Representatives from Philadelphia’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability debuted plans to revamp eight blocks of South 11th Street, from Bainbridge Street to Reed Street, at the Palumbo Recreation Center Tuesday night. According to the plans, the entire stretch of South 11th Street will be repaved, and the unused trolley tracks will be paved over as a result. Also, a two-way parking-protected bike lane will be added to the western side of the street to create a dedicated biking path, and painted bulb-outs will be placed at intersections to shorten crossing distances for pedestrians (it will double as a waiting space for SEPTA’s bus stops).
According to OTIS’s Director of Complete Streets Kelley Yemen, it will be the seventh protected bike lane in the city. The other six are on Chestnut Street, Market Street and JFK Boulevard in Center City; Ryan Avenue in the Northeast, 13th Street from Girard to Cecil B. Moore in Yorktown; and a final one along a single block of 22nd Street bordering the Ben Franklin Parkway. The plan is expected to be started and finished between late spring and early summer.
Yemen said that the general layout for the design is set, barring any “minor input” people may have that could potentially be incorporated into the project.
Sarah Anton, president of the Passyunk Square Civic Association, said residents were “generally encouraged” by the plans and mostly expressed support for the street’s revamp.
“OTIS is doing a great job dealing with community feedback,” Anton told SPR at the event.
Craig Totaro, an avid bicyclist who lives at 11th and Ellsworth, says he bikes up and down the corridor daily. He said he “loves” the plan and called it a “much more efficient use of space.”
OTIS listed the numerous safety issues with the street in its current form. Among them were the degraded pavement surface, the gap in the trolley tracks, illegal parking, illegal stopping and loading in the road behind parked cars, in the bike lane and in the corner clearance areas and crosswalks, and cars driving and passing in the bike lane.
One potential concern neighbors had, however, was how the new layout affects parking.
While some parking spots will be lost as part of the redesign, others will be gained because certain loading zones that are no longer necessary will be replaced by more spots.
More specifically, residents can expect to lose an average of about “a few” parking spaces per block due to the redesign, said Jeanette Brugger, bicycle & pedestrian coordinator at OTIS (although some blocks, she said, could gain spots.).
Randy LoBasso, policy manager for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, said he was “glad” to see the meeting so well attended. The details of the plan are still being worked out, however, so the exact parking situation has yet to be decided upon. Brugger said, in the meantime, OTIS will be working with business owners along the corridor to find out how to “legally and safely” operate their businesses.
Plans also include a reconfiguration of the triangular 11th and Reed intersection. Brugger said an exact redesign has yet to be decided on, but the intersection will be made “clearer and safer.”
“Protected bike lanes should be the standard in Philadelphia and the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability’s plan for a new South 11th Street project is a good step forward,” he said in an email. “Protected bike lanes have been shown to make cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists safer and more comfortable. And, given South Philadelphia already has the highest percentage of bicycle commuters in the most-biked big city in the country, this improvement will be a welcome addition to Philadelphia’s expanding bicycle network.”
In a survey conducted of more than 50 people by OTIS, most people said they feel more comfortable crossing 10th or 12th streets than 11th Street. Nearly half of survey respondents said they wait for SEPTA buses in the road next to parked cars instead of on the curb. A number of people were also concerned about drivers speeding and running red lights.
Interestingly, Philadelphia has a higher bicycle commuting mode share than any other U.S. city with over 1 million residents.
A previous version of this article misspelled the name of Randy LoBasso. The error has been fixed.