Walnut Street has some of the highest bicycle volumes in the City. It is a major east-to-west thoroughfare and is heavily used by UPenn and Drexel, two communities that tilt more bicycle-heavy. The old, narrow right hand bike lane beginning at 22nd Street created many conflicts with buses and frequent driver-side door conflicts, so this repaving project was a big opportunity to make major improvements for people on bikes.
In January 2012, we suggested to the Streets Department that they ask PennDOT to paint a left hand buffered bike lane to replace the existing right hand bike lane. Putting the lane on the left will remove bicycle-bus conflicts, and decrease the chance of dooring by placing the lane on cars' passenger side. A new buffered bike lane would complement the investment being made in the Walnut Bridge Gateway to make that section of Walnut Street friendlier and safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. Extending it all the way to Cobbs would make a safe connection between the Schuylkill River Trail and Cobbs Creek Trail and enhance safety in an underserved neighborhood.
|Schematic of Philly's first left-hand buffered bike lane next to a parking lane|
What to expect
West of the Walnut Street Bridge, the road will have (going from left to right, westbound) an 8 ft. parking lane, an 8 ft. buffered bike lane (5 foot wide standard lane with 3 foot buffer), 2 ten foot travel lanes and an 8 ft. parking lane.
East of the bridge, there will be varying widths to accommodate a narrower road and conflict zones with traffic turning onto the 76 Expressway or Schuylkill Avenue.
There will be a 500 foot gap between 32nd and 33rd due to University of Pennsylvania's construction project that is taking up the entire left hand lane.
This lane is being installed without the removal of a travel lane or parking. Space was made for the lane by simply narrowing parking and travel lanes. The narrower travel lanes will slow motor vehicle traffic down. It is also the City's first buffered bike lane next to a parking lane, as opposed Spruce and Pine and 10th and 13th, which are next to the curb line.
We also like the bike "lay-by" lane that was installed next to the Walnut Street Bridge steps. This will allow people to pull over and get out of the bike lane before getting on or off the sidewalk to or from the Schuylkill River Trail.
Congrats to the Streets Department and PennDOT for adopting an innovative design that should make Walnut Street safer for people on bikes and in cars!