Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Year 2012 In Bicycle Legislation

Sometimes it feels like we spent most of 2012 staring up at the gilded ceiling of the Philadelphia City Council chambers. Fortunately we have some accomplishments to show for our efforts. In both Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, we achieved notable legislative successes this year, made all the more heartening by the sometimes-daunting political and budgetary climates bicycling advocates faced in 2012.


Philadelphia and Pennsylvania took several big steps this year towards making future pedestrian and bicycle trips safer and more pleasant:

  • City Council passed the Complete Streets Bill, which Mayor Nutter is expected to sign in the upcoming weeks. This bill, which we discussed here at length, will make Philadelphia's streets safer for all users by requiring new considerations during the design and construction phase. It also updated the traffic code, which we are hopeful will lead to better and more equitable enforcement of traffic violations committed by bicyclists and drivers.
  • Philadelphia passed the 50 foot buffer rule, protecting waterways from development that builds right to the water's edge. Besides safeguarding water from pollution and contamination, this buffer also helps safeguard public access to waterfronts. Future parks and paths will be facilitated by this piece of legislation.
  • In July, Pennsylvania closed the hit-and-run loophole. This loophole had created the perverse incentive, for drunk drivers who had struck and killed a pedestrian or bicyclist, to flee the scene and sober up before reporting themselves to the police.
  • In the silver linings category, we were able to soften the regressive impact of the bike lane ordinance bill the Philadelphia City Council passed in May. City Council sought oversight and approval power over the installation of new bike lanes. While we were not able to defeat the bill, we were able to reach a compromise with its sponsor, Councilman Greenlee, which softened its impact on our streets. Now Council approval is only needed for bike lanes which remove travel or parking lanes, and the City can run pilot lanes without obtaining Council approval. If the bill was the proverbial rain on our parade, we were able to hastily build a tent over the grandstand and give rain slickers to the children. (Right? Right.)
  • We are part of a new coordinated lobbying effort aiming to ensure that Pennsylvania and New Jersey preserve funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects. This is in response to changes in funding on the national level, and while the jury remains out on the long-term impact of the changes, you will hear the play by play if you stick with us in the new year.

A big thank you is due to everyone who spoke out for better legislation in 2012. Thousands of you called or e-mailed a Councilperson, a Representative, or other elected official; you signed petitions and attended meetings; you voted with your feet and dollars by using trails and bike lanes and buying related products. The most persuasive argument for bicycle-friendly legislation is that people from all districts and walks of life support that legislation, and are paying attention. Thank you for the roles you played, and we hope to see you back on the field in 2013.