Thursday, January 22, 2015

"We Are Traffic" - Movie Review

”We are Traffic” Ted White Director, 50 minutes

Before there were Bike Parties, Slow Rolls, and Full Moon Rides. There was Critical Mass.  Like all of these current rides Critical Mass was never a protest. They rode with the slogan of “We aren’t blocking traffic, we are traffic”.

The Critical Mass rides were “the perfect combination of do what you want, but be a nice person”. It was an opportunity for cyclists “to experience what it is to be the majority. To experience what it is like to be safe and surrounded by other cyclists. That’s what Critical Mass is”.

The documentary film “We Are Traffic” tells the story of the of the first Critical Mass rides and the growing pains that came with it. Through interviews with many of the original organizers you’ll find out how the idea behind Critical Mass evolved. You’ll see how they announced the rides in era before the internet, how they handled riding in traffic, and dealing with participants who were more interested in confrontation.

“We Are Traffic” also covers what happens when the media, police and local government officials decide that Critical Mass is a protest and may border on civil unrest. The backlash that occurs, local government’s attempt to co-opt Critical Mass for their own needs, and Critical Mass regaining control.

If you participate in any kind of social group ride, like Kidical Mass Philly, the Philly Tweed, Ride, some variation on a bike party. Then “We Are Traffic”  is the movie for you, it will give an understanding about how social group rides were established and the thought process that goes into creating them. For others who think Critical Mass rides are nothing more than a protest designed to disrupt traffic this will be an education.

Uploaded to by the director, Ted White you can watch it free of charge at the link below.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

2014 - A year in review

Social Rides
The social ride scene in Philadelphia still mystifies me. There are several rides now with consistent schedules; Take Your Time Bike Rides, Philly Bike Party, and the Philly Full Moon Bike Ride. The question seems to be whether the ridership is going to grow? Take the Baltimore Bike Party; its first ride had 50 riders and within a few months it had grown to hundreds and in some cases thousands of riders. While this many riders creates its own specific challenges, it still leaves me wondering why Philadelphia residents and college students seem to be uninterested in any type of social ride.

Velodrome - Just another 6000 seat stadium
One announcement that drew some attention was the intent to build a velodrome in Philadelphia. A world class indoor  facility that could be used by Olympic athletes. There are two slight problems. First the developers behind this project have to raise 100 million dollars and they have pledged to do this with any government funding. Second, they will make it a profitable business.

As much as I would love to have an all weather velodrome in the heart Philadelphia. Lets face it a velodrome is never going to be profitable. Fortunately the developers have a back up plan. The velodrome will also be able to function as a 6000 seat concert venue. So is this really a group of altruistic developers who want to build a world class velodrome? Or this this just an attempt to open another 6000 seat arena? I’m not betting on altruism.

Mayors Bicycle Advocacy Board - All racing all the time
Mayor Nutter in attempt make Philadelphia bicycle friendly city created a Bicycle Advisory Board. The BAB team’s job is to find ways to promote cycling within Philadelphia to residents and businesses. While promoting cycling to the residents and business owners of Philadelphia all very well and good, the backgrounds members of the board say other wise and is more focused on the other goal; Their other goal is “to create, market, and promote national and international cycling races in Philadelphia to attract the finest and most highly-rated bicycle riders to compete in our City, including supporting and raising funds for the annual Philly Bicycling Classic.”

Eleven of the board members of are involved in racing and three in advocacy. The final BAB member is the most questionable of the group, Lisa Nutter, Mayor Nutter’s wife. It appears nepotism abounds in forming the BAB team. 

Given the high ratio of BAB members involved with racing and the utter lack of people representing the average cyclist in Philadelphia its is clear that the BAB’s primary mission will be promoting racing. Anything beyond racing I’ll wait to see how effective they really will be.

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia scores a trifecta
The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has had a year to be thankful for. The Safe Streets bill has become an albatross around their neck equal to the story of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. This year the BCGP scored a trifecta.

1. Bicycle Lanes vs Bill Greenlee
Remember when the BCGP thought that giving the Philadelphia City Council final decision making authority for the installation of new bike lanes would not cause any problems? So did we. ( It didn’t take long for Councilman At Large Bill Greenlee to decide that that would be no bike lane would be installed along 6 blocks of 22nd St. Why? Because he said so. And there is nothing that can be done to change this thanks to the BCGP’s agreement with the Philadelphia City Council.

2. #Unblockbikelanes = #QuestionableResults
Then there is the #unblockbikelanes. The idea was that people could tweet the Philadelphia Parking Authority cars that were parked in bike lanes. In return the PPA would step up ticketing of these vehicles. Unfortunately that has not be  en the case.

In the first quarter ( the PPA wrote close to same number of tickets on 2013 as in 2014. So the BCGP leaped into action and talked to the PPA and the number of tickets issued by 96% over 2013 in the second quarter ( Fortunately the PPA counterbalanced this offset by issuing 20% fewer tickets ( in the third quarter of 2014 compared to 2013. I expect the fourth quarter numbers to be equally dismal.

Some have even joked that the #unblockbikelanes is some sort of bizarre drinking game. This is yet another example the BCGP negotiating a deal that lacks any protection if either party fails to uphold the agreement.

3. Getting less bang for the buck 
The final element of the trifecta was the $100,000 ( spent to create ten artistic bike racks of questionable value. Lets hope that in 2015 the BCGP will be willing to raise half that for ordinary bikes racks of real benefit.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Scofflaw Cyclist Survey

Attention scofflaw cyclist. Yes you the one riding the bike. Do I have a survey for you. 

Here is your chance to help Dr. Wes Marshall of the University of Colorado Denver. The survey is part of a larger study intending to better understand our transportation system and what factors might correlate with different behavior patterns.

Its just too bad that Dr. Marshall has to label the survey the “Scofflaw Biking Survey”. Instead of “A Survey Cyclist Riding Habits” Dr. Marshall chose a provocative title that leads one to question his objectivity.

So please take the time to fill out the survey. The more data Dr. Marshall has the harder it will be to prove that cyclists are scofflaws.