Friday, February 9, 2018

Liar, Liar Pants on Fire #2



With the start of a new year, it didn’t take long for Philadelphia City Councilwoman Janine Blackwell to create more lies about the protected bike lane on Chestnut St. In the February 2018 issue of Philadelphia Magazine, page 140, in an interview when asked “If I could have vetoed one piece of legislation, it would have been…” Responded with “the bike lanes on on Chestnut St. between 45th and 34. People feel different ways about it. You’ve lost a driving lane; there a parking issues. It’s a big problem. But the bikers love it.”

To say that I am shocked and surprised by this statement would be a lie on my part. Lets remember this is the same Councilwoman Blackwell who announced at the ribbon cutting for the Chestnut St. protected bike lane that the bike lane would now be considered a pilot test and subject to removal in 90 days. Although 90 days have passed, the threat still remains.


What I find appalling is the deafening silence in response to her statement. It was Councilwoman Blackwell who sponsored and signed the ordinance that led to the creation of the Chestnut St. Bike Lane. There are several players involved in this who seem to be enabling this lie.

First there is Philadelphia Magazine writer Victor Fiorilli and the magazines fact checkers who somehow failed to double check this statement. One would think that being media professionals that they would be capable of finding out Councilwoman Blackwell sponsored the ordinance for the creation of the Chestnut St. protected bike lane.

Then there is the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. Not a single Tweet, post to social media or article on their blog. This failure to respond should come as no surprise. For years the BCGP has been trying to be political insiders which has led to failures including the #unblockbikelanes campaign and giving control of all new bike lane installation to Philadelphia City Council. While the paint on bike lanes in Philadelphia have faded away to nothing and new bike lanes have been blocked by Council members over “neighborhood concerns”. The BCGP has refused to organize any kind of protest or rally. Instead they are focusing their attention on the suburbs and “completing the circuit.

In between the statement by Councilwoman Blackwell, Philadelphia Magazine's failure to fact check their interview, and the silence from the BCGP it’s hard to say who the worst hypocrite is. Given the fact that we currently have a President who took office with the lie of having the largest attendance at his inauguration to his most recent lie of having the most viewers for his State of the Union. It is no surprise that Councilwoman Blackwell has not been called out for the liar that she is. At a time in American history when accountability is no longer part of doing your job.

Friday, December 29, 2017

My 2018 New Years Resolution

Although it’s not the new year I have decided to announce my New Year’s resolution. Starting in 2018 I will no longer sign petitions, send e-mails to local government officials, or attend meetings regarding bicycle infrastructure. Over the years the cycling community in Philadelphia has been far to acquiescent in how infrastructure and policy is implemented.  

In 2009, Philadelphia Mayor Nutter installed bike lanes. Since then I have watched one failure after another when it comes to any maintenance or expansion in the current cycling infrastructure. Even after the death of Emily Fredricks the city managed to botch repainting of parts of Spruce St.

In 2011 The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia gave Philadelphia City Council control over all new bike lanes in exchange for a nebulous Safe Streets bill. Which has led to Councilman Bill Greenlee blocking a bike lane on 22nd St due to “neighborhood concerns”. This Summer Councilman Kenyatta Johnson blocked a bike lane on Lombard St due to “neighborhood concerns”. On August 29, at the ribbon cutting for the protected bike lane on Chestnut St., Councilwoman Janine Blackwell announced that the lane may be removed due to, you guessed it………..”neighborhood concerns”.

It is time to create new solutions that don’t require the involvement of 5th Square and the BCGP with their failed and flawed methods. While 5th Square and the BCGP have made attempts to influence policy through the use of surveys, data, and asking people to send e-mails to local government officials. They have not affected the level of change needed in Philadelphia, let alone even basic maintenance of existing infrastructure.
So what will I support?


I will support rides, rallies, and protests. It’s time to stop asking nicely and time to start demanding. It’s time to make sure that our voices are heard in the public space and not hidden in meetings and backroom deals.


