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.

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