Chinatown balking at bike lane

Posted: August 13, 2011

RESIDENTS and business owners gathered under Chinatown's iconic arch yesterday to petition against plans to place bike lanes in the heart of the commercial district in September.

A temporary bike lane is slated for the left curb of 10th Street from Spring Garden to Lombard Street as part of the city's effort to improve two-wheel traffic; a portion south of Market street already is in place. The bike lanes will be in place for three to six months while they are evaluated.

Andrew Stober, chief of staff at the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities, said the new lanes are aimed to tackle the dramatic increase in cyclists around the city.

"Ten thousand Philadelphians regularly cycle to work," he said. "In the area around Chinatown, as much as 5 percent of the trips to work occur on bikes."

Chinatown leaders, however, fear that the bike lanes - particularly around 10th Street where there are many restaurants - will affect businesses and compromise safety in the area. More than 150 people signed a petition against plans to place bike lanes on North 13th Street and South 10th Street between Market and Vine Streets.

Wilson Wan, who organized the petition at the suggestion of of 1st District City Council candidate Mark Squilla, said he hopes to gather more than 1,000 signatures over the weekend before presenting the petition to the Mayor's Office.

"Tenth Street is so small, if they want one lane for parking and another for bikes, that will jam up the traffic," said Wan. "People come down to Chinatown because it's convenient. If there's traffic then it will no longer be convenient for them. All the businesses will lose customers and some might be forced to close."

"A lot of people are upset," said Squilla, who stopped by to support the petition. "They think that the proposed bike lanes are infringing on their convenience."

Chinatown Watch Chairman Joe Eastman, however, is worried that many people will view the plans for bike plans as "a done deal," but emphasized that "the city can't tell the community that this is it.

"This is a commercial area. If we lose any of these parking spaces, people will go somewhere else," he said.

Jong Chin, who has owned a restaurant on Race Street since 1965, is concerned that the bike lanes will make the streets too narrow for fire trucks as well as buses that pass frequently en route to New York City.

But Stober maintained that the volume of traffic and absence of SEPTA buses on 10th Street was one of the reasons why it was chosen for the pilot program.

Cameron Master, 23, who bikes to work through Chinatown from his home in Northern Liberties said he is usually forced to bike on the sidewalk to avoid the busy road. "Neither the pedestrians or drivers give a s--- about bikes," he said. "I would rather there was a bike lane."

Cars hit over 400 cyclists each year, which works out to one biker per day, Stober said. Of these, three to four cyclists are typically killed.

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