I will support an initiative like the one in London, England. In 2014 the city of London installed a series of bicycle superhighways and there was a serious backlash against them. Instead of trying to educate an uncaring public, a campaign was started to get the support business owners with an emphasis on CEO’s and Presidents. 180 companies signed on to this campaign. The kind of companies and executives who can influence city policy far more effectively than the average person can.




These are my New Year’s resolutions.

Monday, December 4, 2017

So, now what?



On Tuesday, November 29, 2017, Emily Fredricks was killed while riding her bike. She was in a bike lane and had a green light when a Gold Medal Environmental garbage truck made a right hand turn and ran her over. A maneuver that is commonly referred to as a “right hook”, which often occurs when a driver fails to check for a cyclist on their right hand side and/or the cyclist is the vehicle's blind spot.


While other cyclists have been killed on the streets of Philadelphia something different happened this time, the Philadelphia cycling community coalesced and took action. 100 people participated in a human protected bike lane, a memorial bike ride was led by 75 cyclists, individuals went out and restriped parts of the Spruce St. bike lane, and transformed bike lane logos.


As cyclists in Philadelphia we face a molehill that has become a mountain when it comes to cycling infrastructure. Many of the bike lane markings that were installed during Mayor Nutter’s administration have faded away with no plans to maintain them.


In 2012 the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia allowed Philadelphia City Council to pass an ordinance that gave them final decision making authority over the installation of bicycle lanes, calling it “a bill we can live with”. In exchange for a Safe Streets bill that failed to benefit anyone. This bill resulted in Bill Greenlee and Kenyatta Johnson preventing bike lanes from being installed. As well as allowing Councilwoman Blackwell to declare the new Chestnut St protected bike lane a pilot and subject to being removed. All under the claims of “neighborhood concerns”. All without a single public meeting.


Then there is Mayor Jim Kenney. During his campaign he promised to install 30 miles of protected, now 2 years into his term of office there is no sign from the Mayor’s office of any plans. To make this possible Philadelphia received $550,000 in federal grants a year ago. Money that is being held hostage by Councilmen Darrell Clarke and Mark Squilla. A problem that has been compounded by oTIS, Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems. Who after a year to develop a plan for protected bike lanes recently stated  “ On Thursday afternoon, OTIS officials said they have yet to create a design or official proposal for protected bike lanes along the streets, and they did not guarantee that they would ever do so.” (LINK)


Then there is the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. For the past ten years the BCGP’s approach of working the system from the inside, education, and concentrating on long term goals has compounded these problems. While giving up their public advocacy chops, one of the more recent examples of this was when Councilman Kenyatta Johnson would not approve a bike lane on Lombard St. Johnson Made this decision by cherry picking emails that backed his claims of “neighborhood concerns” without a single public meeting. The BCGP’s response was nothing, no rallies or protests were held. This is just one such example over the years.


Then there was the BCGP’s summer “Bike Nice” campaign. In which posters were put up around Philadelphia chiding cyclists to wear helmets, ring bells, and stop at signs. A campaign that was designed to placate public perception about dangerous cyclists was nothing more than a slap in the face to cyclists. As it failed to address issues like cyclists using the lane and drivers parking in bike lanes.


There are signs that the reluctance to act in Philadelphia cycling advocates is changing. There are discussions about holding more rides to protest bike lanes blocked by cars and additional human protected bike lanes. There are rumors that the organizers of CycleScenePHL (LINK) are going to form a new cycling advocacy group, one that may be more focused on public actions.


So what can we as cyclists do to effect change in Philadelphia? We are going to have to do more than Tweet and post to social media. It means going to meetings at City Council and Civic Associations, getting on the board of Civic Associations, participating in future public actions like rides and human protected bike lanes, and if possible financial support of any advocacy group besides the BCGP.


