For reasons we can’t begin to get into here, the budgets for the City of Philadelphia experienced severe shortfalls during the early part of this decade, resulting in various cuts. The Streets Department was not immune to those cuts, and one result was a dramatic reduction in street paving activity. Per a story from Philly Voice, national standards would have Philadelphia resurface 131 miles of roads per year. We were getting to maybe 25% of that number for several years, and that’s why it feels like there are more potholes than ever these days. For roads with bike lanes, like Pine and Spruce Streets in Center City, overdue paving has become a significant safety risk.
Fortunately, the City is finding the funds to repave the roads, and is slowly moving toward that national standard number. We paved 77 miles of roads in 2018, and we’re expecting another 95 miles this year. Spruce and Pine were originally scheduled to get redone last year, but they got pushed back to 2019, and work should start any day. The changes won’t just entail resurfacing the streets, but will also mean the relocation of the bike lanes from the right side of the street to the left side. This is a no brainer safety choice, as bikers on the left side will be more visible to drivers, especially trucks. You may recall, there were two significant accidents on these bike lanes in 2017, one of which resulted in a fatality and the other a serious injury. The shift in bike lane location is intended to reduce the odds of a future tragedy.
In addition to the additional safety provided by the relocated bike lanes, the mere act of repaving the streets and repainting the bike lane lines will make things safer for bikers. Due to construction projects, snow, or regular wear and tear, some sections of bike lane are incredibly treacherous to navigate. The repaving will thankfully deal with that. Easier to fix, the bike lane lines have faded over time at various locations, resulting in confusion for bikers and drivers alike as to which space belongs to them. We hope that the City will find the funds to re-stripe bike lanes more frequently, as this is surely less expensive than repaving and perhaps even more critical to safety.
Of course, if we’re looking for maximum safety, we’d be investing heavily in protected bike lanes. Given the loud voices concerned about loading and church parking in Rittenhouse and Wash West though, we don’t imagine these bike lanes will receive any sort of protection any time soon. Maybe someday.
If you’re interested in updates on this street paving project or any other paving project in town, you can visit StreetSmartPHL for a map of all projects as well as their current status.