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Cops are cracking down

Car, bike, pedestrian enforcement is up, and all the right people are happy about it.

A delivery truck blocks the Spruce Street bike lane (right) near Pennsylvania Hospital in Society Hill.
A delivery truck blocks the Spruce Street bike lane (right) near Pennsylvania Hospital in Society Hill.Read moreTOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

ENFORCEMENT BY THE Philadelphia Police Department against violators on wheels and on heels increased last year, fulfilling a pledge made by city officials and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey to better enforce the law.

I'm not sure if the improvement is a result the city's (invisible) "give respect, get respect" campaign, or the hectoring by a singularly "crabby" "dinosaur" who uses his column to "yell at clouds" (to quote some of my bikehead critics).

If the latter, the clouds are listening. It's raining tickets! Well, drizzling, anyway.

More tickets were written to motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians in 2012 than in 2011. Let's break it down:

In 2011, 150,441 cars were ticketed for moving violations. In 2012, the number moved up to 152,964, an increase of 1.67 percent.

For pedestrians, 373 tickets were written in 2011. Last year it increased 13.4 percent to 423.

The smallest number written were for bicyclists, because (despite pedalphiles insisting that bike numbers are blowing through the roof) there are so few of them. In 2011, 80 cyclists were ticketed. In 2012, the number rose to 88, an increase of 10 percent.

Did I say "so few" of them? The current numbers, courtesy of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, are these: 1.8 percent of Philadelphia workers bike to work three days a week or more and 87 percent of bike commuters live within four miles of City Hall.

Good for them, I say sincerely. I also say, with numbers in the low single digits, that we are squandering space and slowing traffic with bike lanes.

Barring some cataclysmal event (gas at $6 a gallon, SEPTA shutting down), bicycling will never be a major player in Philly's transportation picture. I'll pay attention to the self-deluded bikeheads who insist otherwise when Mayor Nutter starts commuting by bike every day, instead of straddling a bike once a year for a photo-op.

For years the city's wet dream has been 5 percent of commuters using bikes by 2020. I don't believe that will happen, but Andrew Stober does. He's chief of staff of the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities.

"We have population growing in areas that are within three miles of major job centers, such as Center City, University City, Temple and the Navy Yard," says Stober. He believes that short distances and flat surfaces are made for bikes.

It is axiomatic that without enforcement, you don't get obedience. Traffic rules were written for public safety - all of the public. This concept is so simple, even an intellectual might understand.

I know it's hard for some people, the self-entitled, to get it through their thick heads. Pedestrians always have a reason for jaywalking, motorists for speeding, bicyclists for red-light running. Their lawbreaking endangers themselves and others.

Thus, the crackdown.

"A number of different strategies in terms of deployment" have been used in the past year to fix these problems, police spokesman Lt. John Stanford told me.

It's "encouraging" to see enforcement up, says Stober. "There are three keys to traffic safety - engineering, education and enforcement."

Even Alex Doty, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, applauded the crackdown. "Following the rules of the road is key to the safety of everyone," he says.

Doty surprised me by going even further: "Enforcement is not adequate in the city of Philadelphia for anybody. It is not adequate for drivers, not adequate for bicycling, not adequate for pedestrians."

I agree, but the arrow now is pointing up.

Phone: 215-854-5977

On Twitter: @StuBykofsky