The One Major Bummer About the Manayunk Bridge Trail

Photo via the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia/Facebook

Photo via the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia/Facebook

It took everyone all of one business day to realize a major, er, snafu with regards to using the Manayunk Bridge Trail as a means of day-to-day commuting: that it is not open during the hours when people are actually commuting. 

Consider Exhibit A, a photo snapped yesterday by local bike commuter Bill Gaetz and posted to the Penn Bike Commuters Facebook group:

The photo set off a whirlwind of comments and a whole lot of confusion. Gaetz seems to have arrived at the bridge sometime before 8 a.m., where he met another fellow trying to cross; reading the posted sign, which only listed the closing hours, both of them were understandably confused about when the gates would be unlocked. Another bike commuter, David Barnes, commented on the thread that he arrived at 8:05, and the gates were still locked: “A truck had just pulled up,” he wrote, “and a uniformed officer (not police—I didn’t recognize the uniform) was just unlocking the gate. I asked him if 8:00 was the opening time, and he said ‘It depends—anywhere between 8 and 8:30.’ So I lucked out this morning, but this is definitely not ideal for commuters.”

No, no it’s not. I was just as puzzled as everyone else, so I spent the better part of my afternoon yesterday trying to figure out when the trail actually opens, and why in the world it closes at 6 p.m.?

The ultimate goal is to have the bridge open as long as possible,” wrote Kay Sykora, director of the Destination Schuylkill River project at the Manayunk Development Corporation, in an email to me. “For the time being there are no lights on the bridge and for that reason (safety) the bridge is to be closed at night. In this project the conduit was run for electricity, but the existing budget did not stretch to cover the lighting.”

In other words, so close, yet so far.

In response to the confusion, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia posted an FAQ with the official, official opening time for the bridge. Ready? It’s 8 a.m. And for the time being, the bridge will close promptly at 6. Womp womp.

I don’t mean to rain on the parade of the many, many folks who worked hard to make the trail a reality. I think it’s awesome. I think it’s really, really awesome. I drove under it en route to the ‘burbs on Sunday morning, and I actually smiled when I looked up and saw a few folks walking across. What an awesome thing for our region!

But I can’t help but shake my head at this particularly unfortunate oversight: that we have this great amenity (yay!), which can’t really be used as a viable means of transportation (boo). At least, not for the time being.

The not-so-satisfying conclusion to all of this is that the hours will remain unchanged until the lights go in. And since there’s fundraising and sponsorships and meetings and stakeholders required for that to happen, there’s no date as of yet when said lights will be installed. And so we wait.

I guess a Sunday morning stroll across the bridge — but not too early, kids — will have to suffice for now.

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