Friday, July 22, 2011

Philadelphia Smug Alert


In a recent article in the Daily Inquirer about how the Philadelphia Police Department was stepping up the enforcement side of the “Give Respect, Get Respect”. It stated that 590 cyclists had been issued warnings for violating traffic laws. This has brought on a severe case of smugness from two cycling advocacy groups.

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia; in a recent post on their blog took issue that the Philadelphia police had a disproportionate response of cars to bicyclists:
  • Bicyclists - 590 warnings issued, 3 moving violations and 7 Code Violation Notices (CVNs) for riding on the sidewalk
  • Motorists - 116 warning issued, 37 moving violations and 50 CVS for distracted driving
If the BCGP had actually taken the time to read the brochures that were part of the campaign, they would have noticed that the Driver Guide is designed to teach drivers about being alert for bicyclists and pedestrians. Automobile drivers already know what will happen if they run red lights and stop signs. The Bicycle Guide teaches cyclists that they have to follow the same traffic laws as cars and riding on sidewalks or against traffic is illegal.
The other case of smugness comes from the soon to be former Executive Director of Neighborhood Bike Works Catherine "Kitty" Heite. Who posted on Monday, July 18 on their Facebook page a response of: “interesting... Glad to know NBW already focuses on teaching the youth what their responsibilities as cyclists are”, to the article in the Daily Inquirer. While ignoring a fundraiser held for NBW, The Works Volume 1, on May 14, 2011. An Alley Cat with prizes based on speed and how many points you accrue on the course. How do you complete an Alley Cat race quickly? By running red lights, stops signs, and breaking any traffic law that comes to mind. This is an oxymoron, raising money by breaking traffic laws to teach children to ride safely. Its moments like this when you understand why Neighborhood Bike Works is looking for a new Executive Director.
The Philadelphia Police Department has shown admirable restraint in educating cyclists about traffic laws and how it applies to them. 590 warnings is more than ample and if some cyclists still don’t understand then I am sure a $120.00 ticket will.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Safety first, unless it costs to much - Lights

Over the years as a cyclist I have seen a lot of change, one of the most visible changes has been in lights for riding at night. Gone are the days when you needed bulky battery packs or generators, thanks to LED technology lights can be run on watch batteries for months. You can even get solar powered lights. My personal favorites are Monkey Electric which can create effects as seen in the picture above

Back in the early 90's I was bike commuting in a city that was not used to cyclists on the roads, especially at night. Reflectors and a reflective vest were simply not enough, especially when it came to city buses that would practically blow me off the road. A local bicycle shop had a new product on the market a rear strobing taillight that had three LED lights, ran on two double AA batteries, could clip on to my back pack and could be seen from a half a mile. Immediately after I started using it cars and busses gave me plenty of clearance when they passed and I could ride safer than ever at night.

Today these lights, often referred to as “blinkies” come in a wide range of sizes and prices, you can pick up basic lights on the internet for as a little as $5.00 and for about $20 you can outfit yourself with front and rear lights. On a recent night ride through Philadelphia I found that having front strobe was a big benefit when dealing with cars that were turning into traffic head of me.

Yet when I drive through Philadelphia at night I have to exercise a lot more caution in the areas of the Temple University and Penn. State Campuses. The number of college students who don't use night lights combined with the propensity many of them have for running red lights without even slowing down is staggering. Worse yet is the “I can't afford one” mentality, one student that I spoke told me how they ride day and night but they couldn't afford to by a rear blinky. You can easily one if you’re willing to brown bag your lunch or get coffee instead of cappuccino for a few days.

The twenty dollars you may spend on lights is going to cost you far less money than a trip to an emergency room if a car hits you. Also it’s a lot harder for a driver to claim they couldn't see you with a couple few strobes on your bikes.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Breakaway Bikes & Bicycle Rentals

 Since 2006 Breakaway Bikes has been running a bicycle rental operation at its summer location at Lloyd Hall, which city government received 30% of all rental fees. A proposed expansion by Breakaway Bikes owner Glenn Krotick would have added 3 additional locations at Schuylkill Banks, along the Wissahickon, and one near Valley Green.  Rather than work with the existing vendor the city of Philadelphia canceled the contract without notice and required a new bid.

Of the two companies that applied one was rejected as unacceptable and the other, Breakaway Bikes was rejected because of a bureaucratic technicality. When Breakaway Bikes submitted their bid they signed the cover letter with black ink, which the city later claimed they could not tell the difference between the original and the eight copies that were required. When a new cover letter was submitted, Breakaway Bikes bid was rejected because the original cover letter and the second one did not match. To add insult to injury when Breakaway Bikes asked for the return of the $5000.00 performance bond from 2006 they City of Philadelphia denied there was one. When proof was provided city government claimed that this was a security deposit that would be returned once the rental shack was removed. Something that Breakaway Bikes has opted not to do as a protest, if it were my business I would remove the shack, get my $5000.00 back and sell or donate the shack to a non-for profit to recoup any costs.

I have a great deal of sympathy for Breakaway Bikes and Glenn Krotick. It’s not easy working to make an idea successful and then have someone step in and take everything away just because they can.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bike In Movie - Quicksilver

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is following up on its highly successful Bike In Movie in June when they screened Breaking Away to an audience of over 130 people and one dog. On Wednesday, July 6 they will be screening Quicksilver, staring Kevin Bacon.

I would like to commend the BCGP for continuing this effort and I hope that this will become an annual summer event. The BCGP made a tremendous effort to promote the screening of Breaking Away,

This time the BCGP has elected to use stealth marketing. Instead of following the concept of, if you build it they will come. They have tried as hard as possible to not let anyone know about the movie. There is nothing posted on the homepage of the website, the BCGP blog, or Twitter, even the Facebook page has a vague reference. Only if you click on the events link of the BCGP Facebook page can you find out the name of the movie and where it is being screened.

So what would I do?

This should be prominently featured on their Facebook page, BCGP website, blog, and Twitter page. Don't assume that only your membership is going to be interested in this screening. Avoid planning any event so close to a major holiday weekend; there is a very strong probability that your attendance is going to be smaller than normal since many people will take advantage of the long holiday weekend. Wait a week; your attendance will be better.