Fix It: The Incredible Vanishing Bike Lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue

Even the U.S. Department of Transportation thinks they're unsafe.

Photos by Holly Otterbein

Photos by Holly Otterbein

Between 10,000 and 20,000 vehicles pass through Pennsylvania Avenue on any given weekday. It’s the street that many people use get to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Eakins Oval, Fairmount Water Works and lots of other city gems. And its bike lanes are completely atrocious.

On parts of Pennsylvania Avenue between Spring Garden Avenue and 27th Street, the bike lane paint is so faint on both sides of the street that it can barely be seen. It leads cyclists and drivers alike to believe that the bike lanes simply don’t exist.

The situation is so bad that the U.S. Department of Transportation actually called the lanes “weak” and “unsafe” on Twitter earlier this week, after local cyclist @philabikes tweeted an image of them to the federal agency:

To make matters worse, when Citified visited the street, parked cars were jutting out into one of the few areas where the bike lanes are actually visible on this stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue. We didn’t spot a single ticket by the Philadelphia Parking Authority on any of these vehicles, by the way.

Photo by Holly Otterbein

Photo by Holly Otterbein

“There needs to be regular and consistent and well-marked bike lanes,” said Harris Steinberg, the executive director of Drexel University’s Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation. Steinberg helped create a plan for the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, “More Park, Less Way,” which recommended several changes to Pennsylvania Avenue, including reducing the width of the street and adding new parking spots.

“Maybe the pope’s visit will put this into focus,” said Steinberg.

We hate to say, again, that the city should fix a problem because the pope is coming … but the city should totally fix this problem because the pope is coming.

Randy LoBasso, communications manager for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, also pointed out that the bike lanes should be repainted because “Pennsylvania Avenue is used as an alternative route for cyclists who don’t want to deal with the high-speed motor vehicle traffic of Eakins Oval.”

Denise Goren, director of policy and planning at the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities, told us that the city “hopes to have this block addressed and refreshed this month.” To put the issue into context, she said, the city expects to repaint 25 to 30 miles of bike lanes by the end of the season, as well as add five to 10 new miles of them.

“Hoping” to fix the now-you-see-them-now-you-don’t bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue is a start, but it’s not good enough. They should be touched up by the time Pope Francis is in town.