Cyclists will soon have improved access from Center City to Cobbs Creek via a new buffered left hand bike lane that will run from 22nd to 63rd Streets along Walnut. Look for it to be paved by early fall.

Looking west on Walnut

If you’re heading west out of Center City over the Walnut Street bridge, when viewed aerially from left to right from the curb you’ll see an eight-foot parking lane, an eight-foot buffered new bike lane (five foot lane and three foot buffer), two ten-foot travel lanes and another eight-foot parking lane. When Penn finishes its current project at 32nd and 33rd streets, they’ll pave a 500 foot gap that will be skipped when Walnut is repaved next month.

Rendering of the bike lane

“Getting this done creates a very good foundation for creating a safer east-west corridor,” said Sarah Clark Stuart, campaign director at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

For years, members of the Coalition have surveyed rider traffic at various busy intersections and bridges during peak hours (7:30-9:00 a.m. and 4:30-6:00 p.m.). In their Mode Shift 2011 report, a publication of the group’s findings, the Walnut Street bridge is the second-most traveled bike area, with 241 riders per hour, outside of the Schuylkill Crossings trail. That compares to Broad and Pine where 259 riders pass every hour. Since, 1990, cycling traffic has increased 653 percent across the bridge.

The current Walnut Street paving scheme features a right-hand bike lane. But according to Stuart, that has raised safety issues with SEPTA buses as well as driver-doors from parked cars opening to unintentionally take bikers out. According to its website, in January, the Coalition suggested to the Streets Department they ask PennDOT to paint left hand buffered lanes. After some discussion, they obliged to include said lanes in their current paving project.

Coalition has a bunch of corridors on its mind

Citywide, the Coalition has broken down the city into six corridors where they want cycling access and safety improved, including Navy Yard to Temple, South Philly to River and Cobbs Creek to River, according to Stuart. The Walnut paving represents the Cobbs Creek to the River corridor. According to Stuart, members of the Coalition will work on next arranging a similar project along Chestnut Street in order to complete a safer east-west connection.

Congrats to the Coalition on this creation of Philly’s first buffered bike lane. We’ll be all two-wheeled and thankful, and ridin’ easy in no time.

–Lou Mancinelli

Corridor map and bike lane rendering come courtesy of Bicycle Coalition