Friday, February 24, 2012

Recap Of Yesterday's Discussion On Chinatown Bike Lane

We had a full room last night for our Philadelphia City Cycling Committee meeting. In attendance was Charles Carmalt (City's Pedestrian and Bicycle Coordinator) and three people from the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC): Executive Director John Chin, Special Project Manager Xie Ge, and Main Street Manager Diana Lu.

It was a productive, lively meeting. PCDC is being inundated by concerns from Chinatown merchants that the removal of a traffic lane is significantly hurting their business. The merchants contend that traffic is more snarled, discouraging Chinatown's significant out-of-the-city customer base from driving to Chinatown to shop and eat. John and Diana also relayed Chinatown merchants' perception that they do not see the bike lane being used enough to justify its disruptive presence.

We shared our thoughts with the PCDC folks. One point we stressed was that the 10th Street bike lane has so far been a poor example of a bike lane. The pavement is in terrible shape, it doesn't connect to Spring Garden, and the whole street has been disrupted by construction for months. Add to these issues the bike lane's installation in winter (albeit a weirdly warm winter), and it becomes very difficult to separate variables.

The three bodies represented (PCDC, the City, and us) all agreed that no one has collected enough data to rigorously examine the bike lane's positive and negative effects. Charles said the City is doing traffic studies as part of the bike lane pilot project, and those studies are ongoing. Diana Lu, the PCDC's liaison to Chinatown small business owners, is only several months on the job. She is beginning the process of establishing a framework for collecting data and surveying Chinatown merchants in a systematic way.

A shopper's survey was suggested as a way to identify who exactly is shopping in Chinatown and how they're getting there. Diana agreed that would be useful, but said PCDC doesn't have the resources to conduct one.

We made it clear to the PCDC delegation that our primary interest is in making a better street. There are a number of measures that could be taken to make 10th Street safer and more pleasant for all residents and visitors. Until they are taken, and until some of the other conditions hampering the bike lane's effectiveness improve, it will be hard to draw confident conclusions about the bike lane's impact on business and traffic.

It was a fruitful conversation and we identified some common ground (such as more bike parking on 10th Street) on which we may be able to collaborate with the PCDC. We got the sense from Charles Carmalt that there is not an imminent decision coming on the 10th Street lane. We will keep our membership and readership posted with any developments we hear. In the meantime, if you are interested in showing Chinatown merchants that bicyclists are frequenting their businesses, we recommend wearing your helmet inside the next time you shop there.


Carly L said...

I am very glad to read that the condition of the bike lane was brought to the attention of the city and objectors pertaining to its use. As an all season bike commuter, I was excited by the lane's dedication and then appalled by its status:
I feel more in danger of physical and bicycle harm due to impact with the pavement caused by uneven surfaces, potholes, and metal plates than I do to riding in a car lane with inattentive drivers.

I sincerely hope that the lane's abysmal condition can be rectified and the construction be completed so that valid data can be collected and, hopefully, everyone can be more happy, safe, and fiscally productive on 10th Street!

Katie VanVliet said...

I agree with Carly. I bike all through the winter, and every single destination in Chinatown I have happens to be on 10th Street. Because of the abhorable condition of that road (and the disconnect with Spring Garden), I always tend to approach Chinatown via 6th St to Arch instead. Once 10th street is repaved, it'll be so great!