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Notes on the Great War (Stu v. Bikes)

Earth to Philly is not here to act as ultimate arbiter. We're pro-bike, pro-bike-lane, and pro-Stu. But a couple of pro and con observations are in order.

Today there's another skirmish in the Great War between Stu Bykofsky and the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia. As you may recall, the last was capped with a live chat where Stu debated Alex Doty on the need for bike lanes and/or the need for bike enthusiasts to sit down and shut up, depending on who you asked.

Earth to Philly won't pretend to be any kind of ultimate arbiter. I think I can speak for the whole Earth to Philly team in saying we're pro-bike, pro-bike-lane, and pro-Stu. But a couple of different observations are in order.

In the chat, Stu dismissed Alex's reference to Bicycle Ambassadors, saying he'd never seen a single one. That could be sample bias, given that Stu's not a big bike-rider. Neither am I, but I've seen them before at green-related outdoor events and especially last weekend at the bike race. It just seems logical that if you're trying to educate bicyclists you would put your ambassadors where people interested in bicycling would be likely to be, no?

Meanwhile, though, Stu did get a statistician at Temple to go over the sidewalk-riding numbers the coalition had put out and that expert called the coalition's methodology "invalid." Stu challenged the Coalition to find a credible stats expert who would say the opposite. So far this challenge does not seem to have been met, nor has the Coalition explicitly debunked the Temple prof's assessment. Dodging this issue only helps give credence to Stu's charge that the city should not be accepting coalition numbers at face value.

As for sidewalk-riding in and of itself, I can see both sides - kind of. There are spots in Center City where passing through them, it's pretty dangerous to stay on the street and simple and easy to pop up on the sidewalk to get around that danger spot. But that doesn't change the fact that doing so is illegal. If you feel the need to go onto the sidewalk, try getting off and walking your bike for that stretch. At the very least, recognize that you do not have right of way. Along with Stu, I'm sick and tired of having to get out of the way of a scofflaw barrelling towards me on the sidewalk.

But maybe they don't know better, right? Another question raised in the chat was who should pay for signs to make it clear that this activity is illegal. If the Coalition is raising money in Stu's name, maybe that will go to just such an effort. Maybe. All the Coalition's Stu campaign page specifies is "Education Programs." (It also accuses Stu of "doubting the efficacy of the Bicycle Coalition's counts" rather than doubting their validity, a pretty different concept from efficacy.)

Lastly, though, the whole area of lawbreaking brings up enforcement, and that inevitably brings up cars. That's because bicyclists "running stop signs" after using their unencumbered field of vision to judge the opportunity is a different kind of infraction, a different level of danger to life and limb, from cars running stop signs. And while the latter is generally enforced when observed by police, the illegal act of driving while talking on a cell phone - proven to be more dangerous to life and limb than driving drunk - still goes on throughout town with impunity. If people are getting ticketed for this (and I would assume a handful are, occasionally), it hasn't reached my consciousness, and I work in a freaking newsroom. Before we worry about whether there are enough Bicycle Amabassadors out there to stop rogue cyclists from inconveniencing us, let's get cracking down, in a big, public way, on the jabbering airheads that are killing us.