Philly Center City Bike Lane Blockage Draws Ire and Lawsuits

Philadelphia cyclists are happy to have over 200 miles of bike lanes, which is the most for a city of its size in the country, but unhappy when they have to swerve out into traffic to avoid hitting cars parked in those lanes.

Cyclists have been complaining for some time to city leaders and anyone who would listen. Occasionally someone gets hurt or killed because of an object in the lane, and cyclists come out in force to protest. However, the streets of Center City have a long way to go before they’ll keep cyclists safe.

Why not ticket them?

Many cyclists think that the police don’t place a high priority of ticketing bike lane violations. Even if they did, the city’s bike lane parking laws are confusing and don’t offer enough protection. Philadelphia has a three-tier bike lane parking scheme. Parking, stopping, loading/unloading depends on what sign is posted at a particular sidewalk or curb.

  1. No Parking: Vehicles may not park, but may load/unload for up to 20 minutes
  2. No Standing: Vehicles may not park or load/unload goods, but can drop off/pick up people
  3. No Stopping: Vehicles may not stop for any reason except to obey other traffic laws or in case of emergency.

Most cyclists would like to see “No Stopping” signs at all bike lane curbs, but the city maintains it has to balance between the needs of cyclists, motorist and businesses.

Taking them to Court

One particular cyclist had enough of the violation at a particular bike lane spot, and after reporting the violations to the police with no results, he took matters in his own hands and filed a lawsuit in a Philadelphia civil court. The suit claims that a delivery company is violating the law by parking in a bike lane at 13th and Samson Streets and endangering cyclists who have to risk injury to avoid the stopped cars.

The suit alleges that the company “regularly blocks the bike lane” … “placing cyclists at great risk of serious injury or death.”

The trucking company hasn’t responded to the claims, and a court hearing will be sometime early 2020. If successful, the cyclist is asking the court not to give him money, but to issue an order directing the delivery company not to continue violating the bike lane laws.

The suit doesn’t rely entirely on stopping the delivery company but includes a companion suit against the Philadelphia Parking Authority for failing to enforce bike lane parking and stopping codes.

It Worked Before

This isn’t the first time this cyclist has come to the defense of 13th Street bike lanes. At 13th and Spruce Street, the bike lane that runs in front of the Fairmont Hotel was the subject of a lawsuit by the same cyclist. He claimed that cyclists were at risk by the hotel’s valet service allowing guests to load/unload out in front of the hotel entrance in the bike lane.

The suit was settled before it went to trial with the valet company putting in plastic flex posts in between the bike lane and the traffic lane. After they were installed, guests stopped parking in the bike lane, and the valet company moved across the street where there is no bike lane.

Moving Forward

For cyclists, these lawsuits have been the only victories in getting the city to properly protect the bike lanes form being blocked. It’s not certain that the city will end up putting flex posts or other protected physical barriers up, one thing seems to be for certain, if they don’t, then more lawsuits against private companies look to be in the future.