Thursday, August 25, 2016

"Tradition is the illusion of permanence."

Philadelphia is full of traditions. Cheesesteaks, throwing snowballs at Santa Claus, Mummers parading drunk and assaulting people, and parking in the median along South Broad St. Parking on the median started in 1916 and became an entrenched entitlement since the end of WWII when car ownership became more common. It’s also been against the law to park in the median since 1916. But like most traffic laws in Philadelphia getting the Philadelphia Parking Authority or the police to enforce traffic laws, let alone on a consistent basis is a near impossibility. But all of that appears to be changing, sort of.

During the closure of Center City streets during the 2015 Papal visit by Pope Francis it gave city government the opportunity to see if there was a demand for Open Streets events. As well as how exactly it might work. Now thanks to the 2016 Democratic National Convention we might see the end of parking on the median on south Broad St.

During the convention the city enforced the existing no parking policy regarding the Broad St. median. In order to allow protesters to move safely down Broad St. Shortly thereafter a petition was circulated by 5th Square online that drew over 1000 signatures from Philadelphia residents living in the area of South Broad St.

It was just announced that in a meeting a few weeks ago between Mayor Kenney and various city agencies that the PPA is going to start ticketing the most egregious offenders. Those parked in crosswalks and turn lanes. But anything more than that has been dumped back into a leaderless solution that “that any other changes should be community-driven.” Good luck with that, all it takes is small vocal minority to stop change in Philadelphia.

While I would like to say that this recent news has brought signs of a light at the end of the tunnel, the reality is no one has turned on the light. Let’s remember that the likelihood of the PPA doing any ticketing, let alone even moderate enforcement is highly unlikely. This is the same PPA that has barely ticketed cars parked in bike lanes and gives the appearance that it has been become nothing more than a drinking game for the PPA.

Unfortunately Mayor Kenney has engaged in foot dragging that Philadelphia politicians are notorious for, when dealing with traditions that only benefit a small minority of people who reside in Philadelphia. That has come in the form of his comments about how this change should be community driven. A true source of frustration when you realize that this is the same Mayor Kenney who eliminated the long held practice of parking in the City Hall apron. As well as taking on City Council and PAC’s (Political Action Committees) who spent over three million fighting the soda tax.

Keeping the median clear on the southern end of Broad St. Will make it easier for emergency vehicles like the police and fire departments to move along Broad St. safely and effectively. It will eliminate the risk of collisions when people enter and exit their cars or attempting to cross a high speed road when accessing a car parked along the median.

But all of this requires leadership from Mayor Kenney and related city agencies. Something that is lacking.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

200th Post

It seems not that long ago in 2011 when I first started writing this journal. All to often people have wondered why I do this.
The respect of my peers?
Adulation of the masses?
Free stuff from bicycle companies?
Dating Victoria's Secret models?

I only wish it had been as simple as one of those items on the list. The main reason was that I felt there was a lack of an independent voice for the Philadelphia cycling scene. In 2009 there were two voices for cycling; opinion writer Stu Bykofsky and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

On the one hand you had Stu Bykofsky a local opinion writer and grumpy old man. Who on regular basis writes anti-bike columns based on half truths and masquerading his personal opinion as facts. On the other there was the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia whose focus on long term visions and insider negotiating practices often left Philadelphia cyclists hold the short end of the stick. When bad deals were negotiated with the city of Philadelphia government or Mr. Bykofsky. With no one questioning the actions of either party or any expectation of  accountability.

Along the way I have seen the Philadelphia cycling scene change and evolve. Bicycle lanes have become part of Philadelphia in a unique way. In the past people used to yell at me to get off the road, now they yell at me to get into the bicycle lane. Even when there is none.

Group rides have increased and evolved from the Pretzel Ride, to several different rides a month, all year round. Annual rides like Cranksgivng and the Tweed Ride have become the highlight of the year. There have even been large scale rides like the 2015 PopeRide and the 2016 RideDNC that have have had attracted over 1000 riders.

Philadelphia still has a lot of work to do, there are things that need to change and be improved. One of the most pressing issues is to undo the deal the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia made with Philadelphia City Council. In which for return for a Safe Streets bill the BCGP allowed the City Council passed a bill giving them final control of the installation of all new bike lanes in Philadelphia. Decisions like this should be left in the hands of city engineers, not a group of politicians who are only interested in getting reelected.

I also feel that it is time to expand the bike lane infrastructure with actual bike lanes, not sharrows. As well as maintain the existing system. If you take the time to ride many of the bike lanes outside of Center City you will see that they have faded away to the point where you can’t tell there was ever a bike lane.

One of the things that I am intrigued by is Mayor Kenney and his actual commitment to Vision Zero and Open Streets. For those of us who did not flee Philadelphia during the 2015 Papal visit, Popen Streets and the PopeRide was an experience to remember. It created an unofficial opportunity to see how Philadelphia and its residents would react to future events, led to a petition asking for Open Streets events, and on September 24 the first Open Streets event will be held in Philadelphia.

While I sense there is some growing change in the cycling scene now that City of Philadelphia government seems more receptive to listening concerns of residents who walk and bike. I am still skeptical about how major issues will be addressed.