Outdoor Dining Ordinance Testimony

5th Square provided the following oral testimony to Philadelphia City Council's Committee on Streets and Services on June 15th, 2020.

We are testifying in support of Bills #200351, and #200352 - which make it easier for restaurants city-wide to operate sidewalk cafes, and authorizes the Streets Department to reallocate street space for the use of people during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Because of the pandemic, vehicle travel has dipped to an unprecedented low level, while vehicle speeds have skyrocketed, and unfortunately, so has road and pedestrian fatalities.

Last month, we released our Recovery Streets Platform with the Bicycle Coalition and the Clean Air Council detailing how Philly can best adapt its streets for this crisis using best practices from across the country. Streamlining outdoor vending and seating is one of several platform items, and these two bills are a good start in moving towards what other cities are already providing its citizens.

Opening street space to people and not just cars is necessary to maintain social-distancing. Many sidewalks in Philly are too narrow for people to pass at a 6-foot distance, let alone accommodate a takeout line or outdoor dining. ADA accessibility is also an important consideration, and we are happy that these bills allow restaurants to operate outside while maintaining ADA access and social distancing through adapting our street space.

We applaud the Outdoor Dining Guidelines that the City put out last Thursday, however we noticed the city is limiting full street closures to just one weekend. The Kenney administration should create an official process for successful pilots to apply to continue on a weekly or even daily basis, depending on the context. So many restaurant-dense corridors, and all the jobs and neighborhood vitality those businesses support, could benefit from regular pedestrian-only hours, whether it’s Passyunk, Germantown Ave, South Street, Baltimore, 13th, 9th Street Market, or any of over 180 distinct commercial corridors across the city.

We applaud Council’s efforts to adapt to our current situation, and we encourage Council and the Mayor’s Office to move further by providing the following:

  1. An Open Streets plan that adapts more streets beyond MLK drive for recreation and active travel.
  2. Establish a city-wide network of calm streets that discourages through-traffic on select neighborhood streets.  Cities like Oakland and New York have shown this to be successful without a police presence.
  3. Expand bus-only and temporary bike lanes to encourage public transit and active travel.  In order to avoid an onslaught of traffic by incentivizing alternatives to driving once they return to work.

Thank you for your time and stay well.