South Philadelphia: Potential Plans for Safer Streets Unveiled

An illustration of 13th Street in Philadelphia was shown at the meeting, featuring possible bicycle infrastructure designed by the Community Design Collaborative.

As local residents packed into a tiny room at the Guerin Recreational Center in South Philadelphia, a sense of anticipation filled the air.

“This meeting represents a change in culture,” said Mark Keener, an urban designer and member of the Community Design Collaborative.

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia held its second public meeting Feb. 1 to unveil its conceptual plans to make South Philadelphia more bike-friendly as a part of its Safe Streets for Healthy Neighborhoods initiative. Thirty members of the public gathered to listen and give feedback.

Susan Dannenberg, a member of BCGP, presented the roomful of eager faces with two options: a low-cost “quick-start” plan that would create a bike priority street and a “complete streets” plan that will require more funding.

Local residents listened attentively to a presentation that revealed conceptual plans for 10th, 11th and 15th Streets.

Of all the low-cost measures, the most well-received were bike priority signs signifying bike traffic, speed humps specially designed to not ruin bike tires and not interfere with parking, and painted parking lines to encourage cars to park closer to the curb.

“It’s all about what will be most affordable and beneficial for the area,” said Bryant Carter, 34, a cyclist and resident of 11th and Wolfe streets. “I think markings on the street are the best way to go.”

The more extravagant measures under the “complete streets” plan were met with debate. For example, Dannenberg stated that “street trees” have been proven to reduce storm water accumulation and slow down traffic, making the roads safer for both bikers and motorists alike. However, many people at the meeting were concerned that trees would conflict with parking on some blocks.

“We contemplated removing parking, but realized this is not an option,” Dannenberg said.

Steven Cucinotti, an avid biker and member of the Queens Village Civic Association, said that the community won’t respond well to having things taken away or imposed on them.

“There’s going to be confrontation no matter what, so we have to tread softly,” Cucinotti said.

People at the meeting broke up in small groups to discuss their safety concerns in the neighborhood and their favorite bicycle design ideas.

In order to gain public approval, he recommended starting small by painting lines and green lanes rather than suddenly adding speed bumps and trees to the neighborhood.

“We want to encourage biking in the area, but we need to involve people in the community,” Carter said in agreement.

So now the next step is heading back to the drawing board.

“The designers will take all the feedback [from the meeting] and develop a design to show the city,” said Sarah Clark Stuart, campaign director for BCGP. “The final conceptual designs will be presented at a big public meeting in April.”

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