In 2016, Nether Providence Township contracted with a group at Temple to produce the Nether Providence Master Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. It is a great report with lots of useful information. We’re 5 years into the plan, so today I took a 13 mile bike ride to evaluate the township’s progress on the recommended projects. Many, but not all, of the projects have been completed or are currently in various stages of planning and a lot of the bigger projects like the Providence Rd. sidewalk are being tackled. But some of the easier projects from the report have not yet been completed.
I am paraphrasing from the report’s recommendations in the order I traveled the township, starting in the south at Chester and Providence, traveling north on Providence to Turner and Baltimore before heading back south via Brookhaven and Rose Valley to end at the Leiper Trail on Avondale.
Providence, Chester and Harvey
The report recommended a bike lane through the intersection and signals for pedestrians to serve those crossing. This has been completed, and the bike lane here is, I believe, the only one in the township. It hooks up with the sharrow-lined Chester Rd. bike path through Ridley and Swarthmore up toward Baltimore Pike. But taking that route would like be dangerous, especially in the northern part of Swarthmore.
Some of the the crosswalks at this intersection are not ADA compliant. This seems odd as this project is relatively recent. But the curbs are sufficiently steep as to be difficult to traverse in a wheelchair. Parking on the shoulder like here is common in many parts of the township with large shoulders – on Media and Chestnut in Garden City, and along Brookhaven. I’ve found that biking around these is dangerous as it requires you to duck in and out of 35 mph (but really 45 mph, if we’re honest) traffic coming from behind you.
Providence at Mother of Providence School
The report recommended a crosswalk from the “sidewalk” on Providence to cross to Mother of Providence School. This does not appear to have been done. There is no crosswalk there. But perhaps it will be added when the thin asphalt path that passes as a sidewalk here is redone eventually. Near this location is also the entrance to Springhaven Club, where for reasons that are not clear, the asphalt path vanishes for a stretch. There’s been a lot of talk at the township board meetings about why Springhaven members exit into the residential neighborhood to the north of the club instead of onto Providence Rd. at this entrance, and, after looking here, I’m not sure the club’s excuses hold water. The intersection here looks like it could be adapted into a main entrance and exit and spare the neighborhood to the north the traffic they are complaining about.
Providence and Rose Valley
There were a number of recommendations in the report here, including a crosswalk connecting the Providence Rd. sidewalk across E Rose Valley Rd., a crosswalk east from Meadow to E. Rose Valley and bike lanes to connect East and West Rose Valley Rds. None of this has been done, and this intersection remains dangerous to pedestrians and bicyclists. Getting from East to West Rose Valley in particular is treacherous as the sight lines are bad and traffic regularly drives on the shoulder there so it also is not safe. There is also supposed to be a multi-modal trail from this intersection to Avondale, which has been in the works for so many years, at this point I’ve given up on ever seeing it happen.
Providence and Copples
The report recommended a crosswalk and traffic light at Providence and Copples, which has not happened, though there is a new sidewalk on Copples which makes it safer for pedestrians.
Trail at Strath Haven Middle School
The report recommended a trail from Strath Haven Middle School to Sykes Ln to provide safer passage than walking along Providence. This connection is indeed a very useful one, and there is a trail. But its not bicycle and ADA friendly and not necessarily well known or marked. Beware the poison ivy too.
Providence at WES
The report recommends a lighted crosswalk at WES, and that seems to be there and in good condition.
Providence and Brookhaven
The report recommends pedestrian-controlled signals, crosswalks and bike lane crossings along Brookhaven. Which seems odd, given that East Brookhaven is ill-suited to bicycle traffic. The no turn on red signs are still there, and there’s a crosswalk to get across Providence to the bus stop, but the other improvements have not been done.
Providence and Possum Hollow, Furness and Wallingford
The report makes a number of recommendations in “downtown” Wallingford. It recommends a pedestrian triggered signal and crosswalk at Possum Hollow, which are there. It also recommends a lighted crosswalk to the new sidewalk on Wallingford and the “shopping center”, which aren’t there and a crosswalk northbound at Furness, which also isn’t there. It also recommends a traffic light at Wallingford and Providence, which also isn’t there. The report also calls for a walkway along Possum Hollow to connect Providence to the Wallingford train station. This project has already been bid out I believe.
The lack of a way to get from the Wallingford Ave. sidewalk to Furness is puzzling. I suppose people could walk down to Possum Hollow, but I’d expect about 0% of people do that. The sightlines coming down Wallingford to Providence when driving are also bad, so I’d think a traffic light might be warranted, but there’s already one nearby at Possum Hollow. One last note, the sidewalk over the SEPTA line is in poor condition and part of it makes a clunking sound when I stepped on it, which is a bit ominous.
Baltimore Pike at Turner and Grandview
The report recommends signals at Turner and Grandview (it says Chelsey, which doesn’t intersect with Baltimore) on Baltimore Pike, and crosswalks at both. I’m not sure why anyone would want to cross Baltimore Pike at Turner. There’s nothing you’d want to get to on the other side as far as I can tell. Chief Splain has said that Turner and Baltimore is the most dangerous intersection in the township for drivers, though, so its not a pedestrian/biking issue so much as a traffic one there. The light and crosswalk at Grandview is there and a better place to cross for pedestrians and bikes than Turner. The report recommends “sharrows” on Turner (which hasn’t been done), but that seems like a waste. Turner is not a friendly road for pedestrians or bikes.
Brookhaven at Church, Avondale, Possum Hollow and Kershaw
The report makes several recommendations for crosswalks across Brookhaven. There is a nice set of crosswalks at Brookhaven and Possum Hollow, but nothing at Avondale. But given the sight lines, crossing at Avondale would be highly dangerous. There’s also no crosswalk at Church, which wouldn’t be much better. There are crosswalks at Kershaw. Weirdly, there are crosswalks on both sides of the intersection but no sidewalks. The report recommends “sharrows” on Brookhaven, but I wouldn’t recommend it as there’s no way to bike safely there. The report also recommends a crosswalk at Possum Hollow and Kershaw, by the train station, which has been done. And, as reported before, the Possum Hollow sidewalk is in planning. For those not familiar with the area, the path behind the train station up to Furness is a nice cut through to get from the middle school to the library.
Lighted Crossing at SHHS
The report recommends a lit crosswalk across Brookhaven to Strath Haven High School, which the township has done a nice job of making safer. But it should be pointed out that they have clearly marked off here that the shoulder is off limits for driving on, while in discussions of other intersections like Rose Valley and Meadow, Rose Valley and Avondale or Brookhaven and Waterville, township commissioners operate under the assumption that drivers will use the shoulder to go around left-turning traffic (or at Waterville, traffic going straight). Most drivers do this, and it makes these intersections more dangerous for bicycles and pedestrians.
W Rose Valley at Brookhaven, Engle and Bickmore
The report recommends “sharrows” on Rose Valley, which seems less useful as it doesn’t connect to any other easily bikeable roads. It recommends a lighted crosswalk at Bickmore, where there is a crosswalk, but no sidewalk. This is one area that could really be improved. The jaunt from Bickmore to Engle provides pedestrian and bike access from the Garden City, Putnam and surrounding communities to SHHS and SHMS. But there’s no real infrastructure there. A decent lit crosswalk and short sidewalk could greatly improve safe access to the schools for us.
E Rose Valley, Avondale and the Leiper Trail
The report recommends a bike lane on E Rose Valley, which the long delayed multimodal trail was supposed to provide. The report recommends sidewalks along Avondale from Brookhaven to the Leiper Smedley Trail and crosswalks in the area, neither of which has been done – although there are crosswalks at Avondale and Rose Valley.
The Leiper-Smedley Trail is the main pedestrian network for much of the township. Its a trail that runs along 476 in the eastern side of the township from Avondale up through Pendle Hill to Plush Mill, but access to it from the south and west is tricky. Avondale Rd. south of Rose Valley Rd. is narrow and not pedestrian friendly. Rose Valley Rd. is 35 mph with no shoulders and poorly lit, so also risky. The southern part of Avondale from Rose Valley to the Leiper Trail does have a nice path, though parts of it are currently overgrown. The northern part of Avondale remains riskier for pedestrians and bicycles as the sight lines for that stretch are not good. The crosswalks at Avondale and Rose Valley Rd. are dubious. There’s a curve in the road where traffic does not stop, and crossing at the faded crosswalk there seems a risky proposition.
Manchester and Ridley Creek
The report recommended stop signs at this intersection. It would have been dangerous to try to bike to, but I’ve driven past before and there are stop signs there now.
If you’ve made it all the way to the end, congratulations. A lot has already been done to make Nether Providence walkable and bikeable, and there remains a lot more that could be done. After biking all around the township, I have my own suggestions building upon the existing plan:
- Crosswalks need more regular maintenance. A number had faded to the point they couldn’t really be seen. A list of crosswalks to be checked annually, maybe in July/August, might keep everything better maintained.
- A number of places in the report were missing the recommended crosswalks. Crosswalks help show pedestrians and drivers where roads can be safely crossed. They’re a relatively cheap improvement at places like Mother of Providence School and connecting the sidewalks along Providence.
- Brookhaven and Waterville is dangerous. Most of the pedestrian-accessible shopping for Garden City is in Brookhaven, but because drivers regularly drive on the shoulder on both sides at this intersection, its dangerous to walk. The township should create turn lanes and bike lanes to clarify where cars and bikes can safely use the road instead of expecting everyone to use the shoulder.
- I’m not sure if improvements to Rose Valley/Meadow and Providence are part of the Rose Valley multimodal project, but this intersection continues to be poorly designed for pedestrians and bicycles.
- Improvements on Rose Valley between Bickmore and Engle could make it safer for a large part of the township’s children to walk or bike to SHHS/SHMS while avoiding Providence.
- The township has a very nice sidewalk along Wallingford Ave. connecting South Media to Furness Library, except its hasn’t worked out how to best cross Providence to finish that journey or continue on to the Wallingford Train Station. Improvements should be made to improve crossing Providence at Wallingford Ave.
- The report recommends additional signage. I know the township is awash with signage, so if I could pick one it would be the recommended sign to alert drivers of the required distance to pass bikes (I believe its 4′). Too many drivers pass much closer than this. Buses are some of the most egregious offenders.
- The township should stop using stop signs as speed control. The township’s quieter roads are becoming difficult to legally bike as there are stop signs every few hundred feet. I know other solutions are more costly, but this is becoming an increasing challenge for bicycles.
- The report made few recommendations on the edges of the township – South Media, Bowling Green, Sproul Estates and Garden City are mostly left out. The township board has discussed connections to surrounding boroughs lately, and that’s great. Future work should take greater account of connections to Brookhaven, Chester, Swarthmore, Springfield, Rose Valley and Media.