MY GOOD NAME is being used to further a bad cause. Or is my bad name being used to further a good cause?
In an e-mail to supporters, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is asking bikeheads to make a donation in my name. (Thanks for the added exposure.)
"Columnist Stu Bykofsky fumes that bike lanes are going to turn Philadelphia into a congestion nightmare," chirps coalition executive director Alex Doty.
This technique - pick a target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it - is right out of Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. Since Doty commands few people - the coalition claims just 1,600 members in the region - he demonizes me for daring to oppose the surrender of hundreds of miles of additional city streets to cyclists.
"I want to make Stu Bykofsky the biggest donor to the Bicycle Coalition this year and you can help - make a donation in Stu's name!" Doty writes.
I am flattered. Whether it is an expression of my popularity, or my ignominy, it is ingenious. It also means, as a journalist not accepting their word as revealed truth, I am getting to them.
Like an ex-wife, the coalition is cashing in on my name. That's OK, and it gives me a chance to repeat - because they don't seem to get it - what Philadelphians expect from bicyclists.
First, obey the law. Stop at red lights and stop signs, ride in the same direction as traffic, equip your bike with lights, horn and brakes. Most important, stay off the sidewalks.
I know some bike-riding dingleberries have trouble with concepts, but I am not anti-bike. I am anti-illegal behavior. When I write about bikes, letters pour in from pedestrians who are terrorized by gonzo bikers.
Go on bike blogs, as I have,
and you see they not only admit to illegal riding, they justify, even brag about it. They're loud about their "rights," silent about their "responsibility."
I don't swallow faulty reports. A statistician I had check the methodology used in part of a coalition report found it invalid. Doty won't own up to the error.
In the report announced by the city in the fall, the Streets Department failed to monitor Broad and Spruce and Broad and Pine - the two major intersections - in the afternoon. Anyone with an ounce of honesty - pro-bike or not - knows the report was deeply flawed. Yet the city merrily used it as a basis to proclaim more bike lanes are needed. (The city Planning Commission was busy preparing a plan for expanded bike lanes even before the cuckoo report was done.)
I oppose bike-only lanes not because I'm mean, but because I'm sane. I live on Spruce Street (I don't own a car), and I see it snarl not only mornings and evenings, but even Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Turning over lanes on another dozen Center City streets will certainly gridlock traffic - and is unnecessary. Skinny bike lanes, like on Spring Garden and Oregon, are preferable.
Only the deluded believe that added bike lanes would spur a massive shift from cars to bikes. Even with more bike-only lanes, the city's own estimate is that Philadelphia will increase commuter bikers from a barely there 1.6 percent to a teeny 5 percent by 2020. What would it take to get bike commuters up to 10 percent? Gas at $6 a gallon, as in "bike-friendly" Europe? Government diktat?
The coalition knows most bike commuters live within a four-mile radius of City Hall. Bike lanes will not lure more than a handful of commuters from outside the city core to use bikes because drivers love the comfort and safety of their cars. Period.
Opponents pretend I don't criticize cars and motorists, but the record shows otherwise. If you poke around many bikers' brains, you find an air of moral superiority and an anti-car bias. Their smugness will end when they grow up, have a family and need a car.
As I've written before, I'd like more money spent on mass transit, which provides an all-weather, realistic alternative to the commuter car. People will always want cars for recreation and travel. In America, cars = freedom.
Bicycling is a healthful alternative for short trips, but surrendering hundreds of miles of city streets (and sidewalks) is out of proportion to the good, but tiny goal.
If you agree, make a donation in my name to Variety, the Children's Charity, 1520 Locust St., 2nd floor, Phila., Pa. 19102. (Two can play that game, Alex.)
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