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Philadelphians want protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety on Spring Garden Street

The public's ideas are meant to guide city planners as they redesign the Spring Garden Street corridor from the Schuylkill to the Delaware.

Bryan Avendano (center with tambourine), brother of killed bicyclist Pablo Avendano, is comforted during a Ghost Bike memorial on Spring Garden Street in May 2018. He was killed while working for a food delivery service.
Bryan Avendano (center with tambourine), brother of killed bicyclist Pablo Avendano, is comforted during a Ghost Bike memorial on Spring Garden Street in May 2018. He was killed while working for a food delivery service.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Spring Garden Street bristles with hazards to bicyclists and pedestrians and needs safety improvements to protect them, community residents concluded during an extended comment period meant to guide design of a long-awaited overhaul of the corridor, city transportation officials said Friday.

A supermajority of respondents — 1,500, or about 71% — mentioned bicycle and pedestrian safety as their top concerns. Crossing signal countdown times for pedestrians are too short for the distances involved, they said. In addition, bicyclists reported vulnerability to speeding vehicles and those making right turns, as well as double-parking and opened car doors.

Participants were overwhelmingly in favor of installing curbside bicycle lanes protected from traffic by a buffer of parked vehicles. For pedestrians, the public suggested longer signal intervals, mid-block crossings, and wider medians. The project would run all along Spring Garden from Columbus Boulevard to the Art Museum.

“We feel comfortable we have good, feasible options” from the public to work with in the next step of the project, which involves engineering and design, said Deputy Managing Director Mike Carroll, who oversees transportation and infrastructure.

It’s difficult to say how long it may take to finish the improvement project, he said, adding that much depends on getting funding for later stages of development.

» READ MORE: At 'ghost bike' memorial for lost rider, tears, love, and anger

Spring Garden Street is not ranked among the most dangerous of the city’s 2,575 miles of roadway on the Vision Zero map plotting traffic accidents that cause death or serious injury. But it has its nasty spots. In May 2018, Pablo Avendano, a bicycle courier delivering food, was struck and killed by an SUV near 10th Street. He was in an unprotected bike lane.

The comments are “a very positive outcome” and a sign of greater support for protected bike lanes, said Randy LoBasso, policy director for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. “What’s going to happen on Spring Garden is what should be done for every bike lane in the city.”

There was also strong public support in the surveys for connecting the corridor to other neighborhoods so residents can access both rivers. The public engagement period of the project ran from November through December last year.

City officials received more than 2,100 comments from the public and the project’s social media posts were viewed over 41,000 times — indicators of a higher level of engagement than usual in the planning process. They believe that the pandemic-driven need to use digital platforms for much of the outreach helped boost participation.

“People have become so comfortable doing so many things in life online,” Carroll said. “It made it convenient for people to dip in and out of the process as opposed to having to get to a community event at a certain time.”

The Spring Garden corridor project had its beginnings in the Nutter administration as an effort to link the Schuylkill River Trail and the Delaware River Trail via the street and Columbus Boulevard. It is being led by the city’s Streets Department and Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability (OTIS), with the involvement of other agencies.

The project team used an online survey, an interactive mapping tool that enabled people to pinpoint problems, virtual open houses, and question-and-answer sessions, as well as virtual meetings with community leaders. It also used paper questionnaires and sent thousands of mailers soliciting comments. Materials were translated into Spanish and Simplified Chinese, and the city hired interpreters when needed to take and answer questions and for further conversations.