Handlebar reporting: Counting cars in the bike lane

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Jim MacMillan

Independent Journalist at jimmacmillan.com
I am a solutions-oriented independent multimedia journalist, based in Philadelphia.
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Above: I spotted one couple out on Philadelphia’s new Indego shared bikes at left, but I also watched as other cyclists were forced into traffic by cars parked in bike lanes.

Shortly after launching this site, I shared the impediments I discovered while “Pedaling while Periscoping,” after mounting my iPhone on my handlebars and taking a spin around Philadelphia on my bicycle.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I went out again to try to do some actual reporting, using Periscope to show the number of cars I found parked in bike lanes in Center City.

A lot of us fancy Philadelphia as a bike-friendly city, where one study showed rush-hour cycling up 260% between 2005 and 2013, we have 435 miles of bike lanes, we just got cool new bike sharing program and the city even paved over some old trolley tracks recently to make some intersections safer.

But if you like cycling on Sundays, you might find many bike lanes blocked near houses of worship, where congregants are permitted to park with the city’s permission, based on a program which long precedes the like lanes.

The problem is that the parked cars force cyclists and passing traffic into narrowed lanes, creating an uncomfortable and possibly dangerous squeeze for blocks at a time.

To share this experience live on Periscope, I pedaled back and forth on Spruce and Pine Street in Center City, covering about 40 blocks of bike lanes.

I counted more than 160 cars parked in bike lane spaces which would be otherwise illegal — if not for the provisions made for worshippers.

Now, I don’t expect the city to change the parking program after all these years, but I think it would be safer for everyone if we could simply close the bike lanes to through traffic during the same periods. What do you think?

Here’s a time-lapse look at my trip, below. The right lane is supposedly reserved for bicyclists.