OPERATING under the theory "if you build it, they will come," the city yesterday turned over prime rolling real estate along Pine and Spruce streets, from river to river, to bicyclists.
At a kickoff ceremony yesterday morning at 21st and Pine, Mayor Nutter and others praised bicycling as clean (it doesn't pollute), healthy (good cardiovascular exercise) and cheap (bikes cost less to operate than cars, even if they're stolen). All that's true and all that's good.
What's not good was expressed by neighborhood resident Scott Shandler, 33, walking his Boston bull terrier, Lexie, when he saw the press gaggle and asked what was happening. When he learned a full traffic lane of Pine and Spruce had been dedicated (surrendered?) to bicyclists, he said, "I don't like it at all" because "there's not enough room for everyone."
He asked for me to please include, "I'm for biking," but said the streets are too narrow to give bicyclists an entire lane.
Shandler speaks for me.
I have nothing against bicycles. Anything that saves us from buying oil from those who hate us is a good thing. It's good exercise - and fun! Dad taught me to ride a bike shortly after I could walk. While the other kids were dragging around on heavy iron skates, I was breezing by on a 26-inch Schwinn.
I like bicycles. It's bicyclists I hate.
OK, "hate" is overblown. It's more like annoyed, irritated, PO'd.
I had some questions about how this "pilot program" would work, so I asked Rina Cutler, deputy mayor for transportation and utilities.
She said current law can prohibit cars from the right-hand bike lanes, except when making a turn.
There is a catchall traffic regulation, "disregarding marked traffic lanes for special use" that would cover the bike lane, Police Sgt. Ray Evers told me. The fine is $119.50, but carries no points.
With the pedal-pushers given this precious space, I asked Cutler, can we now count on not seeing them - illegally - riding on sidewalks, ignoring stop signs and red lights, riding on the wrong side of the road, weaving in and out and going the wrong way on one-way streets?
There must be "equal enforcement" by police, she said. "All the laws need to be enforced for this to work."
As to whether we can count on real enforcement, remember Peter Pan asking kids to clap if they believe in fairies?
Clap if you believe that cops - who don't have enough to do - will be ticketing bikers.
I don't hear you clapping.
After the brief ceremony in which the mayor repeated his oft-stated dream to make Philadelphia one of the greenest cities in the nation, he mounted a bike (leaving his SUV behind) and wheeled off to City Hall. Setting an example.
Odds on his biking to work today from his home in Wynnefield? Zilch.
In his remarks, Nutter said the bike lanes ensure that city streets are "open, accessible and available for all travelers."
Weren't they already?
Bicyclists are on our streets and, truth be told, some motorists are arrogant road hogs and endanger bikers. We already have laws against that.
One reason given for the bike lanes was a doubling of bicycling between 2005 and '08. That information was provided to the city by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Cutler said.
Is it a good idea to get stats from an advocacy group? I'm not saying they lie, but they're hardly objective. The doubling was going from 60 bicycles an hour to 120 over the Schuylkill bridges. And that happened without bike-only lanes.
Well, what's done is done, and the Streets Department is charged with checking how it's working. With the number of lanes for motorists cut in half, I asked about the waiting time motorists may experience trying to struggle east or west on Pine or Spruce.
Streets Commissioner Clarena Tolson told me she will have "spotters" checking on this.
In November, the city will review the program and decide if the pilot program is a winner or loser.
I'm hoping for an honest, impartial report, but I'm not counting on one.
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