Saffron’s Take on the Fairmount Bike Lane Wars

The latest bike lane showdown is the perfect Philly shouty storm.

Photo of N. 22nd Street via Google Maps.

Photo of N. 22nd Street via Google Maps.

If there’s one thing in town guaranteed to produce loud opinions and complaints, it’s bike lanes. If there are two things, it’s bike lanes and City Council. Which makes the latest bike lane showdown in Fairmount the perfect shouty storm. Fortunately, Inga Saffron is here to lay out the facts in the Inquirer.

North 22nd Street was repaved in August. Since then, Saffron says, it has been without traffic markings of any kind. When the Streets Department proposed including a bike lane when it finally painted the lines, at-large Councilman Bill Greenlee (of Fairmount) got involved. His concern? That adding a bike lane will cause traffic backups by limiting cars to just one lane. Now everything is on pause.

Saffron says this is an important development because Greenlee is the first councilperson to exert his relatively new right to control segments of the city’s growing web of bike lanes. Naturally, the legislation giving Council said right was drafted by Greenlee himself. The Streets Department is waiting for consensus before moving forward.

Bicyclists and the Street Department point to a substantial drop in accidents on Pine and Spruce (which have brightly delineated bike lanes) as evidence that the lanes actually help everyone on the street.

The explanation for the drop is simple. The two streets have been reduced to one car lane each, forcing motorists to drive more slowly. Cyclists feel safer, too, so they’re less likely to ride on the sidewalk. That increases the chances that pedestrians will have the space all to themselves.

Greenlee, for his part, remains convinced that traffic will be snarled. He seems specifically concerned about SEPTA’s 48 bus and the 7, which Inga points out seem just fine going south in single-lane traffic.

But Saffron doesn’t even have to lash Greenlee herself. She lets him describe the problem on his own:

Even though he’s designated himself as neighborhood traffic planner, Greenlee doesn’t seem to understand the theory behind the 22d Street traffic calming. “I don’t know if I’m right or wrong, but that’s the opinion I gave to the Streets Department.”

Changing Skyline: Battling over Bikes in Fairmount [Inquirer]