Dear Bicyclists: Your Days of Brazenly Breaking Traffic Laws Are Numbered. Love, Philly

By Randy LoBasso
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 30 | Posted Sep. 26, 2012

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Before the year is over, the much-anticipated Complete Streets Bill, proposed in Council to increase safety for both bicyclists and drivers, will come up for a vote. Originally planned for a May showing, the bill, worked on in conjunction with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, was held due to the city budget debate that lasted throughout the spring. The group now says it’s hopeful for a vote by the end of the year.

Complete Streets, sponsored by Councilmembers Mark Squilla, Kenyatta Johnson, Blondell Reynolds-Brown and Jim Kenney, includes concessions and safety precautions for both cyclists and drivers. The legislation would impose a $100 fine on a bicyclist going through a red light; it would prohibit opening a car door into traffic (unless safe to do so); and would prohibit parking in bike lanes, which, if you take a look at, or at any bike lane in the city on any given day, is already a problem.

Currently, bicycle infractions elicit a $3 ticket. The $100 fine will bring Philadelphia up to Pennsylvania state law fine standards.

Bicyclists already aren’t allowed to go through red lights (or speak on cell phones, or ride on the sidewalk), just as motorists already aren’t allowed to park in bike lanes.

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia considers the bill a compromise. “We have been having productive meetings with the administration about [the bill],” says Sarah Clark Stuart, campaign director of the Bicycle Coalition. “We’re still waiting for what they come back with, then we have to meet with Councilman Squilla and we’ll know [what the final version will look like].”

As for possible amend- ments, Stuart notes the main policy changes—like the red light and car parking penalties—will not change, which probably means every single biker in the city will be prone to a ticket this fall. Last year, between May and October 2011 (during the mayor’s initial “Give Respect, Get Respect” campaign to foster friendly bicyclist-driver relations) 26 cyclists received citations in Center City, and 1,142 got warnings. It’s assumed those warnings will become tickets in 2013—but it’s really up to the police. “As far as enforcement, it falls to the police, so we’re at their mercy when it comes to that,” notes Sean McMonagle, Squilla’s legislative assistant.

Also part of the effort: The city is codifying its Complete Streets handbook, which provides rules of the road for Philadelphians. An edit of the manual is currently being vetted at public meetings and will play an integral part of the final bill—and future projects.

The handbook’s changes will ensure that upcoming street projects include mandatory accommodations for drivers, bikers and pedestrians; specifically, timing of traffic signals to minimize delay, promotion of an extended bicycle network through the city and discouraging potential obstructions when planning future street projects. “[The handbook change is] going to provide a pretty clear and transparent way for how those decisions get made and that’s going to help ensure the policy,” adds Stuart. “[The city’s streets] are going to look different and stronger.” 

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Comments 1 - 30 of 30
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1. Aaron said... on Sep 26, 2012 at 11:53AM

“As a cyclist (and driver) I absolutely object to the title and a lot of the "opinions" in the article. The goal of the law is to get bikes and cars to play nicely together, not to make the two wheeled folks seem like the worst people in the world.

Thanks for villainizing cyclists. Again.”

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2. Joseph said... on Sep 26, 2012 at 12:20PM

“I ride a bike and I'm 100% fine with this. What's the problem? We want to be taken seriously as vehicles on the road, and vehicles on the road have to follow rules. I don't think this article makes bikers sound horrible. It just talks about codifying laws against a bunch of shitty things that both bikers and car drivers do right now.”

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3. Don said... on Sep 26, 2012 at 12:21PM

“I see little changing. Common courtesy is a thing of the past. I have no problem with people who use bikes as their transportation. However, as a pedestrian my problem with most cyclists is their disregard for pedestrians in crosswalks who are crossing on a green light. Many cyclists are so busy trying to run the red light and are only looking to see if a car is coming that the nearly (or sometimes do) crash into pedestrians. And the few cyclists who do stop at the red light do so in the middle of the crosswalk (sometimes several at once), completely blocking it while having the audacity to feel their justified in doing so and expecting pedestrians to walk around them. If you want everyone to share the road, as a vehicle YOU MUST OBEY THE RULES OF THE ROAD.”

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4. Andrew said... on Sep 26, 2012 at 12:22PM

“People walking and riding bikes do brazenly ignore red lights. And people in cars do brazenly ignore parking rules and speed limits. It would be nice if the cops would do something about it. Not sure what relevance a fresh round of laws has on anything if there's no police enforcement of anyone, anywhere in the city.”

