Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Two Things I Love.

Biking. And Philadelphia. (Heck, I gotta love it, 'tis the city of brotherly love!). Plus they booed Sarah Palin, so immediately we're like BFFs.

If you haven't visited, Philly is such a fantastic city, with the busyness of New York, the restaurant scene of Washington and yet the price tag of Baltimore. I spent a weekend there a year ago and it still remains one of my favorite vacations!

To top it off, they've got optimistic news amidst rising concerns: Planners are working on the egregious problems that have surfaced recently with the increase in bike traffic--bike parking.

Philadelphia's parking shortage is approaching critical proportions. You see people circling the streets of Center City in an anxious quest for an available space. It's unexpectedly hard to park at institutions such as La Salle University and the Art Museum's Perelman Building. But you really know things have reached a dire state when you have to go blocks to find a pole or parking meter that doesn't already have someone's bicycle hitched to it.

Yes, this time Philadelphia's parking crisis involves vehicles of the two-wheeled variety. While the drumbeat during the Street administration was for more parking garages in Center City, the cry now is for more and better bike racks everywhere. That's progress.

The problem starts when the bikers stop. There just aren't enough bike racks on Philadelphia's heavily used, narrow sidewalks for everyone. Desperate bikers will lock to anything that won't move, like Rittenhouse Square's elegant wrought-iron fence or the railing around SEPTA's 16th Street concourse entrance. The tangle of metal is not pretty.

The Nutter administration hopes to improve the situation somewhat in the next few months. It just ordered 1,500 racks and expects to begin installation in November. The new upside-down "U" racks will bring the sidewalk total to 2,600, distributed through the entire city. It's a far cry from the 10,000 the Bicycle Coalition says are needed.

Luckily this isn't a problem in Columbus, mainly because our downtown is a sea of parking lots. I've seen monthly parking permits for $30 (compare to daily prices of that on Manhattan), and most lots around $5 a day. I really can't imagine Columbus transforming into a biking city anytime in the near future: we have no bike lanes, plenty of parking and some of our densest areas are around 10 miles from downtown. In order to reverse this, it would take years and years of effort. Not that it's not worth it, it's just not foreseeable.