People formed a human bicycle lane Tuesday on 22nd Street in Southwest Center City to draw attention to the poor condition of the bike route there — and to a growing problem of vehicles parking in space reserved for cyclists.
"This bike lane in particular," said Amy Cherowitz, one of about 20 people who lined the lane from South to Lombard Streets at 8 a.m. "Half the cyclists don't know it's here because it's so badly maintained."
The poor condition of the pavement and painted lines extends to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, said Randy LoBasso, a spokesperson for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and a member of Vision Zero Action, a street-safety advocacy group that organized the event. A Wawa opening at 22nd and South Streets this spring, though, has created the added hazard of customers and delivery trucks parking in the bike lane to go to the store.
"It sort of sends the message that anyone can park here and run in to Wawa," LoBasso said.
Wawa Inc. said the company would consider cyclists' concerns.
"At Wawa, we are committed to doing everything we can to ensure our delivery vendors are following proper process to avoid impacting the bike lanes in front of our store," the company said in a statement. "In addition, we are open to accommodating signage to help ensure everyone complies with parking regulations."
The human bicycle lane Tuesday held for about an hour, eliciting thanks, high fives, and an occasional ringing bell from the stream of cyclists passing between the people and the curb. An estimated 241 cyclists an hour pass along that route during rush hours, LoBasso said.
"Whether you're going from Center City or University City, everyone comes through here," said Robert Piasecki, who joined the chain of demonstrators with his wife, Kelly, and their children, Miles, 4, and Owen, 3.
He bikes daily along 22nd Street from the Graduate Hospital neighborhood to his job as an architect for the University of Pennsylvania.
"What they really need is a loading zone" for the Wawa customers and delivery vehicles, he said.
The Bicycle Coalition is calling on the city to create a loading zone in the area and wants the lane conditions improved. Philadelphia policy is to repaint bike lanes when a street is scheduled to be repaved, which in the case of 22nd means it could take years for the entire stretch to be improved, LoBasso said.
Philadelphia does have plans to repave and restripe 22nd, said Kelly Confrancisco, spokesperson for the Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems, but taking additional steps, such as adding protective posts to divide the bicycle lane from traffic or shifting bike lanes to the left side of the street, which has become a city policy, would require the involvement of City Council and community stakeholders.
The Bicycle Coalition also is seeking more enforcement from the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which has issued 34 tickets for bike lane violations in the first five months of the year at 22nd and South. The PPA has stepped up enforcement of parking in bike lanes citywide, the agency's chief executive, Scott Petri, said Tuesday.
"There's definitely a concerted effort to deal with all types of safety issues, and I think the results are showing," he said.
The number of violations issued this year is not much higher than at the same time last year. The PPA issued 1,690 bike-lane violation citations in the first five months of 2018. In the same time frame last year, the PPA issued 1,627. However, since 2014, the number of bike lane violations has increased by 120 percent, PPA spokesperson Martin O'Rourke said.
Cars parked in the lane force drivers to swerve into northbound traffic, which increases the risk of a collision between drivers and cyclists.
That's what happened July 2, when Elisabeth Zasiris, a cyclist heading from Graduate Hospital to Penn's Landing, swerved to avoid a car parked in the bike lane and had her front tire bent by a car that turned into her, she said. She wasn't injured, but the incident was a reminder of the dangers parking in bike lanes can create.
"There's always just an awareness that I am now putting myself in danger because of the convenience of someone else," she said.
Cherowitz said she has had similar experiences. She's been hit on the shoulder more than once by the side mirror of a passing car as she swerved to avoid a car in the bike lane.
"The majority of the time you see a cyclist doing something that doesn't adhere to the letter of the law, it's us trying to compensate for the fact that they took car laws and threw them on top of bikes," she said.