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5. Dave said... on Sep 26, 2012 at 12:40PM

“I take issue with the increased fines for cyclists. More should be done to create safer space for cyclists. Despite creating several biking lanes through-out the city, there is no enforcement. I constantly have to go around parked cars in the biking lane, but also am sitting BEHIND CARS THAT ARE DRIVING IN THE BIKING lane.

Until they do something about that, I will continue riding on the sidewalk to get around parked vehicles, I will also continue blowing through red lights. And I will happily sit and clog up the traffic violations court saying the same thing I am typing now and refuse to pay my ticket. I pay enough in Wage taxes, I should not have to fund this ridiculous bill with unjustified fines for a service which is not being delivered by the city.”

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6. Anonymous said... on Sep 26, 2012 at 02:05PM

“Dear "My Convenience is more important than your LIFE (park in bike lanes) set - apparently your days are numbered, too. Stay classy PW, you do realize that it's one of Mayor Nutters initiatives to make Philly one of the most bike friendly cities, right? You do realize that the infractions committed by cars in this city are more egregious than anything that 10x the current number of cyclists could possibly perpetrate, right? You realize that you're putting this article out on the heels of a study that shows that cyclists are way more courteous and behaved than anyone gives them credit for, right? I'm sure I'll start getting tickets for "stop as yield" as soon as cars do. I'm sure the cruiser that parks outside the 7/11 on 22nd in the bike lane will ticket himself, as soon as this law goes on the books.”

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7. Adam said... on Sep 26, 2012 at 02:17PM

“Dear "people who don't give me my 4 feet" -
I'm turning in the daily footage from my bike-cam to the PPD, so you all get cited.”

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8. D said... on Sep 26, 2012 at 04:21PM

“"Cyclists already aren’t allowed to go through red lights (or speak on cell phones, or ride on the sidewalk), just as motorists already aren’t allowed to park in bike lanes."

I will eat my goddamn shoe the day that SEPTA, cabs, delivery guys, moving trucks, loading trucks, Sunday morning church-goers, or anyone who feels like it, even the goddamn cops stop parking--or even driving--in the bike lane.

For a city with a parking authority so notorious that they have their own TV show, they sure as hell aren't ticketing a soul for this.”

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9. Anonymous said... on Sep 26, 2012 at 04:59PM


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10. BHons said... on Sep 26, 2012 at 08:03PM

“Seriously disappreciate the antagonistic title of this article. Though it serves as a wonderful example of skewed and negative feelings towards cyclists in general.

How about wrapping pedestrians in on this one too. How they simply ignore cyclists and cross as they please at (their) red lights. If pedestrians feel perturbed by cyclists in the cross walk, we feel equally perturbed when they feel it's appropriate to stand waiting the crossing light to change in the bike lane. Jay walking, likely a fact of life, I can live with but at least look where you're going. Cannot tell you how many times pedestrians step into the middle of the road and either don't look or literally look the other way as they cross. They do it with cars too.

Cyclists are not the biggest problem on the road. You're ignorant if you believe so. Truly it's cars that still need to see greater enforcement. It's a big adjustment but people have to start to realize that roads aren't just for cars.”

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11. Ray said... on Sep 26, 2012 at 08:03PM

“A typical day as a pedestrian in Center City.
Morning – encountering a bicyclist flying by on the Arch Street sidewalk in front of the Federal Detention Center, another bicyclist weaving in and out of pedestrians in front of the Convention Center on the Arch Street sidewalk, watching my highly educated co-worker bicycle northbound on 12th Street then blowing the red light and continuing to ride in the pedestrian cattle chute that is replacing the sidewalk in front of the new hotel construction at 12th & Arch.
Lunch – encountering bicyclists on the Filbert Street sidewalk in front of the Criminal Justice Center; said sidewalk literally crawling with police and nothing said or done. Almost get hit crossing on a green light by a bicyclist going southbound in the northbound brand-spanking-new 13th Street bicycle lane, again in full view of police and no action.
To be continued...”

