Chestnut Street’s protected bike lane officially opens, but is it only temporary?

August 30, 2017

The Chestnut Street Transportation Project, which includes a parking protected bicycle lane, officially opened on Tuesday with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The new bike lane and some pedestrian safety features were added between 45th and 34th Streets as part of the project. The buffered bike lane reduced the three lanes meant for motorized vehicles to two, which allows to slow down traffic in one of the busiest stretches of the street.

Mayor Jim Kenney, who helped cut the ribbon, called the project, also referred to as Chestnut Street Safety Corridor, “a major step towards improving safety for Philadelphia’s most vulnerable roadway users.” The 2012 Pedestrian & Bicycle Plan identified the corridor as a high crash corridor in need of improvement. “We are excited to introduce the first of this type of project in the City and we’ll be back in the coming years with more corridors citywide,” he added. 

The project, which stretches for more than one mile of Chestnut Street, also includes significant pedestrian safety improvements, such as shorter roadway crossing distances and painted pedestrian areas. This is the first one-way parking protected bicycle lane in the City, and encourages bicyclists to use Chestnut Street to connect to University City and Center City. The project includes striping, signage and flexible delineator posts to clearly indicate where bicyclists ride and where drivers should drive, load, and park.

Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who was also present at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, said she is pleased to have safety improvements along Chestnut Street in her district: “We always try to support the community and we look forward to having a transportation opportunity to benefit all.” However, according to a report by Newsworks, she also said that this project may be temporary.

“I’d like to make it a trial basis for three months to see how it works,” she told Newsworks. It seems that she made this statement after receiving some complaints from her constituents who live near 47th and Sansom. “…we want to be fair, my first obligation is to the people who put me here,” she said.

Although, overall, the reaction to this project has been positive, some drivers who use Chestnut Street to commute to work are not happy about the time it now takes. “This was such horribly planned, 25 minutes to get from 46th to 30th, it’s been less then a week and the traffic seems to get worst everyday. All for safe bike lanes but the city should have thought this one out,” a West Philly Local reader, Sweeny, commented on our Facebook page.

There have also been reports of car accidents at 45th and Chestnut, where drivers have to switch from three-lane to two-lane traffic.

13 Comments For This Post

  1. Veda Gibson Says:

    Chestnut Street was already a rush-hour nightmare, and now this! Why not put bike lanes on other, less traveled streets. Or wider streets, like Market!? And, why does a bike lane have to be the width of a car lane?! smh …

  2. Jay Says:

    In response to the comment above: Market St. already has bike lanes, as well as Walnut and Spruce. Bikes also deserve space on the street, not only cars. The traffic jams at Chesnut are caused by cars, not by bikes. The space that the bike lane takes compared to the space that parked cars take on both sides of the street is minimal. The problem would be easily solved by not allowing cars to park on either side of the street.

  3. Adops Says:

    I love the new bike lanes!

  4. Kdubs Says:

    I couldn’t be happier about the bike lanes. These are used in many cities in the US and in Europe. People gain courage to commute to work by bike when they do not feel like they will be run over by cars. In most cases the streets do not need to lose a lane of traffic, as the bike lane is simply moved to the other side of the line of parked cars. Mayor Kenney and counselwoman Blackwell, please continue installing these!!!

  5. Kay Says:

    I understand the need to have a safe way for cyclist to travel but taking Chestnut street, which was already jam packed when it had three lanes, down to two lanes was not the best idea. I actually watched a cyclist ride down Chestnut street holding up traffic in the right lane instead of using the new protected bike lane. I’m not sure if he didn’t know or didn’t care but that is infuriating to those who are already struggling through the increased pileup. Not allowing people to park isn’t a great idea either. Many people live on Chestnut street. It doesn’t seem like all factors were taken into account when planning this. There are streets parallel to Chestnut that are wider and less traveled that can accommodate a bike lane much easier. I think it was a good idea poorly executed.

  6. bicyclist Says:

    The ‘ride on the right’ thing is because that’s where cyclists should ride … so maybe there needs to be clearer signage?

    The whole bike-lane-on-the-left in Philly is a bit weird. It’s counterintuitive to me. There are also places where bike lanes switch from the right side to the left side of the street at an intersection, for instance west bound on Walnut at about 22nd St.

  7. antelope Says:

    Agreed about the left lane thing.

    Still, ALL streets have bike lanes, even if they’re not painted in. Additionally, a bicyclist has the right to the middle of the street as long as she/he is maintaining a speed compatible with vehicular traffic.

  8. grapefermentforme Says:

    ALL? No, ALL! We are all Descendents of man. Too.

  9. Belle Says:

    I am really happy about this! I am not a bike rider, but car pool by auto every day into Center City on Chestnut. The traffic has always been terrifying! This has calmed everything down and curtailed the constant speeding and unsafe lane changing. My mornings are much less stressed! Big safety improvement.

  10. Dave Says:


    The havoc this is causing at the corner of 45th and Chestnut, where the lane begins, is tremendous and extremely dangerous for drivers. Cars suddenly see that their lane is a dedicated left and either swerve into the right lane or sit with their blinker on in the intersection waiting to be let in. Both are producing constant horn honking, tire screeching, and worse. Recently, an emergency vehicle could not get by because the traffic on Chestnut between 45th and 44th was tremendous but there was no place for the cars to pull over. If a serious accident hasn’t happened yet it will–just a matter of time. Please don’t act like we shouldn’t care about drivers–they do not deserve harm or worse because they are not on public transit. All modes of transit should be safe for everyone.

    A better solution would have been to make the right hand lane the bike lane, and starting it at an intersection where one could make the right lane a dedicated turn, say at 46th or even higher. It sounds as if a right hand bike lane would have made it easier for bikers to transition to the other bike lane when this one ends. Anyone know why it was placed on the left rather than the right? Must be a reason.

    In any case, MUCH more signage and street painting is needed if this thing is going to stay. The city needs to let drivers know that the left lane is ending at least two blocks before it does, and reinforce it with green paint on the road, etc. precisely because that closure is counter-intuitive.

  11. antelope Says:

    This sounds like it was deliberately designed to fail. I’ve seen it. It’s ridiculous anyway — ALL streets have a bike lane, whether it’s painted in or not — and it’s on the RIGHT side of the street. Maybe the planners want to encourage accidents as a way of discouraging bike traffic altogether? I also hear that the lane suddenly shifts from the left side to the right as it gets closer to Center City, forcing bikers to suddenly cross two lanes of traffic.

  12. Hermes Says:

    Dear Dave, you say “Cars suddenly see..” C’mon: the fact is that for about half a block BEFORE the intersection the left lane is for left turn ONLY. Has been like that for quite some time.

  13. cyclist not impressed with new lane Says:

    I think the switch to the left side is an acknowledgement that there is a larger blind-spot on the right (due to the placement of drivers in cars). It’s much easier to see cyclists on the left.

    I’ve been biking in Philly for a long time. The protected lane doesn’t offer safety from pedestrians that wander into the lane (who are looking while walking less and less) and it flirts with car doors. If you are an experienced cyclist the lane really hinders the ride. Also, the transition of the lane back to the right side of the road at 33rd Street is simply dangerous. I will always prefer moving with traffic. If you are less experienced and slower, the protected lane may be a good thing… until you reach 33rd Street.

    The lane has made traffic a nightmare on Chestnut Street. Anyone who refuses to acknowledge the change simply hasn’t experienced it. I had to drive across Chestnut Street on 43rd this week. To get from Walnut across Chestnut on 43rd Street took six traffic light cycles.

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