Following up on his promise to cast a skeptical eye on the city's bike-lane report, DN columnist Stu Bykofsky yesterday cast, well, a skeptical eye on the city's bike-lane report.
Maybe "jaundiced" is more descriptive of how it turned out, because Stu essentially tarred the "pro-bike lane" report as fraudulent, for several stated reasons.
For one, he took issue with the city accepting numbers from the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, which Stu believes is "like letting a defense attorney buy the jury lunch." For another, he was aghast that the city did not count cars at key intersections during rush hour.
Either of these might very well be valid concerns (see below on the Bicycle Coalition one), but in his signature style, Stu pushed it all further. He implied sinister motives in the timing and placement of the report's release. He pronounced bikes to be "dangerous" -- apparently unlike, say, cars. He focused on supposedly damning details, such as that "most bikers are male" (wait, I thought you were on our side, Stu!) and that "83 percent of Philadelphians who commute by bike live within a four-mile radius of City Hall. In other words, walking distance."
Four miles is a walkable commute? From Front Street to West Philly? From Broad and Oregon to Temple University? That's not one I'd want to undertake twice daily unless I had all the time in the world and was in need of a simple fitness regimen.
At any rate, Alex Doty of the Bicycle Coalition responded with a letter that will run in next week's paper, but he (and the Letters Editor) agreed, when I called him for comment, that I could cite it here. It follows after the jump.
Alex Doty's response:
Stu Bykofsky suggests that relying on “car and bike numbers” from the Bicycle Coalition is like “letting a defense attorney buy the jury lunch.” It’s a distracting lead-in to criticism of a report in which all of the data was collected by the Streets Department. But even more disconcerting is that the first two statistics Stu chooses to attribute to the Bicycle Coalition are actually from the U.S. Census Bureau. Only when he reaches the statistic for sidewalk riding does he reach a statistic generated by the Bicycle Coalition’s counts. We would welcome the presence of an impartial authority conducting regular bike and pedestrian counts in Philadelphia but until that day comes, our counts fill a void. And the latest Census Bureau survey backs up the integrity of our data: the 104% increase in bicycling that our counts documented from 2005 to 2008 was mirrored by a 97% increase in bicycling documented over the same time period in Philadelphia by the federal government.
Stu is right that the point is not to build separated bike lanes for the people who currently commute by bike. The new lanes were built for the much larger number of people who might bike instead of driving if they felt more comfortable and safer riding in the street. And the Coalition's counts found that they work: not only did bicycling go up 97% in the few weeks after the bike lanes on Spruce and Pine were installed but sidewalk riding dropped between 41 and 75 percent (depending on the intersection). So, the Streets Department found little to no impact on car travel times. The Bicycle Coalition found positive impacts for bikes and pedestrians. The only person who is convinced the new bike lanes are not working is the guy who can't get his facts straight.