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12. Ray said... on Sep 26, 2012 at 08:06PM

“As I was saying...
Evening rush - repeat the morning encounters and also throw in the DeTours Segways operated by first-time-user-tourists who have no business careening down a crowded sidewalk in Chinatown.
Later at night: Deal with bicyclists on the sidewalk at 11th & Market, next to the CVS, while a police patrol car is sitting there ostensibly to enforce some laws but the Officer is nose down in her smart phone, oblivious to anything going on.
Anytime day or night: dealing with ethnic Chinese and Mexican bicyclists who are unaware of the laws here, continuing to use the sidewalks right next to the brand spanking new bicycle lane on 10th Street, all over Chinatown, all over Franklin Square, and right in front of the 6th Police District at 11th & Vine.
I am not holding my breath for any real change in these behaviors.

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13. Philly_cyclist said... on Sep 27, 2012 at 08:36AM

“I will keep running red-lights. If I get a one ticket a year I'll be willing to pay it.

Cars ruin the city. We need more bikes and more public transportation options.

Philly Bike Coalition --- why are you acting like a $100 fine is okay? Half of the bikers on the road don't have $100 to spare.”

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14. Handsome Pete said... on Sep 27, 2012 at 01:05PM

“So all the Center City church-goers that clog up bike lanes on Sundays will be ticketed? I'm looking forward to this.”

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15. Philly_cyclist said... on Sep 27, 2012 at 02:21PM

“How are they going to hand out tickets to people who aren't carrying ID? You don't need a license to ride a bike.”

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16. Doug said... on Sep 27, 2012 at 02:31PM

“> How are they going to hand out tickets to people who aren't carrying ID? You don't need a license to ride a bike.

How do the police hand out tickets to pedestrians who don't cross at the light or litter or get plastered? You don't need a license to walk ...

Don't worry too much about it -- the police know how to deal with people who don't have to take IDs and can still give them citations if needed.”

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17. Pablo Skils said... on Sep 28, 2012 at 02:09AM

“It's not about stopping at signs or lights. It's about approaching junctions cautiously and respecting the right of way of pedestrians, cars and other cyclists. The stop sign/light road rules were designed for cars, and bicycles were not considered at the time of drafting. These rules need to change for cyclists. First, before that can be considered, cyclists MUST demonstrate respect for other road users. The message we must get across to city supervisors and MTA staff is that we are responsible road users, and if they do it our way there will be greater harmony and fewer accidents on the streets.”

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18. lw said... on Sep 28, 2012 at 12:32PM

“What a stupid title for this article. Seriously? Cops and regular drivers break more traffic laws and with MUCH more serious ramifications than bicyclists do. This city, like all cities in the U.S. is car-centric, it should be the opposite. How many times has a biker killed a driver?”

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19. Anonymous said... on Sep 28, 2012 at 01:56PM

“"Dear Randy LoBasso: You're a pompous jerk for giving your article this title. Love, Every Bicyclist in Philly." Not all bicyclists brazenly break traffic laws. Thanks for making sweeping generalizations. Now, happily move yourself back to New Jersey.”

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20. Anonymous said... on Sep 28, 2012 at 02:05PM

“Yes, as a courteous bicyclist who rides every day in the city, I find..well...things are a bit skewed against us. Very rarely do I ever receive anything resembling respect or mindfulness from drivers on the road. Just last night, a car in the opposing lane made a left, and I had to brake so hard to avoid a collision that I pretty much went sideways. I was in the bike lane. This is one of many situations just like it I have experienced. When it comes to sidewalks, sure, i use them. But I always make sure to move at a speed no greater than say, a jogger. The sidewalk is the domain of pedestrians, and they always get the right of way. Period. If anything a "speed limit" on cyclists on sidewalks would be a sounder decision to improve things for pedestrians while being fair to cyclists. Just my two cents.”

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21. Macha said... on Sep 30, 2012 at 02:16PM

“Interesting title... I think the fine of $100 is ridic but I do think that for our own safety we should be stopping at red lights when biking specially considering how many cars run thru lights and are likely to obliterate us if we are not paying attention. I think there should be more enforcement on all accounts for bikers, drivers and pedestrians. I know that I have done some dumbass things while biking but there are far less than the times I have had to brace myself bc some asswipe in a car blows by me or yells at me for not being on the sidewalk... or having the break fast when a pedestrian decides to walk out in between parked cars without looking. So yeah, everyone is a dick”

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22. 2 streeter said... on Sep 30, 2012 at 06:17PM

“Car VS. Bike, car wins. with that great brain or spinal cord injury it wont matter how much you get in a law suit.”

