Plans to convert the right-hand lanes of Spruce and Pine Streets into bike-only lanes starting next month drew mixed reviews last night at a public meeting on the project.
Stephen Buckley, the city's deputy transportation commissioner, told the gathering that the pilot project's "goal is to create a safe route to attract more cyclists."
He said initiative also aims to remove cyclists from sidewalks, reduce bike traffic on other Center City streets and calm general traffic on Spruce and Pine.
The University of the Arts' Gershman Y-Chapel on Broad Street was packed for the event, with many of the 100 or so attendees standing in the back. Some had bicycle helmets attached to their backpacks.
Pictures displayed at the meeting showed how the new road markings will look like.
Sarah Clark Stuart, campaign director for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, called the project "an extremely important and exciting step in the right direction."
Similar projects in cities as New York or Baltimore have shown that the introduction of bike lanes led to increased cycling, Stuart said.
But many Center City residents raised objections in what at times was a heated discussion.
"I hope I'm wrong, but I expect this to only add to the frustration of the people who live here," said Kenneth J. Fleisher, a 25-year resident of Society Hill, said. "It takes long enough to get across the city now, and it will take even longer come September."
With one auto lane removed, Fleisher argued, cars would have to stop more frequently, waiting for wide-bodied vehicles to turn or for drivers to back into a parking space.
According to Buckley, motor vehicles will be allowed into the bike lanes 100 feet before they intend to turn right.
Buckley insisted that Spruce and Pine were "the best candidates for a successful project" because conflicts with buses would be minimized compared to other streets.
The city will evaluate the pilot project at the end of October and present first findings in early December.
"We will look at motor vehicle queue lengths at key intersections," Buckley asserted. He also pointed out that the city will make sure there was a "relaxed parking situation" for neighborhood churches.
Under the city's plans, strict no parking regulations will be enforced on the bike lanes. But taxis and residents will still be allowed to briefly stand on the curb side of Spruce and Pine Streets. Horse-carriages will be allowed to use the bike lanes, Buckley said.