Fairmount residents voted last month to support of a bicycle lane starting at Broad Street heading west. Now the neighborhood awaits approval from Spring Garden and Francisville. These residents will be given the opportunity to vote this week.
The idea for a bicycle lane is part of a joint effort between the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities.
“We learned last year that they were thinking about it and they wanted to be able to show there was community support for it,” said Sarah Stuart, policy director at the bicycle coalition.
Stuart said that Fairmount has always been a big part of the greater goal to bring more bike lanes to Philadelphia. However, the Francisville vote was originally scheduled for Feb. 4 but was postponed due to weather and low attendance. “The facilitators wanted to get more people involved,” Stuart said.
Surveys were given to residents in June 2012 and January to gauge their opinions on this new addition to Fairmount Avenue. The results showed overwhelming support for the implementation of a bicycle lane ,which allowed the Bicycle Coalition to move forward with the proposal.
The Fairmount Civic Association and the Bicycle Coalition distributed the June 2012 survey. Of the 375 respondents, 81 percent said they were strongly in favor of a bicycle lane. Only about 7 percent of residents strongly opposed its creation. In the January survey distributed by the Francisville Neighborhood Development Corp. and the Spring Garden Civic Association, of 134 respondents nearly 70 percent were in favor and about 10 percent very much opposed to the bicycle lane. “The tones of questions were friendly and there was no sense of strong opposition,” Stuart said.
Charles Carmalt, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator working within the Office of Transportation and Utilities, said that the addition of the bike lane will not take long, but residents’ approval will be the deciding factor.
“Assuming that the three community groups are supportive or accepting of it then sometime in the summer we would have a crew go mark the bike lanes. That’s all it is,” Carmalt said.
The main concerns of residents included safety risks due to double parking, an increase in street congestion and a loss of parking. However, the width of Fairmount Avenue is wide enough to fit a bicycle lane without reducing parking or motor vehicle lanes. “There’s plenty of room on the street to mark bike lanes without taking away a travel lane or taking away parking or anything like that,” Carmalt said.
Stuart said she believes the bicycle lane will receive funding from the State of Pennsylvania’s Automated Red Light Enforcement Fund. ARLE collects the money from automated red light traffic fines and a portion is given to projects in Philadelphia. These projects must aim to increase street safety.
Carmalt said he believes the approximate cost of the project to be $32,000. This number includes restoring crosswalks, stop bars and the double yellow line in the center of the roadway. The cost for just the bike lanes and bike symbols would be roughly $14,000.
“I want to emphasize that these are rough numbers, and the marking project is part of a larger roadway marking project, much of which would consist of restoring pavement markings that have become worn,” Carmalt said.
Stuart said that it would be helpful if residents within Fairmount, Spring Garden and Francisville came out to vote on the proposal. “We are trying to give people choices and make the street safe for all different users,” Carmalt said.
Voting will be held at the Spring Garden Civic Association meeting this Wednesday at 7 p.m. inside the St. Andrew’s Lithuanian Church Hall on 19th and Wallace streets. The Francisville Neighborhood Development Corp. meeting on Monday, Feb. 25 at 6:15 p.m. inside the Second Pilgrim Baptist Church on 15th and Ogden streets. Visit the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia’s blog for more information about the proposed bike lane.