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23. Michael said... on Oct 1, 2012 at 09:32AM

“I hate bikers, hate them... they never stop at anything, nor pay attention to traffic... and had one give me crap for stopping at a stop sign because he was behind me. Share the road, share the laws, stop blowing through stop signs and red lights.

I have no problem sharing with you people, but remember it is a road... a road that is there for cars, you want to share it, SHARE IT don't think you are the only thing on it”

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24. Michael said... on Oct 1, 2012 at 09:36AM

“and another thing. This title is 100% correct... I spent many days in northern liberties and in the city and have never watched a person on a bike follow any traffic law, ever. That mixed with being in roxborough and coming home from manayunk, I never see any of them follow them either.

Fine them to the highest degree...”

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25. Veronica said... on Oct 17, 2012 at 12:16PM

“Does this law cover bikers who ride in streets with no bike lanes (like Locust St)? They ride down the middle of the street, slow the traffic and if a horn is honked they get attitudes. If I hit you, then I'm wrong?

You are moving vehicles with the potential to do harm. You must obey traffic rules or get fined, case closed.

This city will never be "bike friendly". Move to Seattle and ride your damn bikes!!”

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26. Anonymous said... on Oct 17, 2012 at 02:55PM

“I like that the laws and ideas are coming out, but I think the ideas are skewed toward drivers and saying bicyclists are generally the ones who are wrong. I'm not so much worried about cars parked in bike lanes as I am the idiot SEPTA driver who feels the need to drive too fast in order to cut me off and stop at every corner on my route. Yes, it is their job, but when the driver cuts me off within inches and stops right there it is more dangerous then helpful. I see this with cars making right turns as well.

While I do agree many people dangerously go through lights and signs I do not believe a $100 fine will stop it. If I come to a red light and there is no cross traffic what so ever than I will go through it. Not because of me needing to get somewhere quicker, but because I'm not trying to kill myself starting and stopping ever corner while still being hyper aware about the traffic around me.”

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27. Anonymous said... on Oct 17, 2012 at 02:58PM

“@Veronica: You're whole statement just shows how ignorant YOU are. I bet most bicyclists can't get over the speed limit, yet YOU are the one complaining. It's a speed LIMIT, not a speed minimum. Yes, most cyclist should move over at a corner to allow some traffic to pass, but if I am going to slow for you I do not need to stop and let you go. That's more effort for me and I am already doing 5x more than your are by sitting in your car and getting mad at me.”

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28. Charlie said... on Oct 19, 2012 at 08:42AM

“It is obvious to me that once again, my fellow cyclists have failed to correctly sell Complete Streets - if they had, bicyclist actions wouldn't be a part of getting the policy passed. Complete Streets is for kids and families, pedestrians, cars, trucks and bicyclists. Businesses, apartment dwellers and homeowners. Not JUST bicyclists. Sell it that way and more cities will adopt it.”

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29. philware said... on Oct 29, 2012 at 09:21AM

“This is just another way for the city to collect more money, this time on the backs of cyclists. Of course we have plenty of laws on the books that are not enforced. At this moment I don't think we need more laws that certainly will not be regularly enforced by the cops. Giving cyclists $100 tickets for running a red light is not going to make Philly a more cycling friendly city, it is just going to alienate cyclists and they will elect to ride elsewhere whenever possible.”

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30. Anonymous said... on Oct 19, 2014 at 04:30AM

“I'd rather be on a bike and have to deal with an angry person who's walking (and thinks she owns the sidewalk) than someone who haooens to be an asshole in a car or larger. I can bike as slowly as someone walking if necessary. I do NOT consider myself as being no different than a motorist when biking. A cyclist is NOT the same as a motorist but they should respect each other.. Likewise for cyclists and pedestrians on the sidewalk. No one has exclusive rights. I dont care what city ordinance or law was enacted. I'll risk the fine. Cyclists and peds CAN and DO coexist on the sidewalk. I will ALWAYS use the sidewalk whenever feasible. I like the sidewalk on two wheels! Bike lanes are fine and should be used instead of sidewalk wherever they coexist. But sometimes bike lanes become like highways for bikes, and they're often clogged with vehicles. I like the leisurely sidewalk. I abhor peds that purposefully try to walk into my pathway which is well out of their way. I might swipe them!”


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