Residents criticize proposed bike lane on Torresdale Avenue

Philadelphia’s Office of Complete Streets proposes to reconfigure Torresdale Avenue south of Enfield Avenue with protected bicycle lanes and a bicycle crossing. SOURCE: OFFICE OF COMPLETE STREETS

A plan to create a protected bicycle lane along a 260-yard length of Torresdale Avenue drew criticism from some Upper Holmesburg residents during the monthly meeting of the neighborhood civic association on May 18.

More than 100 people attended the meeting at St. Dominic’s Marian Hall, wanting to hear the latest information about a swingers club rumored to be opening in a local catering hall as well as the recently completed sale of a 32-acre property formerly occupied by the Liddonfield public housing project.

But a presentation by the director of the city’s Office of Complete Streets, Kelley Yemen, also drew keen interest from critics of the protected bicycle lane program.

Yemen said the city plans to reconfigure a portion of Torresdale Avenue to “bridge a gap” in the Pennypack Creek Trail, which winds along the creek for about 10 miles from Pine Road in Fox Chase to the Pennypack on the Delaware Park. The trail is disconnected at Torresdale Avenue, however. Traveling eastbound, the trail emerges from the woods at Torresdale and Enfield Avenue, north of the creek. Trail users must then travel southbound on Torresdale for more than two-and-a-half football fields access the eastern continuation of the trail south of the creek.

Torresdale Avenue has dedicated bicycle lanes on both sides of the street, but those lanes abut the highly traveled motor vehicle lanes of the avenue, which is a dedicated state highway route. The city wants to eliminate parallel parking on the northbound side of the street to install two five-foot bike lanes, one in each direction, as well as a row of reflective posts and a mid-block bicycle crossing that would include a flashing caution light.

The plan would maintain a single bicycle lane on the southbound side of Torresdale as well as a lane for parallel parking along the existing curb and sidewalk.

Yemen said the new configuration would reduce crashes and potential conflicts between motorists and those who bicycle and walk. The marked crossing would calm traffic by reducing vehicle speeds. The protected bike lane would reduce bicycling on the pedestrian sidewalks.

The protected bike lane would serve as the final link in an uninterrupted Pennypack Trail, which would connect directly into the Baxter Trail along the Delaware River and the North Delaware Greenway, which remains in development.

Critics of the idea complained that other protected bike lanes previously installed by the city have hindered motor traffic flow in the Northeast. A protected bike lane installed last year on Frankford Avenue near the Pennypack Creek Bridge prevents northbound motorists from using the shoulder to turn right onto Ashburner Street. The skeptics also said existing traffic conditions on Torresdale are unsafe for bicycle crossings under any circumstances. As a result, they said, very few bicyclists ride through the corridor.

Other meeting-goers complained that many bicyclists disobey traffic laws, including some who ride down the middle of motor vehicle lanes.

Yemen said the city plans to install the new protected bike lane next year.

Meanwhile, City Councilman Bobby Henon and UHCA President Stan Cywinski said they had no information to report about the former Rosewood Caterers at 8832 Frankford Ave. The site owner, Tom Sherwood, denies that anyone is planning to open a swingers nightclub there. Sherwood has obtained a building permit from the city to renovate the site for continued use as a catering hall.

After Sherwood purchased the property last year, neighbors found online advertisements promoting the venue as the future site of a swingers club, Saints and Sinners. Contractors were renovating the catering hall without a permit at the time. The city’s Department of Licenses and Inspection issued a cease operations order. Last month, the city granted Sherwood a permit to complete the renovations.

Henon and Cywinski said they would appeal the construction permit on behalf of the civic association. In the meantime, they said, the city will conduct a series of site inspections to ensure the renovations match the specifications of the permit.

“If something deviates from the work permit, there’s going to be a stop work order,” Henon said.

“We’re going to file the appeal. We’re going to find out what’s going on there,” Cywinski said.

Regarding the former Liddonfield site, Henon said the recent sale of the 32-acre parcel by the Philadelphia Housing Authority to NewCourtland Senior Services allows for the preservation of open space and the creation of a new housing community for low-income seniors from the neighborhood. Local folks will have first option to fill the new housing units.

NewCourtland will work with the civic association to finalize plans for the development, which will also include NewCourtland’s newest LIFE Center for seniors, as well as athletic fields for Holy Family University. The plans will be detailed at future civic meetings, Cywinski said. ••

William Kenny can be reached at 215–354–3031 or wkenny@bsmphilly.com. Follow the Times on Twitter @NETimesOfficial.