Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dancing with the Devil

In May 2011 the Philadelphia City Council tried to force a bill through that would have allowed the Philadelphia City Council to have final decision on new bicycle lanes on a case-by-case basis. Taking it out of the hands traffic engineers who have the experience and training and leaving it the hands of a group of people who will base their decision on what will get them reelected.

The Philadelphia City Council introduced this bill just before the Labor Day weekend and the hearing was held the day the Labor Day weekend. In an effort to get the bill passed while avoiding any input from the public. It didn't work. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia mobilized its supporters though the use of Twitter and Facebook. So the City Council changed the hearing time from late afternoon to early afternoon. When that didn't work the City Council prevented people from speaking by claiming they were supporters of the BCGP and therefore not part of the general public. And yet in spite of all of this the bill was stopped in its tracks.

This May the Philadelphia City Council presented the same bill, using the same methods. But something changed, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia caved in. Proclaiming it “a bill we can live with”. Sure Alex Doty, the BCGP's Executive Director, will claim he negotiated a complete streets bill, which would finally address cars parking in bicycle lanes.  Initially scheduled for a hearing on June 14, it was placed on hold due to problems with the city budget, with the BCGP's fervent hope that the bill would be passed by September or October of this year.

So here we are in the beginning October with no sign of any further news on this groundbreaking safe streets bill. Well the BCGP in a recent blog post plans to update their volunteers  pending City Council legislation which may have a large impact on bicycling in Philadelphia.”. I would have been more comfortable with “a positive change” or “significant improvement”. The question that should be asked is, by allowing the Philadelphia City Council's bill to pass uncontested the BCGP have no guarantee that the safe streets bill is not watered down or more conditions favorable to the Philadelphia City Council are attached to it.

The vast majority of the cyclists in Philadelphia that the BCGP claims to speak and act on their behalf. The ones who are not local volunteers or generous suburban donors will just have to wait until they deign us with the information. The members Philadelphia City Council have made repeated attempts to politicize bicycling and infrastructure in Philadelphia and now the BCGP has enabled this behavior. The BCGP thinks they may be managing the situation however if you dance with the devil, the devil doesn't change, the devil changes you.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Parking Day 2012

On Friday, September 21 I spent part of my day roaming through Philadelphia checking out many of the Park(ing) Day creations. Park(ing) Day was first created in San Francisco where parking spaces were converted into temporary one-day parks. It has since spread to many major cities around the world. As I travelled around Philadelphia I had a chance to stop at many of the parks. Most of them fell into a standard format; hay bales or trees used to form a barricade to separate traffic from the park long with shrubs and/or shrubs. In some cases grass, gravel or wood chips was used to cover the pavement.

There was one stand out park created by Groundswell Design Group; they repurposed a parking space using an ordinary item to create an extraordinary experience. They took a standard steel shipping container cleaned it, repainted the interior and the exterior, planted a green roof on top of it using wild flowers, and hung works of art by a local artist. Creating a mini portable art gallery; complete with interior lighting and two benches so you could sit and enjoy them.

The Groundswell Design Group unique design made it visible from a distance, but left you asking yourself what it was so you needed to see it. With both ends open it allowed for plenty of natural light and air circulation. And at the same time the container blocked out the noise and exhaust from the street.
I would like to put forward a challenge to the planners and the 2013 participants. Plan something that is more than a park. How about the Temple or University of Pennsylvania theatre departments doing 5 minute abridged performances of great plays, area dance companies could create multiple short performance pieces to be choreographed to fit into a parking space. Or how about the local Burning Man group, Videogasm, creating a truly unique structure.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cranksgiving Philadelphia 2012 is coming

Back again for another year its the 2nd Annual Cranksgiving Ride, a mix of a bicycle racing, a trip to the supermaket, and street navigation. First held in New York City in 1999 by a group of bicycle messengers it has spread throughout America as other people have planned their own.

Cranksgiving requires participants to navigate from a starting point at Love Park to a series of designated supermarkets, you buy a food item from a shopping list and bring them to a final checkpoint at Tattooed Moms. All of the food collected is donated to a local food bank, in Philadelphia all of the food collected goes to Philabundace.

All you need is a bicycle, a lock, a backpack or messenger bag, and $15.00 to buy groceries with. You may need a map if you're not to familiar with Philadelphia or bring a a partner who is. There is no entry fee. In 2011 with 13 riders Cranksgiving Philadelphiag collected close to 200 pounds of food, from the look of their Facebook page they should easily double the amount collected.

Last year the organizers answered some questions about what inspired them to create the Cranksgiving Philadelphia and what they learned. Use this link to find out more about them and Cranksgiving.