In mid-July, Bicycle Coalition staff and our counterparts from PennDOT, DVRPC, The East Coast Greenway, and county planning agencies, got briefed on the new bike facilities that are coming in PennDOT’s 2019 paving season.
Doesn’t sound like a big deal? Well, it is.
This semi-annual convening of bike/ped planners, known as the Suburban Bike Lanes Working Group, has no corollary in any other PennDOT district in the commonwealth, nor in New Jersey. How did the four counties in the Pennsylvania suburbs of Philadelphia get so far ahead of the curve?
This is the result of several wins that were made possible by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and our members:
- In 2017, after more than a decade of persistent advocacy, we were successful in getting PennDOT to eliminate the onerous Bicycle Occupancy Permit (BOP) and replace it with a much more reasonable bike lane request process.
- Later in 2017, DVRPC released its first “Level of Traffic Stress” analysis, which gives every road in PennDOT District 6 (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties) a score for how stressful they are to ride a bike on. This analysis produced a list of top roads that need improvement to make a better “Low Stress Network.”
- By the end of 2017, PennDOT installed two pilot bike lanes as a demonstration for municipal leaders.
- Late in 2018, after (you guessed it) years of advocacy, we got PennDOT District 6 to make public its 5-year paving plan. This made it far easier for advocates to know when PennDOT-controlled roads are being repaved, which is by far the best time to install new bike lanes (for economy and durability of construction). This information is not available to the public in the other eleven PennDOT districts.
- Earlier this year, DVRPC updated its LTS analysis for PA (and added analysis for the New Jersey counties in the Philadelphia region: Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Mercer).
- This combination of advocacy wins and new planning analyses gave incredible new tools to the existing Suburban Bike Lanes Working Group.
The working group now has access to a database (maintained by DVRPC) that has information for all upcoming PennDOT road projects, and gives member organizations the opportunity to flag projects for possible bike infrastructure. PennDOT then reviews the flagged projects for engineering feasibility. Once a project passes engineering review, the municipality where the project would be is contacted to sign a maintenance agreement. With a signed agreement in hand, PennDOT then sends the project to a consultant to be designed and added to the repaving project.
If the municipality doesn’t sign the agreement, then either no facility goes in, or a striped shoulder is installed without bike markings or signage.
It is through this process that the PA suburbs will get about six miles of new bike lanes installed in 2019 alone, an 18% increase in the all-time mileage in the PA suburbs. Let that sink in: an 18% increase in a single paving season. And this is just phase 1. As we move on in the process and work out the kinks, we fully expect to increase on that annual mileage total each year!
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