Everyone wants safe streets—but too many people refuse to see things from the other vehicle's perspective.
Maybe we should reconsider parts of a Philadelphia bill proposed back in 2009 that would have required all area bicyclists to register their bikes and get license plates, just like cars. Sure, that’s a huge paradigm shift; it adds more bureaucratic fuss to people’s lives, and it begs the question of how to handle bicyclists visiting from out of town. That bill correctly died when it was originally proposed—but it may have been a good start.
Philadelphia does have a vision of its bicycling future. By 2020—presuming the city, nation and planet all successfully dodge the numerous possible apocalypse scenarios—the city’s Transportation and Utilities Department hopes that at least 5 percent of residents will commute by bicycle at least three days a week, which would theoretically mean less congestion and a “greener” city. The department is also projecting a 50 percent decline in fatalities and injuries as the Greater Philadelphia network of bicycle lanes is finished—including expansion of the Schuylkill Banks trail and a new one along the Delaware River. And the city’s master streets plan calls for areas like the Navy Yard and parts of North Philadelphia become more amenable to bicyclists by 2035.
That’s part of why the Coalition was so enthusiastic about last year’s Complete Streets Bill—which also requires the city to consider the “comprehensive and integrated transportation network,” including bicycles, when undertaking any more of that years-long construction we’re all so used to. There’s more, too, documented in the city’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan, a 106-page document available at phila.gov.
Stu Bykofsky doesn’t believe any of it. “I will plant a kiss on the lips of anyone who still maintains we get to five percent [of people bicycling by 2020] … Absent something like a transit strike or gasoline going to $6 a gallon, it ain’t going to happen.” He adds: “I never pay attention to plans that go beyond my lifetime. Fuck that. I won’t be here, and plans in Philadelphia are like raindrops during a storm.”
Stu’s hate kisses notwithstanding, trends suggest bike use will indeed continue to grow as urban development makes neighborhoods more crowded and as the Complete Streets bill’s plans—specifically the repaving and building of city streets with cyclists in mind—go through.
And yet when it comes to skepticism about government planning, Bykofsky’s not just yelling at clouds. The original plan was to have the bill’s build-out ready for 2020—but, as the Bicycle Coalition’s John Boyle admits, the city is “not on pace to do that.”
I only know this: with more bicyclists hitting Philly’s pavement—this year’s Naked Bike Ride attendance alone should give a hint as to how many of us there really are—and the city accommodating their rides, the long-term answer is probably going to come from all of us—drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians—taking a bit more responsibility for ourselves.
And not acting like a bunch of dicks.
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PW's Summer Guide 2015