Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Schuylkill River Trail Safety Alert - July 26, 2017

Safety Alert 7/26/2017

Good afternoon All,
Town Watch Integrated Services (TWIS) wants to alert you to 2 incidents that happened on the Schuylkill river trail.
  1. Occurred on 7/19/17 - on the trail near Race St. a group of teens muscled away a bike from someone:
  2. Occurred on 7/23 - two teens snatched an IPhone and ear buds from a jogger on the trail near 25th St.
We ask for you all to be safe when using the trail and remember report anything that you observe that is suspicious behavior to you. You are all the eyes and ears of the trail.
I would also ask again that you patrol in pairs and let us know when you your using the trail so we can continue to coordinate your activity. Remember if its suspicious report it to 311 and TWIS.
Thank You for your vigilance & cooperation

** If you know of someone who wishes to volunteer as a Town Watch member contact me at

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

License to Fail

It seems that every so often people insist that cyclists need to be licensed and insured, like car drivers and their vehicles. This sort of thinking is often an emotional response when car drivers feel threatened by a change in or enforcement of existing laws. With 5th Squares recent lawsuit to have the city enforce existing laws regarding parking on the Broad St. median has brought this issue to the attention of the usual collection of kooks.

Usually this consists of small groups of individuals who claim that cyclists are the most dangerous vehicles on the road. Why? Because they said so. Even video evidence that shows car drivers are statistically more likely to do so is dismissed with unsubstantiated claims of how cyclists run red lights and stop signs. So I thought it was time to delve into this matter and see how past attempts to license cyclists has worked.

The lack of bicycle insurance similar to car insurance is easily answered. A bicycle can easily be insured for its replacement cost through a standard renters or homeowners insurance. And let’s face it, just how much damage other than a dent can a bicycle do to a car in a collision.  

There is the economic feasibility of offering bicycle insurance similar to car insurance. Since the cost of replacing a damaged bicycle is far lower than that of a car, it would not be cost effective for insurance companies to create policies. Given the very low premiums they would have to charge. The bottom line is that if insurance companies thought they could profit from this they would have offered this type of insurance for cyclists a long time ago.

So now we are going to explore the reasons why licensing bicycles and their operators has never worked.
There are three reasons why bicycle licensing fails.
1. The challenge of licensing children, since they ride bikes too
2. The difficulty of keeping a database complete and current
3. Licensing in and of itself does not change the behavior of cyclists or motor vehicle operators who are disobeying traffic laws.
Let’s start with number 1;  The of licensing children, given that they ride bikes too. How old does one have to be to have a license? What about people who don’t live in Philadelphia, but do ride their bikes in the city or tourists. Will they be required to get a bicycle license?

Then there is issue number 2; The difficulty in keeping a database complete and current. You are going to have to hire people to create and maintain a rather large database. Combined with the cost of doing so. Computer servers, employees, office space, and the materials needed to create a physical license all cost money and that is going to have to come from somewhere. A number of cities have tried this and failed due to cost and manpower. Seattle, WA is a particular poignant example of how this is not as easy as it sounds.

San Diego, CA: (2012) “The city’s Fire Rescue and Police departments reported the licensing program has drawn virtually no revenue for any city department over the last three years.” (1)
Long Beach, CA: (2011)The cost to administer the bicycle license program greatly exceeded its revenue. (2)
Los Angeles, CA: (2008)“Currently LAPD lacks the resources in staffing and funding to implement and maintain the program in the manner it was designed. A lack of fiscal procedures exist to purchase and distribute licenses to the public, monitor and maintain the citywide database, and an overall lack of personnel to properly implement the program. (3)
San Jose, CA: (2008) An audit revealed that in 2008–2009 the city collected $636 in bike license fees.“ Program was cancelled in 2013 (4)
Seattle, WA: (2008) Seattle has over 500,000 bicycles in the city and found maintenance of the project difficult due to the required cost of record keeping and police manpower required to maintain the program.
Houston, TX: (2008) “About 100 were actually registered. Since people move around so much, even those who registered their bikes had outdated data, and finding the owners if the bike was stolen and recovered was usually impossible.” (5)
Ottawa, Canada: Ottawa estimated that a bicycle registration program would cost $100,000 a year but only bring in $40,000 in revenue. (6)

Number 3, is something we see in the news every week; Licensing in and of itself does not change the behaviour of cyclists who are disobeying traffic laws. How many times do we read about or see on TV hit and runs where the driver is never caught? Or even when they are caught it does nothing to reduce the chances of it happening again.

At the end of the day I do not need a license for a police officer to write me a ticket as a cyclist. Any more than pedestrians need a walking license to be ticketed for jaywalking. If cyclists truly are the law breakers that some would believe, riding through the streets of Philadelphia with reckless abandon. Then the most effective solution is actual enforcement on the part of the police. Until that happens in a manner that involves equal enforcement and education of all vehicle operators then it will be business as usual in Philadelphia.

