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Wonky Wednesdays: Sidepath

Today’s Wonky Wednesday describes a seldom used term we hope will grow in popularity over the coming years: Sidepath. A sidepath is a multi-use sidewalk/trail facility adjacent to a roadway. As you know from previous posts, bicycling on the sidewalk is illegal in Philadelphia unless you are under 12 years of age. On some busy roads, a cyclist must be brave and take the travel lane for safe passage. A sidepath allows some respite from traffic and a more leisurely ride, as well as a wider pedestrian area for dog walking, stroller-pushing, and roller blading.

A rendering of the 58th Street Greenway – now under construction. It’s the perfect sidepath illustration.

There are many unofficial sidepaths in Fairmount Park – Kelly Drive Trail, Lansdowne Drive sidepath, and Ford Road sidepath all come to mind. Where new sidepaths are constructed outside of the park system, the facility is required to get approval from the Streets Department and a review from the City Planning Commission. The process starts with a Sidewalk Bicycling Application, which includes submission of plans to said departments and close review by staff to make sure that the width and road crossings of the facility are safe for biking and walking in the same space. The application also includes posting of signs for public information along the sidepath section and review of the application by both bodies.

There are currently only two facilities that have received official sidepath designation in Philadelphia: the 58th Street Greenway and the Port Richmond section of the North Delaware Greenway. Both are presently under construction and were funded by federal TIGER grant monies. Future sidepaths now in design include the Penn Street Trail and the main section of the Delaware River Trail.

Another sidepath rendering, here is the Port Richmond Trail.















Here are three ways you can work the word sidepath into your conversation. Try it out with your friends today and they will be impressed with your wonkiness:  

> This weekend, I’m taking my OK Cupid date for a ride on my tandem on the new sidepath.
> I look forward to teaching my 5-year old to ride a bike safely on the sidepath.
> I really hope there will be a sidepath to the Navy Yard on Broad Street soon, so I can make whimsical clothes for the populace.



3 thoughts on “Wonky Wednesdays: Sidepath

  1. So, basically, the admission that this is a low-quality compromise is in the description itself? “Sidepaths” exist in cultures that don’t adequately provide for cycling, like England and the US. They don’t exist in places that truly facilitate safe and convenient transportation, like the Netherlands.

  2. I wouldn’t define the Kelly Drive Trail, 58th Street Greenway, or Port Richmond Trail as “low-quality compromises.” The City is adding miles of new bicycle facilities on-road every year. These sidepaths are vehicle-free facilities with stormwater features and substantial green buffers, which make them more pleasant for all users but the speedster bikers.

  3. I understand the appeal of the sidepath, and it’s far more comfortable than riding on-road on busy streets, but the sidepath has some problems. There is a facility out there that is *better* than a Sidepath: a Cycle Track.

    Cycle tracks offer similar benefits to sidepaths in terms of separation from traffic, but they have even more features sidepaths do not:

    – Separate treads for bicyclists and pedestrians, so people walking and people biking do not conflict.

    -Access on both sides of the road. Most cycle tracks are one-way on each side of the road, so that people riding are not stuck on one side. (particularly important in urban areas).

    -Reduced conflict with cars. Two-way operation on a sidepath, unless properly managed, can be deadly for bicyclists. One-way paths reduce conflict considerably.

    -Higher quality construction. There are few formal standards for sidepaths, and as such, they are built with a varying degree of care. Cycle tracks are well-known throughout Europe, and are a part of the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide.

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