Saturday, March 31, 2018

Philadelphia Social Rides - 2018

With spring and the return of warm temperatures not that far off, people
will be dusting off their bicycles from there long winters hibernation.
For those of you looking for rides that are shorter, leisurely, and about
socializing this is the current list of social rides in Philadelphia.

Social rides in Philadelphia are often 10 to 15 miles long, with no drops,
often involve a final destination where you can eat, drink and
make new friends. Some of the rides listed are monthly,
while others are seasonal/annual.

The Philly Full Moon Ride has been going strong since 2013. Each ride is
held on the full moon of every month, 12 months a year. This ride departs
from the Art Museum stairs and is a night ride.

This is the second iteration of the Philly Bike Party. The organizers have
been very consistent about holding monthly rides and usually work with
some kind of theme. Most of the rides depart from the Art Museum stairs
with occasional departures from The Porch at 30th St. Station and
Love Park. It is a night ride.

Taco Tuesday Ride PHL -
Taco Tuesday is the newest ride to Philadelphia. A group of cyclists
attempted to revive the Midnight Pretzel Ride only to find that the
bakery had changed its hours. So they created the Taco Tuesday ride.
Held monthly the Taco Tuesday Ride goes to various restaurants to
eat tacos. This ride departs from the Art Museum stairs and is a night ride.

Night Cycle Philadelphia -
A night ride that departs from the Philadelphia Museum of Art and final
stop at a local bar.

The PMA Bike Ride delivers pizza to those in need who may be
living on the streets.

Cycle Scene PHL has brought many of the local rides together
to create a singular resource. It is also where you can find mass
rides planned by Alexandria Schnieder. Past rides organized by
Ms. Schnieder have included; The PopeRide, RideDNC, and
Cycle en Color. All of these rides have drawn over 1000 cyclists per ride.

Attracting an average of 100 participants, the Philly Tweed Ride is a time
machine back to 1900’s in England. Tweed and vintage bikes abound,
along with modern takes on a period look. A ride through Philadelphia
with a stop for a picnic and post ride drinks and awards that include,
best dressed, best mustache, and best bike. Held in the fall,
this is a leisurely ride.

Philly Seersucker Vintage Ride & Social -
The Seersucker Social is a springtime ride with a 1920’s American vibe.
Just like the Tweed Ride this a very well dressed crowd wearing vintage
and vintage looking clothing.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Change is hard, excuses are easy.

On Saturday, March 17 the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia held a
Vision Zero Conference and I did not attend. I chose not to sit through yet
another conference listening to experts and activists talk about what should
be and could be. Or worse yet, politicians making empty promises or
excuses for why they have failed to take any action.

I was truly angry and frustrated with this paraphrased statement attributed to
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.

Change is hard, making excuses is easy and Mayor Kenney has really good one above.
When Kenney ran for the office he made two commitments that I was very impressed by,
“Stolen Sidewalks” and 30 miles of protected bike lanes.

In Philadelphia when buildings are being constructed or renovated the sidewalks are
often blocked off to pedestrian traffic with no safe alternative. For decades in
New York City this issue has been dealt with the creation of “sheds” scaffolding
running the length of the sidewalk with a roof on it to prevent construction debris
from falling on pedestrians. As part of Kenney’s campaign he committed to ending the
practice of stolen sidewalks. Two years later nothing has changed.

Kenney’s other campaign commitment was to build 30 miles of protected bike
lanes during his four year term. So far we only have two miles, along with multiple
attempts to install unprotected bike lanes shut down due to Councilmanic claims of
“neighborhood concerns”. Kenney’s announcement of two five block long protected
bike lanes along JFK Blvd. and Market St. should have been greeted with derisive
response of “this is the best you have to offer after two years??!!”

It does not matter how many posts on social media Mayor Kenney reads, his apology
for not making change as fast has have we wanted was misleading. Mayor Kenney
has deliberately withheld several million dollars in grants to improve bike lane safety,
claiming the money does not exist. He should be apologizing for deliberately refusing
to make changes, making him complicit.

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.