Breaking down the Ben Franklin Parkway

I’m only human (despite what some of you have heard).

I like it when my opinions, and predictions, are found to be valid.

Such as what’s jumping with the unwanted and unneeded redesign of Philadelphia’s most beautiful mile (aside from East Allegheny Avenue) — the Benjamin Franklin Racist Parkway. (City Council has not yet changed the boulevard’s name, but that’s a certainty under aspiring Mayor Helen Gym, who finds offense in every nook and cranny.) 

A sensible fix for the Parkway (5th Square)

I wrote about the city’s latest scheme in March 2021, both here and in the Philadelphia Weekly, which went woke and is now going broke. 

Remember the rule that says if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?

That doesn’t apply to the new breed of “urbanists” and woke city planners who, in order to earn their salaries, screech, “Let’s fix it to death!”

Assuming the imagined voice of the Parkway itself, I wrote:

“French landscape architect Jacques Greber designed me to emulate the grand Champs-Elysees in Paris. He created an axis from our magnifique Second Empire City Hall to a hill in Fairmount that would later be home to the world-famous Museum of Art.

“Greber delivered the vision that was imagined by department store innovator John Wanamaker, whom I call Grandfather. The execution of a grand, tree-lined artery was so successful I am called Philadelphia’s Champs-Elysees, and I am the main reason Philadelphia often is called America’s most European city.”

For 100 years the Parkway remained largely unmolested until the City Hall clown car decided to “improve” it.

This is a joint project between Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (think the Parks and Recreation TV series, but without the daffy charm), and a syllabic jumble known as OTIS — the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability. Say that three times fast.

Here’s the giveaway as to what is really going down: The city requested proposals from “renown design teams” with — here it comes — “experience addressing diversity, equity and inclusion in public space and public realm design.”

Diversity, equity and inclusion in public space. Not safety. Not economy. Not beauty. Diversity, equity, and inclusion. What does that word salad of progressive code words even mean?

Well, one thing it means are rumble strips outside the Museum of Art, near the Rocky statue, reports Billy Penn that are so poorly designed and thought-out the pedestrians think they are crosswalks!

Genius, right? And not for the first time, as I will show in a bit.

According to Billy Penn, “They are not official pedestrian crossings. The lines are horizontal from the perspective of a driver, vertical from the perspective of someone trying to cross the street.”

The city’s solution? More signage (that practically no one will see.)

I often have driven around Eakins Oval, coming in from East Falls. It had never been a problem until the city decided bike lanes would be a good idea — even when the bike lanes cross car lanes. That is never a good idea. (See illustration from Cycling Savvy.) 

Dangerous bike lane crosses auto traffic (Cycling Savvy)

New white lane markings are confusing even to someone like me who has driven it hundreds of times. If the idea was to create such confusion as to make bewildered drivers slow down — it succeeded. 

Coming south off Kelly Drive can be challenging because of the options — drivers heading west toward the Spring Garden bridge, or east toward Spring Garden Street, or the hard-to-see entrance to 676, or driving down the Parkway. The white lane markers are hard to understand.

Of course, the proposed solution of the pedalphiles is to ban cars, their go-to wet dream. They hate cars and trucks, and never ask themselves how their food would be delivered to markets without motor vehicles. 

They don’t give a damn that a) thousands more cars use the Parkway than bicycles, and b) cars are used by people, just like bikes. Cars are not a separate form of life.

Remember when rarely-used bike lanes were installed in Center City about a decade ago, after a “study” overseen by — if you can believe this — the Bicycle Coalition Greater Philadelphia?

Yes, the city allowed the loudest advocate of bikes to perform the “objective” biking study.

That would be as crazy as electing a defense lawyer as district attorney.


The geniuses who know so much installed the bike lanes on the north side of Spruce Street, and neglected to install turn lanes — ooops —  which any dope could have predicted that traffic would be jammed at intersections by cars unable to turn because of pedestrians crossing the street. In fact, this dope did just that. Turn lanes were added later.

And still later, they moved the bike lane to the south side of Spruce. 

If they were so smart, how come they didn’t make it the south side at the jump?

Because they are not that smart. Don’t be intimidated by planners who own masters degrees, but not driver’s licenses.

Back in 2010, the city’s announced dream was to have 6% of commuters on bikes by 2020. I predicted it would never happen. It is now 2022 and the commuting percentage has never hit even 2.5%, no matter how many miles of bike lanes they add.

Returning to the Parkway, the area around the Art Museum is a mess for pedestrians. It is hard to cross, which is true of any traffic circle, from Eakins to Paris’ Arc de Triomphe. Turning the circle into an intersection would solve that problem, but would destroy the symmetry and beauty of the Oval.

The most simple solution is more and better traffic lights.

More expensive is this solution: an auto tunnel under Eakins Oval, starting from about the Joan of Arc statue, and emerging between 23rd and 24th streets. 

How to pay for the tunnel? Give some corporation naming rights, such as SEPTA has done with a bunch of its subway stops. 

Or, cheaper solution, just reroute traffic away from Eakins Oval, as shown in the illustration from 5th Square. 

Forget diversity and focus on practicality. It’s not hard if you aren’t in the thrall of anti-car ideology.

15 thoughts on “Breaking down the Ben Franklin Parkway”

  1. The more I read about what is going in in Philly, the happier I am that we left. I

    1. Along with your thought, Wanda….I’m glad I retired and don’t have to make the daily commute through there anymore. Stu has done a great Captain Obvious on the characters that are part of this mess.

          1. Look up the story behind it. The Mona Gorilla has become an icon of the times.

    Can you imagine how boring life must be, say if you were living down the shore or up in the mountains. All you would wright about would be the birds and the bees.
    Philly. ‘Ya Gotta Luv It ‘ ! ( or hate it ). Politics makes the world go round. If there’s a way to get money out of Harrisburg or D.C., politicians will find a way. No need to waste money on education or infrastructure, put it were it will NOT do the most good !
    I still prefer the city of yesteryear. Before the ‘highrise ordinance, our construction unions pushed for the work. I was against it from before the start. I argued that the city would retain its charm and beauty with the existing buildings below Billy Penn’s hat. New construction would continue as needed. Old buildings would be replaced as needed and the city would grow at a reasonable pace. Obviously, I don’t know what I’m talking about. Let’s destrup some more charm. Get rid of that dinosaur at the other circle .

  3. Stu you have to back to university and become indoctrinated on the causes of global warming. After this reeducation process you will feel guilty because of the carbon fingerprint you are contributing to the atmosphere. When you feel guilty enough you will sell your car and buy a bicycle. You will block driving lanes while riding your bike. You will join the bicycle coalition of Philadelphia. Then your can enjoy your yearly naked bike ride through center city. Our city’s leadership is lost

  4. The three pillars of our newly found educational system (diversity, equity & inclusion) have now made their way to city planning? If we are going to eradicate “social injustice” by renaming stuff, so long Eakins Oval.

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