Monday, September 5, 2011

Chinatown and Bicycle Lanes

There has been an outbreak of NIMBYism in Chinatown. It appears no matter what is done to make Chinatown more accessible and create positive change there is a vocal minority seeking to maintain a status-quo. Instead of making an effort to benefit from these changes for the community and business they would rather impede and obfuscate.

A temporary bicycle lane from North 13th Street and South 10th Street between Market and Vine Streets has been created for a period of 3 to 6 months. A test to see if this is a viable location. It didn't take long for the standard list of excuses to surface, supported by the usual list of players from the private and public sectors.

First is 1st District City Council candidate Mark Squilla who suggested to Wilson Wan to organize a petition against the bike lane. This isn't the first time someone who is on the city council or running for city council has tried to go after bicycle lanes. Instead of doing their own dirty work, like DiCiccio and Greenlee, the ploy is to make this look like it is motivated by local citizens.

Next was Chinatown Watch Chairman Joe Eastman who feels that this is about city government dictating policy without taking any input from the community. When in reality his true concern was about; "This is a commercial area. If we lose any of these parking spaces, people will go somewhere else.” A sentiment also stated by Wilson Wan.

Last up is Jong Chin, who has owned a restaurant on Race Street since 1965 and Executive Director of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp. He is concerned that the bike lanes will make the streets too narrow for fire trucks as well as buses that pass frequently en-route to New York City.

What everything boils down to is three motivations; politics, safety, and commerce.

Politics – Mark Squilla is exploiting local residents on an issue that will have little impact on community and has become a tactic used by current city council members to get their names in the paper. At the same time they avoid dealing with any of the real quality of life issues their constituents face like unsafe schools, crime and the no snitching mentality. Bike lanes are just low hanging fruit that require no real commitment or effort and gets their names in the paper.

Safety – A very common tactic is to claim that bicycle lanes will impede the ability for emergency vehicles to navigate through the street. As if somehow cyclists will not get out of the way of an emergency vehicle with it's lights and sirens running. If anything cyclist can get out of the way faster and leave more room than a car. This was the same excuse made when a bicycle lane was installed in front of Thomas Jefferson Hospital and yet no emergency vehicles have been delayed from accessing the hospital.

Commerce – This is what it really boils down to. Fear that a bicycle lane will lower the revenue of area businesses by reducing parking. In a city like Philadelphia where the majority of its residents get around using public transportation and an increasing number of cyclists. I seriously doubt that the loss of a small number of parking spaces is going to have any effect on a restaurant, more likely is a lack of imagination.

So what would I do?
If I were a restaurant I would have weekly cyclist special, it is much easier for a cyclist to pull over and lock their bike easier than a car. As a cyclist I would hold an organized ride to Chinatown where every rider would go into a restaurant in Chinatown along the bike lane and have lunch. Calling ahead and making reservations if possible.

1 comment:

  1. I was at the Convention Center last year, and a lot of the conventioners headed to Chinatown for meals. Everyone marveled at all the bicycles parked outside the restaurants. It made us all want to move to Philly! Given the density of the area, and the lack of parking, it would seem logical to encourage bicycling. I would bet that a Bike Share program would be used by conventioners a lot to get around Chinatown and Center City.