We can be the force of change in Philadelphia, but we can’t sit back and count on the actions of a small group of individuals. Everyone must make an effort to participate to make a positive change for all.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Final Countdown



It was a rainy day on Tuesday, August 29, 2017 for the ribbon cutting of the new protected bike lane on Chestnut St and Philadelphia and City Councilwoman Janine Blackwell chose to rain on the ceremony. When she announced that the lane would operate for 90 day trial basis, which could result in the removal of the bike lane. The same lane Blackwell signed an ordinance to make it permanent

So where do we stand? Since that time the promised community meeting to get public input has not happened. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has engaged in another e-mail campaign, which failed to work with Councilman Kenyatta Johnson when he used councilmanic privilege to prevent a bike lane in his district. Otherwise, little if any, public pressure has been applied.

The process and design of the Chestnut St. protected bike lane was part of the problem. It took six years to get the lane installed and approved. So long that the community approval part of the process had to be repeated. In order to use the lane one has to cross from one side of Chestnut to the other. Not a safe process given the speed some people drive at on Chestnut. Then there is the problem of the traffic lanes narrowing from three lanes to two and no signs alerting drivers.

On Wednesday, November 29, 2017, 90 days will have passed and the final test will come. Thanks to a deal with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia (https://philadelphiabicyclejournal.blogspot.com/2012/09/dancing-with-devil.html) , Philadelphia City Council has final approval on all bike lanes that remove parking or a lane of traffic. Which means that Councilwoman Blackwell has the ability to overturn her own ordinance that made the Chestnut St. bike lane permanent. It won’t matter how many e-mails Councilwoman Blackwell receives supporting  the bike lane or what the BCGP’s study data reveals. All that will matter is Councilwoman Blackwell’s nebulous claims about lack of community support.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Bluster, Bluff, Lie

On Tuesday, October 17 Merilyn Jackson became the story, instead of her writing about it. For those you who are not familiar with Ms. Jackson’s work she is an occasional theatre and dance reviewer at the Philly Inquirer and other media outlets. You know the type, this who can do those who can’t review those who can do.

First came the bluff.
It all started with a single and now deleted tweet by self described “hyper liberal” Merilyn Jackson (https://twitter.com/Merilynjune).

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A tweet taken by many in the cycling community as a threat to kill cyclists. When most people confronted with their own tweets they generally have the common sense to not make matters worse. Clearly this is not the case with hyper liberals, who use the same playbook as Donald Trump. Even when Ms. Jackson’s additional tweets about ageism and ableism were debunked with actual facts, she engaged in bluster.

The Bluster.
First off, if you are woman color you need not fear Ms. Jackson when she gets behind the wheel of her 2000 pound murder weapon.
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Or how the poor are to lazy to work and therefore do not need cars.
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It seems that Ms. Jackson doesn’t want to actually kill cyclists because her daughter is a “well known expert class mountain biker”.

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If anyone can figure out who her daughter is let me know. I’m curious if this just another lie Ms. Jackson told to bolster credibility.

The Lie.
But need not worry at the end of the day Ms. Jackson issued a non-apology apology. You see it wasn’t her fault, it was her sassy mouth.

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This is not Ms. Jackson’s first entree into the Trumpian world of denial and deflection. Take her reaction to an architectural review by Inga Saffron.
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When Ms. Saffron pointed she was wrong.
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Ms Jackson’s response was classic Trump deflection. She chose to double down and dig the hole that she was in even deeper.
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There is a larger problem at work, how do you deal with someone who has an irrational belief like Ms. Jackson? Actual facts and studies have no influence, taking them for a bike ride is never going to change anything, neither will talking to them get past the world of denial they live in. Subjecting them to public ridicule or shame just makes them feel they are either a victim or, worse yet, taking a heroic stand.

I’m not sure what the answer is, but letting this sort of behavior go unchallenged is just as bad. The best answer I can think of is every person will have something that they feel works best for themselves and that is the choice they must make. I chose to write about it.