New Bike Lanes Require City Council Approval

By Kimberly Leichtner, Associate Consultant

Now that summer solstice is just around the corner (officially June 20, 2012), I figured it was time to brush the dust off that bike I got last summer and start riding to work. In fact, last month was National Bike Month sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists. Although I missed Bike to Work Week (May 14-18), I’m hoping to stick to my own personal plan of Bike to Work Summer.

Philadelphia is a great city for biking as demonstrated by its 17th rank in the America’s Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities list by Bicycling magazine. We boast the most bicycle commuters per capita out of the top 10 largest cities in the country and have a large percentage of female cyclists, an indicator of how bicycle-friendly a city is. Additionally, we have over 200 miles of bike lanes and paths.

Recently, a bill introduced by Councilman William Greenlee has sparked debate about the creation of new cycle paths. Greenlee’s proposed bike lane legislation gives City Council the power to approve or veto the creation of any new bike lanes. Greenlee argues that this legislation gives local communities the opportunity to have an input when new bike lanes are proposed. Local cycling advocacy groups, such as the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia, argue that the legislation would tie up bike lanes in red tape, thus delaying the installation of necessary new bike lanes. As an amateur biker, more bike lanes in the city are certainly welcomed.

Just last week, City Council approved Greenlee’s bike lane legislation, making Philadelphia the first city in the country to require city council approval for a new bike lane to be installed. While all users – cyclists, motorists and pedestrians – should get a say in how our city’s streets are developed, hopefully this move will not decrease the bicycle-friendliness of Philadelphia.

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Samuel Lovett

Great post. I can attest that greater Philly is a fun biking area.

How is the creation of bike lanes usually decided if not by city councils? Is it done internally at transportation departments in other cities?

Lauren Hirshon

Thanks for reading and commenting on the post. Glad you enjoyed it. To answer your question:

“The Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities [in Philadelphia] polled 12 other big cities and found that bike lanes are installed by the administration in consultation with a district council person or their equivalent. Council approval is not required for that bike lane.”

For more information, see this article: