New Jersey

After Another Woman Is Run Over, Cyclists Stand Up Once Again for Bike Lane Safety in Center City Philadelphia

Bike lane action puts spotlight on biking safety in Philadelphia after a delivery truck struck and injured Becca Refford

What to Know

  • Advocates hope by forming a human barrier, they could push the city to make actual physical barricades between drivers and cyclists.
  • Becca Refford, 24, remains hospitalized after a delivery truck struck her bicycle at 13th and Pine streets in Center City.
  • The bike lane along 13th Street is faded and there is no physical barricade separating cars and bikes.

After two bicyclists were struck by trucks in Center City bike lanes in recent weeks, advocates on Tuesday formed a human barrier between cyclists and vehicles as part of a push for heightened bicycle safety on Philadelphia streets.

The "human bike lane" action Tuesday morning featured cyclists, pedestrians and motorists standing along the 13th Street bike lane from Pine to Spruce streets. Some of the advocates held signs and gave high fives to passing cyclists as they acted as a buffer between vehicles and bicycles.

On Friday morning, a delivery truck hit Becca Refford as she headed to a doctor's appointment, her family told NBC10's Aaron Baskerville Monday night. She was going north in the bike lane along 13th Street when a truck turned right into her.

The 24-year-old was pulled under the truck's wheels leaving her with a broken pelvis, bruised lungs, cracked ribs and a broken foot.

Witnesses said the truck driver didn't even realize he hit her, instead thinking he hit a curb, said Eric Refford, the woman's father.

"Minor changes would save lives," Eric Refford said.

Becca Refford remained at a Center City hospital Tuesday awaiting a second surgery. From her hospital bed, she watched some of Tuesday's action via FaceTime and thanked strangers for all the support she has received.

"It's fantastic and I just want to say thank you so much," she said.

Thirteenth Street, a northbound one-way street, and Pine Street, which travels east, both have dedicated bicycle lanes on the right hand side. There are no barricades separating the lanes from car traffic. Some of the paint showing the divide has faded.

"I should be able to ride my bike and not fear being killed," said Eileen Bunch, who rode in from Collingswood, New Jersey for Tuesday's event.

Becca Refford is the second woman struck in a bike lane in recent weeks. Last month, a privately-owned trash truck struck and killed 24-year-old Emily Fredricks as she biked to work along Spruce Street at 11th Street. Spruce Street also has a dedicated, but unprotected bike lane.

Fredricks' death — the third this year, according to the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia — and Refford's crash have put a renewed spotlight on cycling safety in Center City where cars, trucks, buses and bikes share the road daily.

The current bike lanes, like the one along 13th, are sometimes used by motorists loading or unloading, forcing bikers back into the flow of vehicular traffic.

Bicycle advocates are fighting to get better safety infrastructure. Some streets, like Chestnut Street in West Philadelphia, now have posts that divide drivers from cyclists as part of the city's Vision Zero plan to create better bike lanes. Part of South Street is also set to be divided.

City officials are also considering raising the grade of the bike lane to better separate it from vehicular traffic.

Mike Dunn, the city's Deputy Communications Director, told NBC10 the Kenney Administration is working to achieve its goal of zero traffic deaths by 2030, which they outlined in their Vision Zero Action Plan in September.

In the past year, the city has installed five more miles of new bikeways, including a protected bike lane as part of the Chestnut Street Safety Project. They also upgraded 11 miles of bike lanes and implemented several improvements, including an enhanced Parkside Avenue bike lane and pedestrian-oriented Direct Bus station plazas along Roosevelt Boulevard.

"These accomplishments reflect a clear commitment to improving safety, access, and mobility throughout the entire city," Dunn said. "While all traffic deaths are unacceptable; some encouragement can be derived from the fact that 11 fewer people have been lost through November of 2017 when compared to the same period last year."

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