Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Response to Philadelphia Weekly's Bicycling Article

Randy LoBasso’s thoughtful Philly Weekly cover story, “Why disrespect festers between city bicyclists & drivers,” does a good job of considering the many conflicting pressures brought to bear on Philly streets. He gives space to a wide spectrum of viewpoints, some of which we agree with. We want to respond to some notable issues raised in the article.

One thing we appreciate about the column is that it reflects the many reasons why some people break traffic laws while bicycling. Education, enforcement, and safety all play into it. Think Philadelphians need to behave better in our streets? Philadelphia needs to tackle all three.
  1. Education: emphasize bicycling laws in driver's ed classes. Give pamphlets explaining bike laws to everyone renewing their driver's license or buying a bicycle.
  2. Enforcement: laws are only guidelines if they aren't enforced. We support equitable, uniform, and persistent enforcement from the police and the PPA on cars, bikes, and pedestrians.
  3. Safety: Randy underplayed (for our taste) the importance of separated infrastructure and Complete Streets policies. Let's build a safer city.
Other big things
  • We emphasize extreme behavior and forget good behavior. Drunk bicycling, or biking while on your cell phone? Memorable and stupid. Check the comment section on Randy’s column: everyone has a ready anecdote. Remember those 500 cars and bicycles you saw coexisting calmly last week? No? Exactly. 
  • Not all bicyclists are young white men. Randy is right: bicycling is becoming less of a club and more of a mainstream form of transportation. As such, our mental picture of what a bicyclist looks like, and why he or she is bicycling, must change. We can start with Philly Weekly cover images.
Small things
  • Stat correction: There is no published data on bicycle deaths in 2013, but to our knowledge there have not been five people killed on bicycles in Philly in 2013. There were five bicyclists killed between May 2012 and May 2013 in the Delaware Valley.  
  • Stat correction: The Pine and Spruce bike lanes cut down CAR crashes by 44%, not bike crashes. It's even better news than Randy thought. Traffic calming FTW!
  • More effort than reported: Randy mentions the Give Respect, Get Respect campaign, but not this year's PSA campaign or the police Center City traffic crackdown. It's still not enough, but it's better than the article makes it seem.
  • Reporters: stop calling them accidents! There are very few bike accidents. There are mostly just bike crashes. An accident is when a tree limb falls on a car. A crash is what happens when someone’s at fault. If "80 percent of bicycle accidents are the fault of the driver," are they accidents? No. You don't want, through your word choice, to be telling the family of a person killed by a hit and run driver that his or her death was "an accident."
  • Stu Bykofsky: Where to start? We'll start and end here: Stu questions our data, and also boasts that he cites our data. Pick one.
  • Bike registration. Randy wrote about the 2009 bill and that "it may have been a good start." Bike registration doesn't work, it's unaffordable and unenforceable, it's a waste of all the things. The bike registration legislation was not a good start. It died an appropriate and justified death.
Sorry, one more Stu, because we can't help it: “I never pay attention to plans that go beyond my lifetime. F*ck that. I won’t be here…” This is the “me first, last, and only” attitude that causes these problems in our streets. Changing a city doesn't happen overnight. If the only solutions we support are stopgap, we won't get very far.