PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia Parking Authority officers will soon have more responsibilities. A pilot program will put officers on bikes to target cars parked in bike lanes.
It will likely be spring before this program starts. The officers have to be hired and trained, but advocates say this has to happen sooner rather than later because it’s a matter of public safety.
“People often feel like they can park wherever they want, which I understand is a tradition in Philly,” Randy LoBasso, police director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, said.
But for LoBasso, some traditions aren’t worth keeping around.
“I don’t think that, and a lot of people don’t think that your convenience is more important than my life,” he said.
One loop on residential Pine Street in Center City shows the problem: cars parked illegally in designated bike lanes. That forces bikers further into traffic, putting them at risk.
“It’s just really dangerous and really, really unnecessary,” Tadhg Hoey, a biker, said.
Initially, five bike officers will patrol the area from Delaware Avenue to 40th Street and Spring Garden to Bainbridge. After reviewing results in the year-long study, the program could be expanded to 35 officers, covering all 430 miles of bike lanes in the city.
Al Schmidt is a city commissioner governing elections, but he’s also on the board of the PPA.
“It could be a big investment and I don’t think you really want to do something until you can find out if it works, if it’s going to be effective, does it make sense. It’s new to us,” Schmidt said.
The program would be modeled after a similar program in Toronto. To help with congestion, the bike officers would also ticket cars parked illegally in bus lanes.
“The act of having to swerve around a car doesn’t probably seem like it’s that bad to someone who’s in the car,” LoBasso said, “but it is potentially dangerous and there have been a lot of crashes that resulted because of that.”
The PPA will be working with officers at the University of Pennsylvania for training, but again, this program likely won’t be implemented until the spring.