It seems that yet again when it comes to bicycle infrastructure in Philadelphia we have been we have been subjected to the Machiavellian manipulations of yet another duplicitous member of Philadelphia’s City Council. This time it was Councilman Kenyatta Johnson when he wrote a letter against the creation of a protected bicycle lane on Lombard St. That letter will put an end to any attempt at restarting this project, ever.
Keep in mind that the “protected lane” was going to be nothing more than plastic delineator posts and as @bikemamadelphia on Twitter stated; “Flexi-posts are like the press on nails of bike infrastructure”. Easy to install and equally easy for cars to tear them off the road.
So how did we arrive at this situation? Part of this was the process that Councilman Johnson and his office used to make sure they got the results they wanted. First they solicited opinions from the public on this matter and then further narrowed the field by only counting those comments from people within his district. Which resulted in 100 phone calls and e-mails being counted, 80 were against and 20 were in favor of the bike lane. Seems pretty cut and dried, at least on the surface. The problem is that the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia submitted 217 comments they collected; 91 were within Councilman Johnson’s district and 87 of those were in support of a protected bike lane. So now it was 80 against and 107 in favor of the protected bike lane. Not so cut and dried any more.
So how were these additional pro bike lane comments ignored? Simple, according Councilman Johnson’s Communication Director; “The ones reported to me were “direct comments,” explained Johnson’s communications director, Kaitlyn Manasterski. The 80 percent opposed were “among the immediate neighbors who contacted us.” This is the equivalent of overturning the results of an election, by disqualifying absentee ballots because they were mailed in and not submitted in person.
This brings us back to a larger issue, that being the bad deal the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia made with Philadelphia City Council a few years ago. The one where in exchange for a safe streets bill the BCGP agreed to let members of the City Council have the ability to veto any new bike lanes. Without cause or reason. This is not the first time this deal has bit cyclists in the ass and it won’t be the last.
I wish I could say I was completely surprised by how this played out. I saw Councilman Johnson’s multiple appearances at various meetings for the Schuylkill River Trail Watch. He made a lot of promises and did not deliver on any of them.
At the end of the day it is clear to me that Councilman Johnson and his staff had predetermined agenda when it came to the protected bicycle lane on Lombard St.
They rigged the public opinion process to get a result they wanted. The used Councilmanic privilege to ensure that any future attempt to reopen this conversation will never happen. At the end of the day Councilman Johnson has strengthened my opinion that Philadelphia’s City Council is nothing more than a Council of Con Men.