A street resurfacing project underway in the southeastern part of Center City is set to bring more than smooth pavement to several roads. The project is also allowing the Streets Department and Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) to make intersections safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.
From Market Street to South Street, 8th, 9th, 11th, and 12th streets are being overhauled, as well as stretches of Locust and Lombard streets. Several streets have already been milled. Once manhole covers are reset and selective repairs made, these streets will then be resurfaced. Then when streets are restriped, intersections will be made safer by painting “stop bars” – lines indicating where cars should stop –12 feet back from crosswalks. That's an increase of eight feet from the old standard of four feet.
This significantly increased distance between cars and crosswalks is aimed at making it easier for larger vehicles like trucks and buses to make turns on Philly’s narrow streets, and to give pedestrians and bicyclists more space - and therefore safety - on the street.
“The setback improves the visibility of pedestrians at intersections and it provides room for bicyclists to stack while waiting for a green signal. Bicyclists making a turn can also use the space to maneuver from the right side of the street to the left or the reverse, as needed,” said Charles Carmalt, Pedestrian and Bicycle Coordinator at the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU).
Carmalt explained that stop bars used to be set four feet back from a crosswalk, which works well for stop signs, and that distance was recently increased to 10 feet “strictly based on pedestrian analysis.” The extra two feet were added to make room for bikes.
MOTU is also considering where to install “bike boxes” to signify that the 12-foot space between a stop bar and crosswalk is meant for cyclists to use, Carmalt added. Any future bike boxes would likely be painted at intersections where bike lanes cross, for example at 13th and Spruce streets.
In other cities where bike boxes have been tried, they have made it “easier for bikes to move around and reduced the number of pedestrian crashes at intersections. By marking the bike box, it helps encourage bicyclists to use that space and help that space make sense to motorists,” Carmalt said.
The resurfacing project is being done by C. Abbonizio Contractors, financed through city and federal sources, and is expected to be complete in fall.
Ashley Hahn is an independent writer with a background in historic preservation and city planning. She started Eyes on the Street for PlanPhilly in 2011 and was PlanPhilly's managing editor from 2015-2017. Ashley has lived in 12 zip codes that she can think of, including neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and New York. She is a Philadelphian by choice.