MLK Drive

The Push to Keep Cars Off MLK Drive Moving Forward

An online petition is calling for the city to keep MLK Drive open only to pedestrians, bikers and other people looking for recreation

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What to Know

  • Nearly one year after the MLK Drive was closed to traffic to allow runners and bikers more space to spread out, there is a call to keep the road that way.
  • The Greater Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia has launched a petition to keep open space along the road.
  • People are feeling safer using the 4-mile stretch tucked between the Schuylkill River and Schuylkill Expressway.

With temperatures warmer this week, Philadelphians are getting outside for some exercise and one of the more popular spots is a route along the Schuylkill River that’s been closed to cars for almost a year.

Now there is a push to make the closure of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive permanent.

Not since mid-March has a car or truck come through MLK Drive, the 4-mile stretch of road between the Schuylkill River and the Schuylkill Expressway that connects Center City Philadelphia to Wynnefield Heights and Bala Cynwyd.

Tiffany Herbin and her family spent the mild Wednesday afternoon on the drive – not worrying about passing cars. They come here more often now.

“Safe for the kids to run around,” she said. “I like it.”

The city closed MLK Drive -- which runs across the Schuylkill River from Kelly Drive – to open more space for people to exercise with social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Alex Quang has been training for a marathon, running along MLK Drive three to four times a week.

“It’s been so much nicer,” the University of Pennsylvania student said. “I feel safe running down the middle of the road and it’s a great training spot.”

The city says more than 5,000 pedestrians have been using MLK Drive these days – that’s a 1,300% increase. Randy LoBasso with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia can see why.

“MLK Drive is a 35 mph street, most people don’t drive 35 mph around MLK Drive,” LoBasso said.

His group wants to keep the drive as-is – or have the road split between pedestrians – and buses.

“I think part of the reason why we’ve seen so many more people wanting to use it is because yes, it’s safer, but it’s also because it’s safer it’s so much more inviting as a park, which is what it’s supposed to be,” he said.

A petition online has more than 2,700 supporters so far, more than halfway to its goal of 5,000 supporters.

The city has said the road is closed indefinitely – with no future plans at this point.

“it’s unfortunate that it took a pandemic to see that, but I think now that we are here, it would be not good to go back,” LoBasso said.

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