Will a New City Council Bill Make Philly Less Bike-Friendly?

An editorial in today's Inquirer says a new bill, which calls for City Council approval for the creation of bike lanes, is a step backward for a bike-friendly Philly.

City Council has been keeping the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia mighty busy lately. A bill introduced by councilman William Greenlee aims give City Council approval power for the creation of new bike lanes in Philadelphia. Recent amendments have narrowed the scope a bit, requiring that only bike lanes that necessitate the removal of traffic or parking lanes (in other words, most of them) would need City Council’s okay. The approval process would come after the bike lanes go through a pilot testing phase, when things like traffic and pedestrian impact could be measured.

A recent blog post by the Coalition says the bill is one it “can live with”—hardly a glowing endorsement.

We do not think it should be necessary to pass a bill in order to install something that dramatically improves safety for all street users. But given the popularity of Philadelphia’s existing bike lanes and their documented role in reducing motor vehicle crashes, we believe that a pilot period will demonstrate the utility of new bike lanes.

Today’s Philadelphia Inquirer had harsher words for the Council (and Greenlee in particular). In an editorial titled, “Bike-friendly city traveling wrong route” (yikes), it argues that the proposed bill, even with its amendments, would make Philly less bike-friendly over time, creating unnecessary red tape in a process that already had a good measure of checks and balances, including lots of public input. “Greenlee contends he’s only interested in assuring that there’s a full public airing of bike-lane proposals, but making sure the public is involved is exactly how Nutter has moved ahead with additional bike lanes to make it safer for cyclists in Center City,” it says.

The Inqy argues that adding another layer of approval to the bike-lane process could undermine Philly’s push toward becoming a more bike-friendly city, stopping new projects in their tracks. The Bicycle Coalition is hopeful that the pilot programs will show enough support for new bike lanes to help keep projects from derailing.

What do you think? City Council: friend or foe of a bike-friendly Philly?