June 22, 2010

Philadelphia goes for the Green.

The Bike City

The city of Philadelphia, best known for its swashbuckling and thievery, is in the midst of a massive sustainability overhaul.

In his inaugural speech in 2008, Mayor Michael Nutter set a goal for Philadelphia to be the greenest city in the US of A by 2015.  He established the office of sustainability and rolled out Greenworks Philadelphia in order to pull off his ambitions goal. The once largest (now sixth largest) city outlined 15 target goals that range from increasing city efficiency to increasing tree coverage in all of the city’s neighborhoods by 30 Percent.

One year into the program and first impressions are out.  With bike lanes already painted and urban plots sprouting from vacant lots will the Mayor of Philadelphia actually be able to pull the city through its most bountiful turnaround ever, or will all the hype turn out to be wishful thinking?

Target Goal 12 of Greenworks Philadelphia is to reduce vehicle miles driven by 10 percent by 2015.  In 2009 the city converted two major East to West streets into bike friendly roads by converting an entire lane in each direction to cyclists only.  This created a connecting link between the Schuylkill and Delaware river bike paths.  Further plans hope to expand lanes to other major roads such as Market Street as well as carefully chosen North to South streets.  The intention is to concentrate bicycle traffic to these specific bicycle designed streets thus alleviating conflicts between bicycles and motorists on others.

More accommodations for cyclists are seen sprouting up as well.  When the city began switching from standard parking meters to the preferred parking kiosks along city sidewalks many prime bicycle parking spaces vanished.  When the outdated  coin-op meters were removed, cyclists were surprised to see a bare poles left sticking out of the sidewalk.  In at least one case, during the meter switch out,  a cyclist was surprised to find that in the course of a few hours after locking his bike to a meter the top had been removed, and his bike subsequently swiped from it.

With federal stimulus money, the city purchased decorative metal loops to retrofit 1500 bare meter poles into bicycle parking trees throughout the city.  Where bikes were once locked out of necessity can now be safely locked at these designated and stylish spots.  This move increases still the visibility of cycling culture within the city and convenience to cyclists and hopefully entice new riders in the future.

John writes from coffee places and green spaces around Philadelphia.  He has yet to get a “real job” and instead has turned his attention to exploring Nature and training up for the Philadelphia Marathon in November.

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