Martin Luther King Drive

Ella Scott 5, Journalist

Who doesn’t remember lockdown? After all, it was pretty memorable, even possibly the worst part of COVID. So, after multiple months of being locked inside, you can bet that everyone wanted to burst out of the confinements of their homes. However, it was hard to do that and keep the safety of everyone in mind at the same time. Many people wanted to find a way to get outside. And luckily, MLK Drive was there. But what is MLK Drive? And why did it matter in COVID? This article is about MLK, its history, and what it is today. 

For many years, people had been walking and biking along MLK. It was often closed to traffic on weekends pre-pandemic, so a handful of pedestrians and bikers enjoyed the area. But when COVID hit, the visiting numbers skyrocketed. Droves of families and friends had suddenly started to realize that they had to get out and hopped on their bikes, slipped on their shoes, and put on their jackets. 

As more people came, Martin Luther King Drive drew more attention. Normal users of MLK and biking advocates requested for it to be closed to vehicles all the time. It was about March 20, 2020, when the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia (BCGP) closed MLK Drive to automobiles all week, instead of just some weekends. With a warning to stay 6 feet apart, many Philadelphians decided to enjoy it. It helped people clear their heads, get out of the confined space of their house, and get some exercise. The park itself looked beautiful with the cherry blossoms blooming on the strips of land surrounding the path. After you go onto the bridge, you can see the breathtaking Schuylkill River beside you and more cherry blossom trees ahead. A sight many people enjoy of the trails are the cherry trees at the end. 

Then in August 2021, MLK was reopened to cars. While this is a problem for everyday walkers and riders of the trail, they did make a small lane specifically for walkers and bikers. This is better than pedaling through a thicket of cars, but it still is a decently big setback from when pedestrians had free reign over the road. However, theMLK-goers were able to adapt. 

But then, on March 27, disaster struck. In summer 2021, inspectors found deterioration in the steel frame of the bridge. They proceeded to close the bridge to cars, but left it open to bikers and walkers. On the 27th, they fully closed the bridge and announced the drive would be closed for repairs. This affects everyone, from people who just enjoyed the cherry blossoms at the end of the road to people who liked to walk on MLK, then switch to the Kelly Drive Trail, which intersected with MLK Drive just beyond the bridge. Now, their access to the easy intersection is stopped. 

BCGP offers a solution, though. If you take the bike path beside Kelly Drive, take Sedgley Drive through Lemon Hill Park, bike along the south Girard Avenue sidewalk to Lansdowne Drive, then connect to Sweetbriar Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, then you can enjoy MLK to its full glory. It does add complications, though. It is much longer and isn’t the same as it used to. However, it’s better than skipping it altogether. 

In summary, Martin Luther King Drive has gone through plenty of rough patches. From reopening to closing sections, it’s been through many speed bumps. Though In the end, it’s definitely worth visiting, even if it’s not in its full glory.


Works Cited

Reimagining MLK Drive

Complete Bridge Closure and Construction Activities Begin March 27 for the MLK Bridge | Department of Streets | City of Philadelphia