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2 north-south bike lanes eyed for Center City

Two north-south bike lanes are being planned for Center City, a city official has revealed to City Council.

Two north-south bike lanes are being planned for Center City, a city official has revealed to City Council.

Word came Tuesday during a budget hearing, as Rina Cutler, deputy mayor for transportation answered a question by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown.

"We expect sometime in late April to be announcing the pilot streets, as well as the enforcement program," Cutler said in a Wednesday interview.

Ideally, the plan have a southbound lane and a northbound lane just a block apart, connecting Spring Garden Street and South Street, she said.

She declined to hint which streets were most likely to be chosen, or even to say whether the pair would be closer to the Schuylkill or the Delaware.

The scheme is modeled after the six-foot-wide lanes created on eastbound Pine Street and westbound Spruce in late September 2009. Each route was carved out by eliminating a lane for cars - to the annoyance of motorists and mixed feelings among residents.

The new routes might have blocks that share the road with cars, Cutler said.

"We do not want to take parking off, if possible. That would create its own set of wars," she said.

Before the plans are finalized, community input will be sought, she said, since such proposals tend to galvanize the views of residents, drivers and pedestrians, as well as cyclists.

The city has already had conversations with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, said executive director Alex Doty.

"They're going to find something that's going to work I think very well for bicyclists to make this connection, the same way that Spruce and Pine has worked very well," he said.

A stepped-up enforcement effort would target reckless cyclists (like those using sidewalks) and distracted pedestrians (texting while crossing), as well as careless drivers, Cutler said.

"We've been working with police and the city's health department to come up with a program," she said. ". . . We want people to stop putting other road users at risk."

The reluctant rider, who is "interested but concerned," is the target audience for these bike initiatives, Cutler said.

Down the road, bike lanes might even be shifted curbside, with medians or barriers dividing bikes from parked cars, she said. The idea has been tried in New York and other cities.

Increasing access for cyclists has a lot of benefits for the city, from healthier citizens to reduced traffic and auto emissions, Cutler said.

But, she added, "this isn't, from my perspective or the city's perspective, really anti-car."

Philadelphia is already one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country, Doty said.

"What we have seen is that when we build these facilities for bikes that bicyclists start using them," he said.