Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Oh, NO!!

There is a new ordinance that has been introduced to the Philadelphia City Council sponsored by City Councilman at Large David Oh. On the surface this bill is nothing more than an ineffective gesture to deal with cars and trucks parking in bike lanes.

By raising the fines from $50 in Philadelphia and $75 in Center City to $200 in Philadelphia and $300 in Center City. The problem is that the bill has no language in it to address the abysmal lack of enforcement on the part of the Philadelphia Parking Authority. The reason for this is that the PPA is run by the state government, so it is not accountable to city government.

It is the first part of the bill that has far darker and much more serious implications.

(2) Persons riding bicycles on roads without designated bicycle lanes shall share the road and not impede the normal and reasonable movement of vehicle traffic.
* * *
When the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia contacted Councilman Oh for a definition of “impeding” his response was:

“Not impede is in the ordinance already. I’ve simply taken that language and I take it to mean if a road has a specific speed limit — such as 35 or 40 miles an hour, or 25 — those are meant for vehicles that can go that rate of speed. Typically: cars, motorcycles maybe. So, a bicycle that cannot go that speed should share the road and move over so cars can continue to go in that direction.”

This is a very vague and dangerous definition, police could easily pull over cyclists on the grounds of impeding traffic. Then use it as an opportunity to stop, search, and question anyone they consider suspicious. Without probable cause.

And if you think it can’t happen here then take a look at when the Tampa, FL Police started writing tickets to hundreds of people using archaic laws relating to bicycles.

Councilman Oh’s bill is a return to 2009 when the Philadelphia City Council attempted to pass punitive legislation against cyclists. Like $1000 fines for running stop signs and confiscating “brakeless”, fixed gear bikes. With Indego having reached 100,00 rides in two months since its launch and the growing number of cyclists in and around Philadelphia. this potential bill is not just a big step backwards. It creates the potential for future legal problems for the City of Philadelphia. 

The Bicycle Coalition has stated that, "we do not support this bill as written”. At the Philadelphia Bicycle Journal I do not support this bill at all, no matter how many times it is rewritten.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Dear #unblockbikelanes

Dear #unblockbikelanes,

Its not me it’s you. At first our relationship was magical and full of promise. But then we started to have our ups and downs. I understand that the sole purpose of our relationship was to create a database of parking violation hotspots of cars parking in bike lanes. But what is the point in creating a database if you have no plans to use it to improve enforcement?

Actual enforcement has been a real problem, with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia stating that enforcement has been “mixed and inconsistent””. It's been most poignant when in the 2nd quarter of 2014  96% more tickets issued compared to 2013. However in the 3rd quarter 2014 20% fewer tickets than in 2013.

Posting to Twitter is a cumbersome process. You have to take a picture, add the address, and then post the tweet. Then to add to the frustration that if you want to see a map with all of the hotspots compiled in one spot you have to make one yourself. Or hope the PPA will do it, which will only happen when it benefits the PPA. So locations of hotspots is not readily available or easily accessed.

There is a better solution, Tow It, Using the camera in your smartphone all it takes is one click and the App does all the work. It posts the picture, logs the location with your phone's built in GPS, and then adds the location to an open source map. A map that anyone can view through the Map It website, whether or not if they use the Tow It App. This means that the PPA can longer hide the data on hotspots behind a wall of bureaucracy. Anyone can see for themselves where the hotspots are.

Don’t think of this as breakup #unblockbikelanes. Instead we are just uncoupling.