How and where to access the Ben Franklin Bridge walkways

This is a guide to reaching the south walkway. Another will be published around 1 March 2018 when walkway users are switched to the north walkway.

Last week I spoke with a Chinatown resident and student at Rutgers Camden, which is two miles from Chinatown. Three-quarters of this distance is, arguably, the finest walkway of any major bridge in the country. Despite the availability of a “sky trail” running straight from home to school, the stranger was unaware of the option of walking over the Ben Franklin Bridge.

This is understandable considering the obscurity of the walkway entrances. Tourism offices and the bridge’s managers (DRPA) hardly promote these valuable public assets. There is a lack of signage leading visitors to the entry points. The immediate vicinity on the Phila side is a highway environment devoid of an official people path to the entrances.  The entry gates themselves are shrouded in warning signs, seemingly placed to repel the casual explorer.

Below is an attempt to compensate for these disappointments until some future day when the Ben Franklin Bridge walkways are proudly publicized, with surroundings designed to attract and welcome even the timid.

From where to where?

You don’t need to imagine a biking and walking trail connecting Chinatown / Old City Philadelphia with downtown Camden. That’s exactly what the Ben Franklin Bridge pedestrian walkways accomplish. A blissful 40-minute walk (or 15-minute bike ride) over the bridge lands you within a half-mile radius of a plethora of employment, shopping, hospitals, museums, nightlife, recreation, universities, entertainment, national parks, luxury and affordable housing, and transportation hubs.

whole bridge

Left: Philadelphia, PA; right: Camden, NJ; green line is South Walkway

 

The Philadelphia side

In Philadelphia, the south walkway can be accessed just north of 5th & Race Streets and the National Constitution Center. Starting from 5th & Race, walk north on the cobblestone berm (about 300 ft) until you reach the south walkway entrance (pictured below).

phila side

Vicinity of south walkway entrance on Philadelphia, PA side. Pathways to entrance are blue. Relatively safe crossing is red.

It can be convenient to begin at 6th & Race (just east of Franklin Square and WHYY) and take the wide sidewalk along the tree island. Crossing the 5th Street vehicle lane toward the walkway entrance is relatively easy, due to good sight lines, a curb cut, and a mere single lane of traffic (thick red line).

When you come upon a smorgasbord of uptight bureaucratic CYA signs and barbed wire, you’ve found the south walkway.

phila side 2

South walkway entrance, Philadelphia side

 

The Camden side

The walkway entrance on the Camden side is less obscured; its tagged in Google Maps with “Entrance To Ben Franklin Bridge Pedestrian Walkway (Tourist Attraction)”.

camden side

Vicinity of south walkway entrance on Camden, NJ side. Toll booths to the right.

Beginning from the PATCO station at Camden City Hall (5th & Market), walk north on 5th Street until it turns left and becomes Pearl Street. In less than 500 feet the entrance – a stairwell – will be on your right. (6-minute walk)

Beginning in the center of Rutgers campus, walk north for two minutes until you come upon a smorgasbord of uptight bureaucratic CYA signs and a stairway covered in barbed wire. Proceed up the stairs – despite DRPA’s best efforts to discourage you.

Finally, coming from North Camden (5th & Elm), take 5th Street south into the 5th Street pedestrian tunnel then turn right toward the stairway entrance.

camden-side.jpg

South walkway entrance, Camden side

And remember:

“D.R.P.A. PROHIBITS:

  • INLINE SKATES
  • ROLLER BLADES
  • SKATE BOARDS
  • MOTORIZED VEHICLES

ON PEDESTRIAN WALKWAY”

4 thoughts on “How and where to access the Ben Franklin Bridge walkways

  1. Six yrs ago I had a very rough time walking my fully loaded bike down the stairs into Camden. Had to unload and make two trips down the stairs. I’m planning another trip thru there in September. Will I find any easier than last time?

  2. Hi my name is Sharon, my father passed away and he was cremated as he wished to be. His other wish was for his aches to be speared through out the Delaware River on this Labor day 2018. He wanted my self and his granddaughter to do it on the Ben Franklin Bridge. I don’t know the appropriate times. Could you please email them to me at: sharondoe5248@gmail.com
    Thankyou

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