PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Philadelphia Parking Authority is stepping into a major public safety issue: bike lanes blocked by parked vehicles. The PPA is hiring eight officers dedicated to enforcing bike lane parking restrictions.
It’s an idea eight years in the making, according to Sarah Stuart, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.
“I did bring this idea to the Parking Authority in 2014, and I am super excited to see it becoming a reality,” she said.
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What convinced the PPA, according to Deputy Director Corinne O’Connor, were the nearly 26,000 tickets for bike lane parking that officers have written since then.
“The staggering number of violations speaks to the need that more enforcement action is required,” she said.
O’Connor says bike lane enforcement is also a safety issue: “Blocking a bike lane with a parked car is dangerous.”
Stuart also points to a staggering increase in bicycle fatalities. Seven cyclists died in Philadelphia last year.
“The trend is going upwards. It’s going in the wrong direction,” she said. “Compared to 10 years ago, two bicyclists died. That’s a 250% increase.”
The PPA generally sees itself as an aid to commerce by easing traffic flow and encouraging turnover in spaces. It also generates revenue for the city and school district. But Stuart says she believes the PPA is becoming more aware of its role as a safety agency, as well.
A new study shows, for instance, that the speed cameras the PPA manages on Roosevelt Boulevard likely saved eight lives last year by reducing the speed of some drivers.
Deputy Director Clarena Tolson says the new PPA’s new board of directors is taking a new approach.
“I think people will be seeing PPA in a new light, thinking outside the box in terms of how we’ve done our work in the past,” she said.
The new officers are expected to begin patrolling bike lanes, on bikes, beginning in the fall. Until then, current staff will continue to enforce bike lane parking restrictions. Tickets carry fines of up to $76.