Monday, July 17, 2017

An interview with Alexandria Schneider; Queen of Philly's Mass Rides

On September 26 & 27, 2015 Pope Francis came to Philadelphia as part of the World Meeting of Families, which included an outdoor mass on September 27. In order to facilitate an estimated 1 million pedestrians ability to move freely, a 4.7 square mile area of Philadelphia was closed to motor vehicles. It was announced months in advance so everyone could prepare.

About two months before that weekend an event appeared on Facebook, the PopeRide on Saturday, September 26.  The PopeRide was going to follow a route through the the closed section of Philadelphia to celebrate car free streets. Organized by Alexandria Schneider, she thought that this ride was going to be her and a few dozen friends.

On the day of the ride 1500 people had signed up on Facebook and the belief was a third to half would show up. However on Saturday morning more and more people started showing up, far more than anticipated. The final count was 3000 participants. Since then, not a summer has gone by where Ms. Schneider has not held a large scale ride through the streets of Philadelphia. This year is no different.

Ms Schneider took a few moments out of her schedule to give an interview for the Philadelphia Bicycle Journal.

Prior to the PopeRide had you ever done anything like this before?
Nope!  I'd biked with friends, but that was it.  

What was your reaction at the PopeRide when you found out 3000 people showed up?
Honestly, I was exhausted from the ride the night before, but when I got the call saying that 3000 people were at the start line, I went straight to a MASSIVE adrenaline high and didn't come down until about 8PM that night!  

What was your inspiration for this ride (Cycle en Couleur)?
For this ride?  Maria and I had been talking about good-naturedly teasing Diner en Blanc for a while, but I was stuck on single-color rides.  Roulante en Rouge came and went, Bike in Blue was a flop, but then Maria brought up Cycle en Colour, and it stuck!  

How much time does it take to put together a ride like this?
It depends on a few factors, but generally a week or so to kick around and firm up the ride concept with co-organizers, maybe an hour or two to draw up the route, and then a few hours a week in the lead-up weeks for prep, like pulling materials together, and promoting.

What are some of the key things you have to plan for when creating large scale rides?
The biggest thing is "location, location, location".  You need to find a starting location that's big enough for a potentially huge group, make a route that's fun and has nice views but has enough safe street space for a bike mass, and find an ending location that gives people space to stay if they want to, but can leave easily.  

When you're not planning a ride what else do you do?
My day job is in IT, and when I'm not doing that or riding, I love baking, shooting sports, cooking, gaming, and listening to music.  

Every time you hold a ride you have perfect weather and a massive turn out. What is your secret? Do you make an offering to Taranis, God of the wheel and if you do, what is it? (
Well, I've had one ride that didn't have those, Byko's Safe Bike Ride, but that wasn't supposed to be massive.  But either way, I legitimately have no clue.  I DO obsessively refresh Weather Underground and yell at the sky beforehand though.  I also don't say the word for that thing that falls from the sky during a storm before a ride.  For theatre folks, I treat it like you treat the name of The Scottish Play :P

Cycle en Couleur - Thursday, August 17, 2017

Didn’t win the lottery for Diner en Blanc?

Don’t feel like buying white clothes just for a meal, but want an excuse to get dressed up?

Don’t have a spare table and chairs to eat outdoors, but still want to enjoy a picnic with friends?

Then get ready for Cycle en Couleur.

A summer in Philadelphia would not be complete without the Queen of the mass rides, Alexandra Schneider, and her partner in social enhancement, Maria Serrahima (organizer of the Philly Naked Bike Ride) are holding another summer ride to remember. This summer it will be Cycle en Couleur. A celebration of Philadelphia’s spirit of openness and showcasing the city at dusk, highlighting community and inclusiveness with style.  

Styled after Diner en Blanc, but without the exclusivity and fussiness that comes with it. Cycle en Couleur (CeC) is envisioned as a 'spring fling' in late summer and encourages all kinds of colorful clothing. Attendees should feel free to wear whatever color they like and if the spirit moves them, to dress up.That purple suit? The banana-yellow dress? The powder-blue tux (with obligatory ruffles)? The red blouse with green tights? That outfit that you bought once, and haven’t worn again? Now you have a reason to wear them.

Departing the steps of the Art Museum on Thursday, August 17, 2017 at 7pm, Cycle en Couleur will wind its way through Philadelphia. In the spirit of the evening, the ending location is being kept a secret. Bikes, skates, skate boards, scooters, sneakers, all are welcome. If it's human-powered and you can keep up, you're welcome! Just like the PopeRide and RideDNC this will be a leisurely paced ride. Music will be provided courtesy of bike-towed speakers, and flashing lights, glow sticks, and decorations are officially encouraged!  

I have been fortunate enough to ride in the 2015 PopeRide which had 3000 cyclists and the 2016 RideDNC with 1500 cyclists. For those of you who have never done either of these rides this one not to be missed. For those of you have, bring your friends. This is the type of ride you will be telling your friends and family about long after summer has passed.

If you need more information or would like to share fashion tips on how to dress for the Cycle en Couleur, go to the event’s Facebook page,