Monday, January 9, 2017

Cycling year in review - 2016

With 2016 over and one with its time to look back at some the happenings that occurred in the Philadelphia cycle scene.

Byko’s Safe Bike Ride  
It finally happened, after years of Stu Bykofsky yammering on about all cyclists breaking the law and how useless cycling was as a form of transportation. Stu went for a real bike ride, Byko’s Safe Bike Ride, a charity fundraiser where everyone would obey the traffic laws.
While this was not the ride to change Stu Bykofsky, it was very fun participating in the first and last time Stu will ever engage the public. My favorite moment was on April 8th, 2016 ( post on the ride's Facebook page. When Stu implied that because the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia did not have any data to support his claim that all cyclists run red lights and stop signs. That the BCGP was trying to hide something. When asked why he could not perform his own survey and post the results his response was a classic case of denial, no one would accept the results.
One bad thing did come out of this ride. The BCGP made a deal with Stu and as usual the BCGP is on the losing side of the bargain. He would stop using the phrase pedalphille and the BCGP would stop calling him anti-bike. While I never like his use of the word pedalphile, it did make him look like a petulant child. Stu still remains anti-bike, you name it he’s against it and it's only  matter of time before Stu comes with new word to insult cyclists with.
After the ride was over and the weeks became months something changed about Stu Bykofsky wrote about. Normal Stu has has several got to subjects which you can expect multiple columns on, to the point of ad nauseum. Bicycles, sidewalk cafe seating, and the Mummers. Much to my surprise he has avoided writing any columns on these subjects, especially during the SEPTA strike. When I expected a rant to end all rants about cyclists. Instead nothing, not a murmur, a whisper, or a lie on Stu’s part.
I don’t know what 2017 will bring with Stu Bykofsky and columns. I remain skeptical that he can stay clear of his go to columns about bicycles, sidewalk cafe seating, and the Mummers for very long.

Ride of Silence
I have avoided the annual Ride of Silence in Philadelphia for years. It always looks like a bunch of MAMIL’s are out for a training ride. Rather than a low pace ride to draw attention to cyclists who have been hit and killed by people driving cars. The pace of the ride excludes slower riders and families with children. Combined with the police escort with flashing lights and blaring sirens that detracts and distracts from what the ride is about. As this ride has always been organized by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia I just assumed it was another example of the BCGP being out of touch with the cycling community of Philadelphia.
It turns out that this ride has been organized by a group of volunteers under the auspices of the BCGP, with only one slight problem. The BCGP has never provided any oversight for this event, effectively leaving these volunteers free to do whatever they want. Whether it reflects the intent of the ride or the message the BCGP wants to promote.
This is yet another example of the level of disconnect the BCGP has not only within its own organization. But also with the cycling community of Philadelphia that is evolving to include the voices advocates from Philly Kidical Mass. Who want to include their children and families into the Philly cycling scene.

Man blocks Bus
In May a cyclist was overtaken and passed by a SEPTA bus so close it almost hit him. This is not an uncommon occurrence in Philadelphia, this time however the cyclist took matters into his own hands by blocking the bus with his bicycle until the police arrived. The most frequent comments were along the lines of; he can’t block a bus like that, what if someone is going to the hospital or a job interview or he should have filed a complaint with SEPTA. There were problems with these theories, no one was being prevented from getting off the bus. As for SEPTA investigating, there is no way SEPTA would ever admit error, to do anything less would make them liable in a lawsuit. To say nothing about how 30 days earlier a cyclist was killed by a SEPTA bus driver when he “swerved” in front of the bus.
There was some very questionable behavior on the part of the driver. Despite the hour long delay and the police showing up, SEPTA had no idea that the bus was out of service. Until someone posted what happened on social media. Why didn’t the bus driver notify his dispatcher?

Ride DNC
Alexandria Schneider, organizer of the PopeRide, was back again with another huge ride. This time its was to celebrate the electoral process. Starting at the top of Broad St. and riding down to the Wells Fargo Center. With 200 people departing from the start for a ten mile ride, they were joined at the midpoint, City Hall, by another 1000 people. I’m not sure what opportunities will occur in 2017, but I look forward to the next large scale ride Ms. Schneider will plan.

Open Streets
In 2015 the shutdown of Center City for the Papal visit and the PopeRide proved to be the motivation for the city of Philadelphia to try its first Open Streets event. Where several miles of streets are closed to everything except pedestrians and human powered vehicles. The event was highly successful.
I did take issue to the way it was promoted, as 10 miles of car free streets. In reality it was three miles of car free streets. The other seven miles were the Schuylkill River Trail and Martin Luther King Blvd, both of which are closed to automotive during the day of Open Streets.
While I hope that this event is a sign of things to come. With multiple Open Streets events throughout the year in different locations. I remain skeptical that this will be anything more than a non-event. With very few miles actual car free streets, let alone a major street.

Mayor Kenney
Of course Philadelphia Mayor Kenney had some involvement this year in cycling and infrastructure development.
First up was the ban on parking cars in the median of South Broad St. With the Democratic National Convention in town and Broad St being designated as an official route for any marches or protests. In order to facilitate this all cars had to be removed from the median on South Broad St. This worked out so well that a petition circulated asking the Mayor to make this a permanent solution.
The problem is parking the South Broad St median is something of Catch 22. Parking on the South Broad St. median has always been against the law, but never enforced. It has become a Philly tradition that ranks right up there with throwing snowballs at Santa Klaus and drunk Mummers parading on New Year's Eve. Blocking the median has always been a safety hazard for traffic and people attempting to park their cars on the median.
Mayor Kenney had the perfect opportunity to make this a permanent solution until a small percentage of the Negadelphians decided that this tradition should be preserved. To the detriment of the community. At which point Mayor Kenney stated that this should be resolved at the local level, leaving the issue permanently unresolved. Its seems that when Mayor Kenney took on Big Soda which spent 3 million dollars to prevent the Soda Tax he was a man of great strength. But a couple of South Philly Negadelphian’s and he runs and hides like a frightened child.

Mayor Kenney was very slow on the uptake was his use of Twitter. Something that was readily apparent during the early days of the 2016 SEPTA strike occurred.

         Rather than have any level of sympathy for the hundreds of thousands of Philly residents and suburban commuters that the strike impacted. He instead chose to use what passes for humor in South Philly. Mayor Kenney has since learned the need for restraint and listening when he stated in an interview; “He said he’s had to learn to control his temper, listen without reacting, and stop tweeting, unless it’s positive. “Sometimes it’s time to grow up, it’s time to realize that your job is really important, that your own personal likes and dislikes are not germane to moving the city forward,” he said.”
My hope is not only will Mayor Kenney listen, but he will also act on what will benefit most Philadelphians. Instead of allowing their voices to be drowned out by a loud minority who want to hold Philadelphia and its residents back.
Of course 2016 wasn’t finished without a complete surprise. The 5th St. tunnel bike lane got delineator/flex posts and was proclaimed Philadelphia’s premiere protected bike lane.  That was until a few weeks ago when the DPRA (Delaware River Port Authority) removed them because winter is here and they need to plow the tunnel. Because in Philadelphia we get so little snow to begin with. But don’t worry the DPRA will put them back in April. Once again demonstrating that Philadelphia’s commitment to Vision Zero is optional and seasonal.

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