Some of Center City’s busiest and most heavily-biked streets have gone long without bike lanes. This spring, that will change for at least nine months, as Market Street and JFK Boulevard are both getting parking-protected bike lanes west of City Hall as part of a pilot program initiated by Mayor Jim Kenney.
The city described the bike lanes as part of a broader traffic calming strategy for the city’s over-arching Vision Zero initiative, an ambitious goal to get the city down to zero pedestrian deaths by 2030, a goal many U.S. cities have adopted. About 100 people a year die in Philly in traffic fatalities – 99 in 2017.
“The project will include significant pedestrian safety improvements, such as shorter crossing distances and painted pedestrian areas defined by flexible delineator posts,” the city said in a press release announcing the project.
But the bike changes could be the most eye-catching change.
From 15th to 20th Street, Market and JFK, two four-lane one-way city arteries just one block apart headed in opposite directions, will both be getting bike lanes. They will also both be reduced from four lanes for automobile traffic to three.
“This project will be the first step to convert Market Street and JFK into safe streets connecting the heart of Center City and the Schuylkill River Trail,” Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia executive director Sarah Clark Stuart said in a statement, “while better serving the bicyclists and pedestrians who live, work and commute along them.”
Indeed, the change isn’t just for the benefit of bikers: the city said that it believes the bike lanes could cut down on “speeding and weaving” on these streets which would increase pedestrian safety.
“This project is a great example of modern street redesign,” city Deputy Managing Director Michael Carroll said in a statement, noting that building owners, Center City District, Philadelphia Parking Authority, and City Council collaborated on the project. “We are proud to present a pilot project that will improve safety for employees, business owners, and residents.”
Both Market and JFK will get new turning lanes, in addition to the parking protected-bike lanes – bike lanes which are sited between the sidewalk and roadway, with a parking lane for cars in between, as was deployed on West Chestnut Street in August 2017.
Those bike lanes have attracted supporters and some opposition in the months since they were created, and a bill in City Council is pending that could add extra steps to the process of approving bike lanes by requiring an additional city ordinance.