Imagine a bike trail that stretches along the East Coast through cities, along rivers and through suburban towns like a cyclists’ I-95 and you will find yourself among the musings of the advocates and engineers of the East Coast Greenway. This project’s goal is to connect Canada to Key West, bike style.
Quite the shlep
In Philadelphia, should the imagined project manifest, the trail would pass through town from the Delaware River out to Cobbs Creek and Delaware County through something that is now only a concept, though mature and developed with its designs, the Spring Garden Greenway.
A collaboration between the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) and various city agencies and partners, the project envisions restoring Spring Garden Street to the former foliated boulevard state of existence it experienced during the nineteenth century. Then, the homes west of Broad Street were expansive single family homes. Paul Thomas (partner in Campbell Thomas & Co.) compared the street to Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue. Gardens fronted the homes. Wrought-iron twisted into floral schemes lined the walkways.
Spring Garden today is not so green
“We want to create bicycle lanes that families with kids would feel safe on,” said Patrick Starr of PEC.
Studies that PEC did over a few years of research centered around connecting the Delaware River trails to the those of the Schuylkill and resulted in the creation of the Spruce/Pine bike lanes. Another result of their research was the selection of Spring Garden Street as a candidate to become a greenway, a strip of road protected from motor traffic, through America’s fifth largest city. Right now, PEC is working on propelling the concept from feasibility to funding, around $30M worth. Its designs are informed from ideas generated from community meetings and modeled and inspired by existing greenways like the Hudson River Greenway in Manhattan. They presented the idea to the Spring Garden Civic Association this June.
In the future?
A Spring Garden Greenway would narrow the current two lanes of traffic by six feet and install a 15-foot-wide median-landscaped-strip with a bike lane down the middle along the thoroughfare, according to Starr. It would ultimately connect with the 58th St. Greenway that’s now under construction. This map produced by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia demonstrates how the trail circuit in the Philadelphia greater area is connected, but perhaps this project would necessitate a welcome revision.
It seems that the day when one can cycle a route engineered for just that sake from the Panhandle to the Maple Leaf is at least on the horizon. As for the Spring Garden Greenway, the project, if constructed from start to finish, could take up to 18 months. But, according to Starr, when, and if, it happens, it will likely be built in phases.