Philly is trying a new bike rack to stop cars from blocking fire hydrants - Philadelphia Inquirer

by Thomas Fitzgerald

Drivers hate circling Philadelphia blocks endlessly, and some will park anywhere — even if it’s an illegal spot in front of a fire hydrant. Firefighters sometimes must smash car windows to hook up hose.

Meanwhile, cyclists grumble constantly about full bike racks.

Now, a coalition of government agencies, planners and enterprising young transportation designers think they’ve found a solution to these three urban problems: A new kind of bike rack.

Developments: A team of three friends, all industrial designers who met in graduate school, has been named winner of a contest to design a new kind of bike corral for the street space around fire hydrants. It would create needed parking for bicycles and keep cars away, while providing easy (and ax-free) access for firefighters.

Team Sophon, as they call themselves, will get a $3,500 prize, and at least two of their corrals will be built and installed — one in West Philadelphia and one in Old City, near a garage owned by the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

“We want to put these on the street,” said Clarena Tolson, deputy executive director of PPA, the lead agency for the effort.

Why it matters: Philadelphia ranks in the top 10 of U.S. cities for bicycle commuting, and secure bike parking can be scarce. More than 14,000 city residents biked to work at least three days a week from 2014 through 2018, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which measures trends between decennial counts. That’s 2.1% of commuting traffic.

Some neighborhoods use bikes at much higher rates. For instance, 19% of commutes in a census tract along Washington Avenue east of Broad Street were made by bicycle during the five years covered by the survey.

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