Thursday, April 17, 2014

How to Keep the South Street Bridge Bike Lane Safe After CHOP Expansion

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has proposed a new building for Schuylkill Avenue with driveways that will connect to the South Street Bridge. We testified on the project at the April 1st Civic Design Review meeting and sent a letter to CHOP today that further clarifies our concerns about the impact of the driveways on the bike lane.

The two proposed driveways for the new CHOP office building seriously degrade the safety of the bike lane on the South Street Bridge. While it would be optimal if the project could be designed to require only one driveway, whether with one or two driveways we believe the safety of the bike lane can be restored by repositioning and protecting the bike lane.

The driveways onto the bridge came as a response to strong community desire, expressed at CHOP-held community meetings, that the project not create increased traffic on neighborhood streets. The second driveway was added to facilitate SEPTA buses reaching the site, as transit access is a priority and buses can't otherwise make the difficult turn from the bridge onto Schuylkill Avenue.

For bicyclists, adding one or two driveways creates additional turning conflicts, on a downhill, on the most bicycled bridge in Pennsylvania. Continuing the existing bike lane to the right of these new turning conflicts seriously degrades the safety of this bike lane.

To mitigate this danger, the bike lane should be:
  • Repositioned to the left of the vehicles turning into the new driveways. 
  • Protected from encroachment by vehicles crossing the bike lane to get to the right turn lane. 
This will require some sort of physical barrier to cars encroaching on the bike lane and also the creation of a right turn-only lane. There are design solutions in the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide that can restore the bike lane to its present safety level, such as flexible bollards that can be removed during snow season. Other cities have used these solutions but Philadelphia has not yet tried them.

We have asked for the chance to meet with CHOP and the Streets Department to develop a solution that repositions the bike lane and protects it from right-turning traffic.

We made a word choice error in an earlier blog post by suggesting that CHOP had only recently shared plans for the new building with the Bicycle Coalition. In fact, CHOP’s designs have been publicly available but we only commented on them earlier this month.

Peter Grollman, CHOP’s Vice President for Government Affairs, Community Relations & Advocacy, serves on the Bicycle Coalition board.

3 comments:

Bill said...

How about a two-way cycle track on the north side of the bridge. Join this to one of those Dutch protected intersections at 27th and South.

By the way, has anyone given any thought as to how bicyclists traveling west on the bridge are supposed to get to Schuylkill Avenue?

phillytyper.com said...

By all accounts, CHOP's insistence on a car-centric development will break the city's best bike and ped-friendly bridge, just a few years after its rebuilding. In Phase One alone, Children's Hospital wants to put 500 cars in riverfront parking. They have rejected reusing the structurally sound JFK Building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and will demolish it for a surface parking lot. To give an idea: 500 cars will be a line about 4 times the length of the South Street Bridge--this line of cars will cross the south -sidewalk and bike lanes of the bridge every day, making the thousands of cyclists and pedestrians wait, so that a fraction of CHOP's staffers may commute to the burbs a bit faster. There is no viable way to protect cyclists from that many cars in two daily rushes. It's a case of 500 motorists' rights being more important than the rights of several thousand green bridge users. That is a sacrifice that CHOP has decided is no problem--even though they are a health care organization. --Michael McGettigan / trophy bikes

phillytyper.com said...

The BCGP BLOG notes: "We made a word choice error in an earlier blog post by suggesting that CHOP had only recently shared plans for the new building with the Bicycle Coalition. In fact, CHOP’s designs have been publicly available but we only commented on them earlier this month.

Peter Grollman, CHOP’s Vice President for Government Affairs, Community Relations & Advocacy, serves on the Bicycle Coalition board." >>

Another way to view this: although CHOP VP Peter Grollman is on the Bicycle Coalition's Board, he apparently did not alert fellow Coalition Board members in a timely fashion to CHOP's plan to punch a private driveway (whoops, TWO driveways!) right through the city's best bike bridge. My emails with key BCGP staff showed them to be well behind the curve on this issue--they have come to the table a bit late, and certainly could be a bit firmer, especially after being kept out of the loop on such a damaging project. It would have been great if they had checked out the online plan sooner. But it would indeed have been proper for those who knew about the plan to inform them much earlier. --Michael McGettigan / Trophy Bikes