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!
Certainly a big improvement, but seems like it could be taken still a step further, at the same cost, to create an even safer environment: Why not put the bike lane curbside, and then painting the 3 ft buffer strip next to it to deal with the dooring area. Drivers who park can walk out onto that buffer and then get to the curb after making sure that the bike lane safe. This way we end up with our first physically separated bike lane. You could even do a 4ft lane with a 4ft buffer if the dooring area is a concern. The two-way cycletrack on 15th in DC looks about that wide in each direction. In this proposed scheme, we still do not solve the problem of cars stopping constantly in the bike lane anytime someone wants to park, so I wonder how often you'll really get a straight shot. Good on everyone for getting this far, but would love to know if a parking-buffered lane was discussed and why it got taken off the table.ReplyDelete
At this point why not just put the bike lane between the curb and the parked cars to create a cycletrack!ReplyDelete
Daylight the corners to prevent left hooks and use that buffer space to TOTALLY prevent any dooring hazard (I'm not buy the argument that left side bike lanes can be placed in the door zone since the there aren't always passengers exiting cars).
Good points, Zack and Andy. The main reason the bike lane and parking weren't switched was that to conform to design standards, 1-2 car parking spots would have been removed at each intersection for visibility. That was not a battle all wanted to tackle.ReplyDelete
What a great improvement! I wish it had been in place when I lived in Philadelphia (I just moved back to the DC area this month) because I used Walnut all the time. A question: how will right turns work? Ideally there'd be a bike box at the intersection where bicyclists could scoot over to the right lane, but the drawing doesn't show one.ReplyDelete
Right turns will work just like making left turns work now: either a merge with traffic into the right lane, or a two stage turn. All stop bars are also moved 10 feet back at signalized intersection creating ad hoc bike boxes.ReplyDelete
I truly hate left hand bike lanes. Cyclists aren't used to riding on that side and cars aren't used to looking for us there. I never feel safe riding on 10th Street in the left lane and now commuting to work in University City is going to have the same problem. I of course applaud more bike lanes, but not left hand ones.ReplyDelete
i knew there would be construction, but i was not aware of the change in orientation for the bike lane. there were no visible signs indicating the new change and the further west you go, the fewer lines are drawn.ReplyDelete
this was a huge shock to me and frankly made me feel like my safety was in jeopardy due to left turning cars.
while i appreciate the thoughtfulness in repaving the street and creating a "safer bike lane" i feel like they should've warned cyclists and motorists about such a drastic change.
Riding home today, I felt the same way as jklmnop. It was very disorienting being on the left hand side of the road, especially if I'm going up Powelton or Market, then merging into Walnut and have to remember to switch. This article did a good deal to help explain the reasons, and I'll try to ride with a fresh and open mind later tonight.ReplyDelete
It's worth reminding everyone that the current configuration involving switching sides of the road is not permanent. That should end soon when the striping is finished. After that the entire lane will be on the left-hand side.ReplyDelete
Our view of left-hand bike lanes is that they make sense in certain circumstances. Walnut has such a high bicycle and bus volume that moving the lane to avoid bike-bus conflicts makes the switch a net gain in safety for bikes. For that reason, we're in support of the switch.
While riding on the left takes some getting used to, it will also have the side benefit of making drivers more accustomed to seeing bikes in places besides the right shoulder. That can only help when drivers encounter bicycles on streets without bike lanes.
What I like most: (1) The 8' lane means I can ride in the buffer rather than in the door zone. (2) I will no longer have to contend with the Penn buses that always stop mid-block obstructing both bike lane and other vehicular traffic.ReplyDelete
I've ridden in the new left-hand lane and feel that this is a big mistake. I think that it is better to keep all lanes on the right where cars expect bikes to be. Cars are not respecting the lane on the left, probably because they don't know what it is; they are driving right in it.ReplyDelete
Though having the lane on the left may prevent "dooring," "carring" may be more common, as it is much more difficult for drivers in the left-hand parking lane to see bikers before they pull out into traffic.
Cars and taxis stop in the bike lane which requires that cyclists go around them by turning into the car lane. This is dangerous as cars do not expect bikes to merge from the left (as this almost never happens on regular roads).ReplyDelete
In general, I think was bad idea as it runs contrary to everyone's expectations. You can also make a case for the right-hand side of Walnut being more of a destination than the left-hand side (ex. two major grocery stores) after 40th street.
A positive is being able to go through traffic lights by U Penn more safely.