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April 28, 2023

Philly will increase policing of bike lanes in effort to improve traffic safety

PPA officers will issue citations to vehicles stopped in designated for cyclists in Center City, University City and South Philly beginning on Monday

Transportation Bicyclists
PPA Bike Lanes Jon Tuleya/For PhillyVoice

The Philadelphia Parking Authority will begin patrolling Center City, South Philly and University City to issue tickets to drivers parked in bike lanes in order to keep the roads safe for cyclists and reduce traffic deaths. Pictured above is a protected bike lane on the 2200 block of Chestnut St.

The Philadelphia Parking Authority will soon strengthen its bike lane enforcement with a team of officers who will patrol the city on bicycles, ticketing drivers who violate parking restrictions in lanes designated for cyclists. 

The bike lane enforcement unit, which is comprised of eight PPA officers, will patrol Center City, University City and South Philadelphia beginning on Monday, May 1. Those neighborhoods, which contain about 80 miles of bike lane, were chosen due to the "staggering" number of bike lane safety violations issued by PPA over the last decade, officials said.

The PPA first began testing its bike patrol unit in 2021 with just six officers covering the area from Delaware Avenue to 40th Street and Spring Garden to Bainbridge streets. Due to its success in deterring bike lane violations in sections of Center City, University City and South Philly, the program expanded with two additional officers. It will be centered solely on those neighborhoods. 

"Bicyclists are an integral part of Philadelphia's transportation ecosystem," Rich Lazer, PPA's executive director, said in a press release. "Since 2011, 45 bicyclists have been killed, and over 135 have been injured. We must do all we can to protect our bicyclists and provide them safe access to city streets." 

The idea for the program came from the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, an organization founded in 1972 that works with public agencies and government officials to make bicycling a safe and easy way to travel throughout Philadelphia. The organization is focused on achieving the city's Vision Zero goals, which aims to eliminate traffic deaths by 2030. 

"Many of Philadelphia's unprotected bike lanes are chronically encroached upon by drivers who park or stand with impunity," said Sarah Stuart, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition. "Bicyclists have been asking for increased enforcement of such motorists for years." 

The PPA has issued more than 25,000 tickets for cars parked in bike lanes temporarily or overnight since 2014. The fine for parking in a bike lane is $76 in Center City and $51 in South Philly, University City and other parts of the city.

The officers in the patrol unit have volunteered to focus their efforts on vehicles parked in designated bike lanes and protecting cyclists who rely on the narrow lanes to travel through some of the busiest parts of the city.  

Between 13,000 and 15,000 Philly residents bike to work each day, and the Bicycle Coalition hopes that the enhanced enforcement of bike lanes will make those commutes easier, WHYY reported. 

"Enforcement is a deterrence aimed at changing behavior and encouraging compliance with our bike lane regulations," Lazer said. "Our goal is to improve public safety and enhance the quality of life in our neighborhoods by encouraging compliance with bike lane regulations and keeping our bike lanes clear and free of parked vehicles." 

Philly is one of just a handful of cities where bike lane violations are enforced by officers on bicycles, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia said. 

The concept comes from a parking enforcement officer in Toronto. In 2017, the bicyclist went out into the streets to specifically target cars parked in designated bike lanes. The program was so successful that the Toronto Police Department expanded it.