Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Storming the Sidewalk

Bastille Day sidewalk squeeze

Storming the Sidewalk

I like to walk and I like sidewalk cafes (see a previous post). But when push comes to shove (luckily it didn't here) and both try to occupy the same city sidewalk, I side with the pedestrians.

Le Bec-Fin, Philadelphia's world-renowned French restaurant, celebrated Fête de la Federation - known as Bastille Day in English - today by putting out balloons and streamers, sidewalk tables, and a really wide tent on the already narrow sidewalk along the 1500 block of Walnut Street.

What little space left on the sidewalk for the pedestrians was occupied by patrons queuing up for $4 crepes and $2 mini-pastries at their annual Sidewalk Festival. So everyone else was forced onto busy Walnut Street for a few hours, competing in the traffic lanes with cars, SEPTA buses, bikes, and delivery trucks.

While I stood there amazed at the restaurant's (how do you say chutzpah in French?), Philadelphia deputy commissioner for transportation Stephen Buckley, passing by on his way from City Hall to a lunch meeting in Rittenhouse Square, stopped and asked to see the restaurant's permit.

"Looks like we okayed it," he said as I caught up to him after he continued walking, adding that the tent didn't exactly match the plans they submitted to L&I for the temporary license. "There is no way a wheelchair could get through," he said.

A restaurant manager promised Buckley he'd make more room, but I didn't see any change when I checked back an hour later.

The Official Philadelphia Code specifies that "On streets with a confirmed sidewalk width of thirteen (13) feet or less, at least five (5) feet of clear sidewalk space shall be maintained at all times to provide pedestrian access."

Tom Gralish Inquirer Staff Photographer
About this blog

Tom Gralish is a general assignment photographer at The Inquirer, concentrating on local news and self-generated feature photos.

He has been at the paper since 1983, photographing everything from revolution in the Philippines to George W. Bush’s road to the White House to homeless people living on the street right outside his newspaper's front door. For his photo essay on Philadelphia’s homeless, he was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the Robert F. Kennedy Award.

His weekly newspaper column, "Scene Through the Lens," takes a look at Philadelphia's urban landscape.

Gralish, along with Inquirer colleague and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael Vitez, spent a year visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art to capture the stories and photos of "Rocky runners" who come from all over the world to climb the steps - just as Sylvester Stallone did in the Academy Award winning film, Rocky. Their book, Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope and Happiness at America’s Most Famous Steps, was published in November 2006.

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Tom Gralish Inquirer Staff Photographer
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