Coronavirus revealed our systemic weaknesses. Bike infrastructure is one - PlanPhilly


Amid the COVID-19 global pandemic and recommendations to practice “social distancing,” a growing number of people have taken themselves off public transit and out of cabs and ride-hailing cars and gotten onto bicycles. Indego,

Philadelphia’s bike-sharing system has seen a spike in trips and restaurants are utilizing bicycle delivery services as they remain open for delivery and takeout.

In addition to those using bikes out of necessity, people are de-stressing with rides in parks and on trails.

That’s a good thing, note David Nieman, Dr.PH., a health professor at Appalachian State University and Brian Labus, Ph.D., MPH, who teaches at University of Nevada Las Vegas in Bicycling Magazine. For now, going outside is safer than staying in.

Getting together with people indoors raises the prospect of someone coughing or sneezing on your stuff, spreading the virus. Going solo, outdoors, makes you less likely to come in contact with germs, and rides longer than 30 minutes —about the distance from Fishtown to the Schuylkill River Trail — helps build your immune system.

“If you have to travel, the outdoors is a way to really dilute anything that could be around you,” Dr. Robyn Gershon, an epidemiology professor at New York University’s School of Global Public Health, told Curbed “The sunlight is also really good because it’s a natural disinfectant.”

If you are new to traveling by bike or just need a refresher course, there are some resources out there, like the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia’s guide for beginners.

But here’s the thing: We need more than tips for beginners. Bike infrastructure providing safe passageways between neighborhoods, would better position our City now and in the case of future public health emergencies. Giving people safe access to their family members, and providing contracted delivery workers a less stressful ride to their customers, would go a long way toward improving our residents’ ability to do what they need to do amid a tremendous disruption.

All of this illustrates why city officials made the right call to add bike shops to the list of “essential businesses” that can remain open during this uncertain time.

And as long as cycling is still an essential transportation option, we need to better accommodate both the new cyclists and veteran delivery people. Here are three things Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration can do to make it easier for those Philadelphians who are choosing to make the bicycle their means of transportation during the pandemic.

Immediately begin work on pre-planned and legislated protected bike lanes and convert all high-trafficked existing curbside bike lanes into pop-up protected bike lanes.

While curbside bike lanes are safer than traditional door-zone lanes, they are also regularly blocked by private vehicles. Blocking access to illegally parked cars on these streets would allow for easier movement not just for people who bike to work, but their families and children, as well.

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