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Byko: Bike lane ‘upgrade’ coming

It was hidden inside a little-noted press release from the mayor’s office listing some transportation projects the feds were funding.

It was hidden inside a little-noted press release from the mayor's office listing some transportation projects the feds were funding.

The city got $2.67 million of Transportation Alternatives Program funds, "which target pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements," the press release said.

Free money? Who'd be against that?

The money will be used to improve safety around two unnamed elementary schools, add lighting to the Manayunk bridge trail, and the one that caught my eye – create "protected" bicycle lanes. About $300,000 will be spent on that.

A tipster had alerted me that barriers were going to be added to the existing bicycle lanes on Spruce Street between 10th and 13th Streets. The tipster was only partly right.

The press release said the added "protection" would be "flexible delineator posts to clearly separate vehicle and bicycle space in the right-of-way." Like the painted white lines aren't enough.

It would not be a solid barrier, but I was curious about how flexible and how far apart the posts would be, but the city is not yet ready to talk about it, spokesman Mike Dunn told me.

PlanPhilly, a project of WHYY and NewsWorks, was more forthcoming.

There I learned the plans are to "upgrade" bike lanes on Pine and Spruce, add "protected" bike lanes along 10th and 13th streets in Center City north of Lombard, build a "protected" bike lane on Walnut Street through West Philly and "protect" bike lanes on Delaware Avenue.

Believe it or not, I took an Indego bike out for a spin the other night and rode in traffic along Walnut – with no bike lane – as well as Broad and Market (no bike lanes) and then Spruce, with a bike lane. With an entire lane to myself on Spruce I can't imagine why anyone would need any more protection.

I have questions about the need for all this, such as do these plans have to be approved by City Council, and how do local community groups feel about it?

So far they haven't been asked.

The report on PlanPhilly "generated internal discussion" at a meeting of the Washington West Civic Association, President Jonathan Broh told me.

Wash West's concern, he said, "is that streets like Pine street, where you have store fronts adjacent to bike lanes, the store front owners need to load, people need to be able to park and pick things up."

Where 13th runs through Midtown Village, "it's really busy. To effectively make it one lane of traffic is a problem," he said.

"We don't object to bike lanes," Broh said, "it's the protected bike lanes we have concerns about."

Me too.

Hate to say it, but it's another indication that the tiny minority of Philadelphians who get around by bike are never satisfied.

Give them a bike lane, they want a "protected" bike lane. Give them a flexible barrier "protected" bike lane and they'll want an alligator-filled moat.

If you are that fearful of traffic, don't ride a bike.

On the legislative side, City Council has to approve new bike lanes. This isn't new, it's a change, and a lot is in Councilman Mark Squilla's district.

So I called to ask what he knows about it.

Turns out, not too much, Chief of Staff Anne Kelly told me, adding she doesn't believe adding a barrier would require Council permission.

But when bike lanes went in, Kelly said, "Assurances were made to businesses and residents they would have 20 minutes to drop off." In addition, there are concerns about how delivery trucks and sanitation trucks would be able to reach the curb if flexible barriers were installed.

The Streets Department is working on the answers and is supposed to be ready to talk in about a month.