In January, East Torresdale Civic Association members were skeptical of a plan to put a protected bike lane on State Road. This month, residents were in a more hostile mood, and their opposition appeared to solidify.
However, it’s unclear whether their hostility to the proposal will have any impact. The revised project no longer requires a bill in City Council, effectively removing the need for community support.
City officials are looking to redesign State Road between Linden and Grant avenues in an attempt to slow down drivers and prevent accidents. They returned to the Feb. 10 ETCA meeting with a slightly revised plan.
Perhaps the most important change is that the proposal now eliminates less than 250 feet of parking, which means the project can go forward without legislation, according to Jeannette Brugger, of the city’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability.
Brugger, at the January meeting, told East Torresdale residents she would be looking for a letter of support.
“That’s something that we would like to get, but it’s actually not something we need to get for this project,” she told neighbors Feb. 10.
Right now, State Road has painted bike lanes on each side. The plan is two install a two-lane bike path protected by a plastic curb and delineator posts on the east side of the street and remove the bike lane on the west side. No changes would be made to the traffic lanes.
Cars would be forced to park away from the curb, adjacent to the bike lane. A similar protected path was installed on Ryan Avenue in Mayfair.
The project coincides with the repaving of that section of State Road, which is scheduled to occur this year.
ETCA members at the meeting said it would be hazardous for drivers who would have to get into their cars right next to traffic, all to benefit cyclists, who they say rarely use State Road.
“We’re used to an open area,” one man said. “We’re not South Philadelphia. We’re not Center City.”
The city has identified the area as a dangerous stretch of road, Brugger said. Between 2014 and 2018, 32 people were injured in crashes, and a pedestrian was killed in 2015 near Convent Lane.
Brugger said the redesign is to ensure drivers abide by the 35 mph speed limit. Studies have shown people slow down when the street appears to be tighter, even if the lanes are just as wide, she said. It’s an engineering approach that has been used on other roads in the city.
“People in Philadelphia, and really drivers everywhere, don’t really respect paint,” Brugger said. “When paint is there and there’s a painted bike lane, you can double-park in it, you can drive over it, you can pass somebody in it.”
She suggested cyclists may be avoiding State Road because they don’t feel safe.
“This is Field of Dreams,” ETCA member Bill Kennedy said. “If you build it, you’re saying they will come. Basically, it’s saying, pardon the language, screw the people who live there because we’re going to bring other people in.”
At last month’s meeting, residents expressed concern about losing parking spots. They said finding a spot can be a challenge because of commuters who park to get to Torresdale Station.
Brugger did not say how many spaces would be removed as part of the revised design. Most of the eliminated spots are between residential driveways to improve sightlines for homeowners.
ETCA President Joe Carson said he wants to hold a secret ballot vote on the plan at next month’s meeting. He’s worried outspoken opponents would discourage people who support the plan from voting.
State Sen. John Sabatina, who has attended both community meetings on the project, spoke about a bill in Harrisburg dealing with bike lanes.
The legislation, Senate Bill 565, passed out of committee Feb. 5, but not without a minor controversy involving Sabatina. He introduced an amendment that would have required bike lanes be approved by the relevant community group, district councilperson, state representative and state senator.
Sabatina withdrew the amendment following strong pushback from bike advocates, including the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. He said he plans to continue working on the legislation.
“It’s my intention at this point in time to have community participation as to where bike lanes go and do not go,” Sabatina told residents.
The East Torresdale Civic Association’s next scheduled meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, March 9, at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, 9601 Frankford Ave. ••
Jack Tomczuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.