Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sidewalk Musings


The deal that the city cut with Samir Benak-moume over the sidewalk in front of his 1352 Lofts strikes me as part of a worrisome pattern. The developer clearly made a gross mistake in building a ramp 6-feet, 7-inches into the public sidewalk. Yet in trying to undo the damage, city officials first determined how much space the developer needed for his retail ramp. The public was then allocated the left overs.

Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. That's the exact same approach the city used to determine the width of the sidewalks for the planned reconstruction of the South Street bridge (image). First the engineers calculated how much space would be needed for cars if two new dedicated turning lanes were added to the road deck. Then they calculated the maximum road deck the existing bridge piers can hold - 83 feet. Once they divvied up the space for the cars and two 5-foot bikes paths (Give them credit for including those), there was only 18 feet left over. And so on a bridge where motorists will be hellbent for glory (and those merge-or-die I-76 entrance ramps), pedestrians are left with just two 9-foot refuges. Will a day ever come where the sidewalk space is allocated first?

14 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I walk over the Walnut St. Bridge every day, which has sidewalks that aren't even close to 9 ft., and by and large, it never seems to be a problem to me. Sure, every now and again you get stuck behind a slow-walking wall of three friends, but it's no big deal.

The problem is when bikers illegally ride on the sidewalks instead of using the bikelane. Having bike lanes in both directions on the SSB should (I hope) make the sidewalks, no matter what the size, a lot safer for everyone involved.

12:35 PM  
Blogger rasphila said...

As long as planning emphasizes moving traffic (meaning cars) over moving people, we will get unsatisfactory compromises like the South Street Bridge sidewalks. Private cars are the least efficient way to move people, but our planning assumes that they are the way most people will moveā€”and that this is okay because we can just widen the roads to accommodate the traffic.

In the long run, because of fuel costs and environmental constraints, we are going to have to use more efficient ways for people to get from place to place. That has to mean better public transit, safer places to walk, and safer places to cycle.

The long run isn't really that far off. We have to cut our greenhouse gas emissions drastically in the next twenty years or face some pretty severe repercussions. Which is why the South Street Bridge is such a disappointment, bizarre aesthetics aside. The engineers just assumed business as usual, which was probably what they were hired to do. Somebody, however, needs to be looking at the long term or we're all in trouble.

But it's hard to be very hopeful when the pattern of designing public space for the convenience of developers and traffic engineers instead of the public is becoming the norm, as this posting suggests.

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lady if you can't fit on a 9 foot side walk then city planning is the least of your problems.

2:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seriously, what is inadequate about a 9 ft sidewalk? How many people do you expect to be crossing this bridge at any one time? Maybe you anticipate frequent marathons that intentionally confine themselves to city sidewalks. But beyond that unlikely scenario, i imagine the 9 feet should suffice. If we are talking about the long run, and the role of planning, then shall we complain about the absence of mass/public transit options across town or the structural deterioration of a critical car/pedestrian bridge? I guess we could also include in the plans a monorail that runs on hydrogen to be included in a 30 ft high tube running east west throughout the whole city also, but until that become an economically viable option instead of a grand sounding solution to all of humanity's woes, then i think a 9 ft sidewalk will be just fine.

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stop with the talking about the bridge's sidewalks, please. You're missing the big picture.

The bridge is effectively TWO vehicular lanes wide with turning lanes at the river ends. You will rarely see cars traveling abreast in the same direction on it - like I said, TWO LANES. The Streets Dept. and PennDOT better have and show us some pretty good traffic study data to justify changing it to FIVE vehicular lanes. What, is someone raffling off free houses in Rittenhouse?

Ever see this bridge get jammed up during rush hour traffic? I didn't think so. What it comes down to is that the planners at Streets and PennDOT built an extension to the Schuylkill expressway - it's just that simple. It isn't needed, it doesn't work for the communities it serves and they're going to waste MILLIONS of taxpayer dollars when a much smaller bridge will suffice. Idiots with our money. Sheesh.

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the present, there are lots of cars and the South Street Bridge is a major entrance to/from University City and Center City. Boo for truck-radius turns, but that's what we get.

Fast forward 10 years, gas is $15+ per gallon, private autos are banned, and the South Street Bridge goes on a "road diet". One lane in each direction for trackless trolley or hybrid buses, dedicated two-way bikeways, and widened pedestrian 'boulevards' on each side.

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The issue is not about 1 person fitting on a sidewalk; it is about groups of pedestrians travelling both directions on a 9-ft sidewalk. With a lack of bridges spanning the river, these bridges can have a high concentration of people, including those that also pause and stop to converse in small groups while overlooking the river. It is very easy for pedestrians to take up 9' of sidewalk.

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I agree that the City has some seriously misplace priorities with respect to its pedestrian residents and workers, and with bending over backwards to accomodate developers, 9ft isn't a piddling amount of sidewalk space. As a Center City resident and worker who walks virtually everywhere, I can't think of anywhere where then sidewalk is much wider than that (with the exception of the Market Street Bridge)?

4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure we can all fit on Benkooly's south street sidewalk as well. "Fitting" is not the issue. I dont want to be able to "fit" as I walk down the street. I would like some comfort. I would like to be able to relax and not be constantly vigilant in my efforts to remain safe from hazards which a pedestrian ought to have a right to be able to avoid.
A human CAN expect the be able to relax as s/he wals down the street. This is America, not some third world country.

5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Sure, every now and again you get stuck behind a slow-walking wall of three friends [on the Walnut St Br sidewalks], but it's no big deal."

Yeah, no big deal unless you're actually trying to get somewhere.

"The problem is when bikers illegally ride on the sidewalks instead of using the bikelane."

I rarely ride on sidewalks for several reasons, one being that I hate bicyclists doing it when I'm walking. However, that particular bike lane (like many others) is crap: it's too narrow, it has ground hazards (gratings, gravel, snow and ice in the winter), and it has an unsafe zigzag across the dedicated right-turn lane (which is, of course, unnecessary). Then, of course, once you're across the bridge it's even worse because the bike lane is entirely in the door zone. I really don't think you should blame people for avoiding an ill-designed piece of crap, even though they probably avoid it not for the reasons I've outlined, but because they're incompetent. I mean, this is a city where even the bicycle cops ride against traffic, which is so knuckle-draggingly stupid it hurts just to think about it.

7:52 AM  
Anonymous Vince Dean said...

Unfirtunately, this is becoming some third world country ! I was harrassed by the doorman/security gaurd for daring to look at the sidewalk encroachment at 1352 lofts on south street! Apparantly they own the street also, since I was standing on it,due to the fenced-off pittance of a sidewalk. This is the third time I have been harassed by a doorman of these so-called "LUXARY" condominiums around town. That's not very classy !

9:05 AM  
Anonymous br said...

this is a glorious precedent, i call on every developer to disregard all public right of ways and just build where you want to. you don't need no stinkin survey, what do all those lines and numbers on the plan mean anyway, nobody uses them.

10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is awesome.

Since Sammy gets to disregard the public right of way, I can call my contractor now so I can extend my kitchen out another 10 feet into the sidewalk so I can get my big center island I wanted.

Screw you pedestrians.

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Inga we really can't compare bridge construction to what planned atrocities the 1352 South street developer has done. His actions were no "mistake". Unfortunately, we'll probably have to live with both bad designs. One only needs to look at Boston's new Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge to see how Philly has been short changed. Both situations should be redesigned to higher standards!!

4:33 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home