Monday, August 27, 2012

Circus of Fools

Once again it's time for the annual Circus of Fools or as its commonly known the Philadelphia Naked Bike Ride (PBNR), part of the World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR). Normally held on Labor Day weekend, but due to the Jay Z concert was pushed back to Saturday, August 25.

There are many mysteries surrounding the PBNR and since they have been historically reticent about talking to anyone, except for the limited information their website. Its time to insert some thoughts of my own since PBNR does not speak for itself.

In July they held a bikini bike wash and sold PBNR blinkies raise funds. The question that needs to be asked is, why? PBNR does not explain why they need this money; permits, security, port-a-potties, body paint?? If your going to raise funds to cover expenses you need to be clear about what your spending it on. Since the organizers have yet to be up front about any of the costs associated one has to ask, how much do they really need and how are they spending it?

The WNBR website states that the rides in this part of the world are normally held around June 9, but for some reason the Philadelphia organizers are focused on Labor Day weekend. I do get it; if you plan the ride you should have control over the date. But I believe that the Philadelphia organizers have a simpler motive. In the early 1970's streaking had a brief moment of popularity, it was a way to rebel against current culture. Holding the ride close to Labor Day ensures that the there are plenty of college students available to inflate the numbers on the ride. For college students this is just one big dare, riding naked through Philadelphia, without risk of arrest or public harassment. If the ride was held in June the number of riders would be smaller as the majority of the college students have gone home for the summer.

The last question that has to be asked is, why no fundraising to benefit Philadelphia residents? Every year organizers provide an overly generous, undocumented, and unverifiable count of the participants; this year they put the count at 2000. Yet the only organization that seems to benefit are the local bars that surround the Piazza at Schmidt’s, one in particular is PYT. It's really tragic at the very least the organizers could pass a helmet for donations, $1 per person. Give the money to a local organization that does something to help the residents of Philadelphia under the nebulous goals of the PNBR.

Bottom line; if you want go out and have party with your friends participate in one of the Philly Bike Party's rides. If you want to make change go out and volunteer your time or donate money. The Philadelphia Naked Bike Ride is the equivalent of clicking “like” on Facebook, it may give you a warm fuzzy feeling but in reality you have done nothing to facilitate positive change.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I'm ready for my close up Mr. DeMille

Cyclists who are using helmet video cameras to document their rides and to provide documentation in the event that they are hit are becoming more common. Recently the New York Times published an article about how cyclists are using video cameras as a way to document their rides as well as act as a black box. So in the event that they are hit by a car it is possible to retrieve information that may allow the police to arrest and prosecute a hit and run driver. The article gives several examples of incidents that happened in a blink of an eye, but with the ability to view a video frame by frame its easier to identify the vehicle and the driver.

This subject has been heavily covered in many bicycling blogs throughout the country and I saw no real need to add my voice. Until I saw this video, shot by an ordinary person, not in law enforcement, who has a dashboard camera in his car.

With the price and size of cameras coming down a simple Google search under “helmet camera” will provide many options. Some smaller than the bulky Gopro camera featured in the New York Times.

Whether its a cyclist or or a third party video is one of the best witnesses you can have in a hit and run; it can't be intimidated, lie, or forget. No matter how quickly something may happen, even in the blink of an eye like the videos in the New York Times, a video can be viewed frame by frame to get details you may have never have seen. Something that will make the difference between the police declaring something an accident and pursuing the driver of a hit and run. Making you a witness, not a victim.

Monday, August 6, 2012

At least they got quotes

In 2011 the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia annual Ride to Work day featured a group ride to City Hall with such elected luminaries as Mayor Michael Nutter, Congressmen Chaka Fattah and Bob Brady. Regrettably the BCGP memorialized this glorious event with an inspiring quote from Congressman Bob Brady; “he could get used to this whole bicycling thing, provided it always came with a bottle of water and a police escort”. It comments like this that make commuting by bicycle sound as safe walking through Philadelphia at night with $100 bills in each hand.

After taking the BCGP to task for this in this blog post it appears that they read it and did better this year. This year the BCGP blog post was filled with quotes from Mayor Michael Nutter. This time they had all sorts of wonderful quotes that included media friendly comments about cars parking bicycle lanes, Philadelphia as a city for cyclists, and bike lanes. This is a good beginning for the BCGP.

So what would I do?
I would like to see the BCGP raise the bar in 2013 for Bike to Work Day. Making bicycle commuting more friendly to the average person, something beyond a one day public relations stunt. How about the occasional profile of Philadelphia area bicycle commuters? New York City's Transportation Alternatives has been doing this for years in their quarterly magazine. Many of the people have commuted long before it was fashionable or even considered normal, and have unique jobs that are within the mainstream. They all manage to do quite well even though they don't have tattoos or wear spandex.