Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Last Half Mile Home or the Most Dangerous Part of My Ride

In general I find riding a bike a safe activity, I find riding with my kids locally less dangerous then riding in a car. People think safety and likely comment on my helmet or safety sash but they do not really make a difference 99% of the time. I like most people whom ride bikes know that infrastructure really makes bicycling safe, in countries like the Netherlands or Denmark where bicycling infrastructure is separated cycle tracks they have very low rates of crashes and much higher rates of bicycling then in the US.

Most car crashes happen within five miles of your home. For me the scariest part of my bike ride is my last half-mile home. I'd like to blame it on the two hills I have to conquer (the video at the end even with it sped up makes my hill climbing on pace with a brisk walk) but really it is a very dangerous intersection, Main Street and Ridge.

This intersection to put it lightly is a clusterfuck. A central hub of bikes, pedestrian (two trails meet here), SEPTA’s Wissahickon bus transfer center and Regional Rail station, a tractor trailer route AND an alternative car route for the often backed up I-76. With this many users and not enough infrastructure to safely move everyone it is dangerous for everyone.

And here I am using it daily because it is my way into and out of the city. I am always nervous at this intersection whether I am leaving or coming home. 

But coming home is special kind of hell. You can watch the video below (I sped up the video so it is about 8 minutes but this ride took me 14minutes) but let me walk you through it. First I take a sharp turn off the path to ride a narrow two-way sidewalk across the bridge. Next I cautiously transverse a series of driveways where I watch the buses making a left over a double line across two lanes of traffic. I then try to get around the tail of the bus and dodge those exiting the bus. I then ride into an unoccupied business alley. The "parking lot" is often where cars illegally stop or make illegal turns. Next, I hop off and walk my bike up the block hoping to not bully the whole sidewalk for other users. After that, I wait to cross the road; often auto users pull an illegal right or run the red on my cross. In the past week 2 out of 4 of my rides I had two cars run the red light. Luckily I anticipate this. Finally I get over to the correct side of the road but the cars go up hill to fast and often swear into the shoulder which the bus also uses to load/unload passengers so I ride illegally up the sidewalk and past the entrance to the train station which often has people coming and going and eventually into my hood. That's a .5-mile that takes me on average twelve minutes on a good day. 

This area has been on the radar of bike advocates for a while on the Coalition's Bike Crash Map it has had over 15 reported accidents. Making this one of the city's worst intersections for bike riders. Although some beautiful multi-user lanes where designed for this area it looks like what got approved will at the least take me away from the bus area and narrow bridge sidewalk. It's a start and even then that start seems to be stalled as I have heard of no construction etc.

So here I am everyday facing this intersection and nervous. There is NO other way to get to and from my house and to center city without going through it.

City of Philadelphia I ask of you to not delay. To not allow one more crash here (or anywhere in the city for that matter). Let's look at light timing. Allowing pedestrians a longer and safer crossing time and forcing cars to slow down coming off of the local highways. Repainting the intersections could also help.  Next the brush on the left side needs to be cut back so the sidewalk is useable! And how about those often hated red light cameras. I plead with you to install them here! In the mean time can we post cops down here and make the city some money with tickets! Finally, when it snows the bridge over the creek and sidewalks on Ridge need to be shoveled. There are no businesses or homes to take care of them.