According to protesters, delivery trucks and cars frequently park in the bike lane when making deliveries or stopping inside to make a quick purchase.
Protesters formed a human protected bike lane along the 500 block of South 22nd Street Tuesday morning in an attempt to raise awareness of the dangers bicyclists face while riding along the block. A Wawa is located at the southern part of the block at 22nd and South Street, and a 7/11 is located on the northern part of the block, at 22nd and Lombard. According to protesters, delivery trucks and cars frequently park in the bike lane when making deliveries or stopping inside to make a quick purchase.
“This has always been a problem bike lane,” said Nicole Koedycker, who is also the programs manager for the South of South Neighborhood Association. “When the Wawa [opened in the spring of this year], we knew that it would get worse. And it has. There’s delivery trucks, there’s always people — customers — who say they’re going in for a couple minutes and they come back out and just leave their car.”
While the protest was happening, a red Coca-Cola truck could be seen parked in the bike lane while making a delivery to the 7/11.
Protester Oren Eisenberg called it a “regular occurence.”
“The city has refused to enforce parking restrictions that are placed on the streets to prevent vehicles from parking in the bike lanes,” Eisenberg said. “The human bike lane established here today is to put our bodies on the line and reinforce what should be a protected cycling lane and prevent cars and delivery trucks from illegally parking in the lane.”
Two police officers were standing on the block and did not tell the the truck’s driver to move the vehicle when it was brought to their attention.
When the Review asked the officers why they weren’t making the driver move the Coca-Cola truck parked in the bike lane, one of the officers, who refused to give her name, said the “lead organizer” of the protest said he “didn’t mind” that the truck driver was stopping there to make a quick delivery, which is why she didn’t make the driver move the truck.
The protest’s lead organizer, James Gitto, denied the officer’s claim.
“I never said I was fine with the Coca-Cola truck staying there,” he said. “Also just because I’m just some random person who said it’s OK for somebody to break the law — I don’t know why that makes it OK. It’s a no stopping zone. In fact, it’s a no stopping zone and a bus zone. So why was there a delivery truck there? That just sounds like the police trying to push off the blame.”
When pressed to answer more questions, the other officer, who also refused to give his name, cut the interview short and refused to talk any further.
According to Randy LoBasso, communications manager for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia who was present at the protest, a cyclist was hit by a car while riding along the block and trying to avoid a parked car just last week. LoBasso said she wasn’t injured, but her bike was damaged.
Still, LoBasso said, “you can’t just sit around and wait for the next person to get injured to actually do something. That has unfortunately been the case where after someone gets hurt, then people spring into action.”
According to the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, vehicles may only stop in a bike lane for loading/unloading for up to 20 minutes if the bike lane is marked with “no parking” signs. However, the 500 block of South 22nd Street is marked “no stopping,” which means that vehicles are not allowed to stop for any reason except to obey other traffic laws or in case of emergency. A spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department confirmed this.*
The Review asked a follow up question via email regarding whether or not police officers were obligated to tell cars or trucks to move when parked in a bike lane. The email was not returned in time to meet deadline.
LoBasso said that in the long-term, he’d eventually like to see this particular bike lane protected and repainted. He’d also like to see cars ticketed when parked in the bike lane. LoBasso also said that particular area of the street wasn’t originally planned on being repaved by the streets department for another five years, but the BCGP lobbied to have that moved up to next year.
“You can only imagine what this [street] is going to look like in five years,” he said, noting the already deteriorating paint on the street.
According to the BCGP, 2.2 percent of Philadelphians ride their bikes to work, which is the highest rate in the country among cities with more than 1 million people. Earlier this year, the BCGP reported that 45 percent of all traffic deaths in the city are pedestrians and cyclists.
*clarification: The article originally contained the following sentence: “The Philadelphia Police Department confirmed via a spokesperson that cars and trucks are never legally allowed to be even temporarily parked in bike lanes, even if the vehicles’ drivers are just making a delivery or stopping in a convenience store to make a quick purchase.” Upon the discovery of BCGP’s “Philadelphia Bike Laws” webpage, which was brought to our attention by a reader, the Review sent a follow up email to the Philadelphia Police Department requesting clarification since it seemed to contradict the spokesperson’s previous confirmation. The spokesperson affirmed that “[w]hat is on the Bicycle Coalition website is correct.”