THE DRAGON ROARED and was heard.
For the first time since Michael "Green Genie" Nutter started surrendering whole lanes of traffic to the fragment of a morsel who commute to work by bicycle, the city is reversing course.
Where? In crowded, tiny, tight-knit Chinatown. The Great Wall beat City Hall.
In August, after 10th Street in Chinatown is repaved, the lane dedicated to bicycles, called a "buffered" lane, will not return between Vine and Market streets. I may call it a victory for sanity and the rejection of an ill-considered idea, but the city sees it differently.
"This was a pilot," says Andrew Stober, chief of staff in the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities, just like buffered lanes on Spruce, Pine and 13th streets. "We want to be sure they would work well."
The city largely ignored howls from Chinatown merchants and residents who said that their streets were too narrow and congested to lose a lane. Stober says that the amount of bicycle traffic on the street did go up after bike lanes were installed last October, but there were "perceptions of delay." More than just perceptions — a city study found auto traffic speed down by 5 mph.
Rather than crow about the lane being pulled, I'm happy to report that the city is doing the right thing and reversing a mistake.
My longtime frenemy, Alex Doty, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition, doesn't see it as a mistake, but joins me in praising a city that "will react to the neighborhood and what the traffic data [are]." He still would rather see a bike lane on the street, but says he "understands the limitations."
After 10th Street is repaved and repainted, it will be a "sharrow" street, painted with chevrons, Stober says, like those you see on 15th Street in Center City and on Main Street and Ridge Avenue in Manayunk. Almost all city streets are supposed to be shared by autos and bikes, but the chevrons "highlight it," Stober says.
I have no problem with shared streets, nor even what are called "standard" bike lanes, meaning those that are about 5 feet wide and don't result in the loss of a car lane.
I do have a problem with bicyclists who ignore the rules of the road to which they are subject as vehicles under Pennsylvania law. That means stay off the sidewalks, ride in the direction of traffic, full stops at stop signs and no blowing through red lights, the last two being things that nearly every pedalphile does. They admit it, even brag about it, arguing that traffic laws shouldn't apply to them, finding a sense of moral superiority in their green mode of transportation, even if ridiculously impractical for the vast majority of Philadelphians. (Even in two-wheel-happy Amsterdam, only 30 percent of the residents commute by bike.)
I also have a problem with the city arbitrarily redrawing traffic patterns with minimal community input.
Councilman Bill Greenlee also has a problem with that, and last Thursday reintroduced legislation to require Council hearings before bike lines are thrust upon unsuspecting neighborhoods. Council President Darrell Clarke and Councilman Mark Squilla were co-sponsors.
The battle of the bikes isn't over yet. n