be blocked from time to time. But on the whole 10th street will become the choice southbound street for east of Broad cyclists. And that means more cyclists will be stopping in Chinatown to take advantage of the many services available in this historic neighborhood as well as making it easier for Chinatown employees that already bike to work.

If bike lanes do indeed have a negative impact on the economy of the neighborhood then the data collected for this bike lane trial period is the only platform that can prove it.


Rob S said...

Great post, with great points! What's the best way for those of us in the 1st Council District to contact Mark Squilla? Send an email to or some other way?

JACKIE said...

The only "inconvenience" imposed on Chinatown will be that people will have to look both ways before crossing the street. I bike south down 10th St daily, and there is little to no traffic on the block between Race and Arch- ever.

.. said...

I agree with Jackie - I live on 10th and Race and bike daily usually using 10th as my connector to CC. 10th is simply not traffic heavy... other than pedestrians blithely walking across the street in front of any traffic car or otherwise and the ubiquitous double parked car obstacles.

Some internal thoughts about it:

- I think that reducing the available lanes will change the psychology of the drivers for the better: With two lanes, they are constantly jockeying for position by cutting each other off and speeding to get one car ahead. Restricting them to one lane will allow drivers to act more casually, as there is nothing they can do about the traffic flow. So I expect more courteous driving and reduced aggression and stress for motorists. We all benefit!

- People haven't quite figured out they are supposed to be bike-only lanes though... lots of cars driving down them. Need a better sign at Vine maybe.

- The 10th street auto lanes were so narrow, it was pretty hairy to walk on the east-side of the street, because traffic is so squeezed against the curb. I expect having a buffer and calmer bike traffic butting up against the curb will make the shopping experience more pleasant for patrons of the many street stalls.

- Last gripe: The left side of the street is so heavily pock marked and bumpy that it's pretty uncomfortable to ride, even on my cruiser. Can't wait for the repave.

So happy this finally went in!