Last week, a City Council committee approved the Complete Streets Bill, a dense piece of legislation crafted by Councilman Mark Squilla and backed by the Nutter administration. Columnist Stu Bykofsky, who has called bikers "pedalphiles" once or twice, and "It's Our Money" reporter Holly Otterbein, an avid biker, debate the bill's details:
Transportation projects must "give full consideration to accommodation of the safety and convenience of all users of the transportation system, be they pedestrians, bicyclists, public transit users or motor vehicle drivers."
Holly: While recently riding my bike on North Broad Street, a school bus driver chewed me out for simply being on the road.
"You dumb***!" he shouted. "Do you know where you are?"
Clearly, he didn't know where he was: in the year 2012, when all commuters deserve a spot on Philadelphia's streets.
This provision should send a message to grumpy old bus drivers (and maybe even grumpy old Daily News writers) that the road was not made just for them.
Stu: Young Ms. Otterbein reveals the immaturity of youth (high on enthusiasm, low on wisdom), but she does not reveal that she runs red lights and sometimes rides on sidewalks. How do I know? She told me.
Did she do something to tick off the bus driver?
With some exceptions (such as expressways), bicycles already have full legal access to all roads (they like that part), but as vehicles they have to obey the law (they don't like that part). The last time I wrote about this, I closed this way: "When better enforcement leads to better behavior, this will be a better city for everyone." But will there be better enforcement? By whom? (Tell you later.)
The fines for non-parking bike violations (like running red lights or riding on sidewalks) would increase from $3 to $75.
Holly: I admit I should never ride on sidewalks. However, I only do so briefly on one sidewalk right in front of my home. By the way, Mr. Grumpy Bykofsky is no saint. He's done the "South Philly Slide" in his car. How do I know? He told me.
Bicyclists are slower than motorists, but can stop faster. Yet both must obey the exact same traffic laws. Instead of increasing fines for bikers who run stop signs and red lights, Philadelphia should adopt legislation that allows bikers to react to stop signs like yield signs, and red lights like stop signs. That's been the rule of the road in Idaho for years, and the state has not imploded yet.
Stu: Young Ms. Otterbein, as an offender, doesn't like increasing fines for bad behavior from as low as $3 to $75. I do like it and will raise her: Drivers who blow red lights should be fined $500 instead of the current $100.
She seems to think what works in sparsely populated home-to-skinheads Idaho will work in Philly. Actually, it's not a bad idea. I would support it, but in the meantime, obey the current law.
Motorists would not be allowed to park in bike lanes, with fines ranging from $50 to $75.
Holly: A solid start to tackling a real problem, but it won't apply to cars parked in the bike lanes on Spruce and Pine streets for religious services. Losing those lanes once a week wouldn't be so bad if there were more of them throughout the city.
A certain Daily News columnist (who is so old he was born in black-and-white) has argued that bike lanes shouldn't be a priority because so few commute by bike.
Few people drove cars until we built streets, either. More bike lanes will not only make Philadelphia a safer place, but also persuade more young adults to move here.
Stu: Young Ms. Otterbein with bike-lane parking fines and drifts into the issue of more bike lanes. Short attention spans plague her generation.
The city's stated goal is to have 5 percent of Philadelphians commuting by bike by 2020. Even if that happens, and I doubt it, why remake city streets for a piddling 5 percent, when they already have access to city streets?
I'd rather put money into mass transit, which serves everyone, year-round, regardless of weather, not just the young pedalphiles, with their massive sense of entitlement.
Bikers would be able to ride two abreast as long as they don't impede traffic.
Holly: Biking is always better with a friend. Plus, this is another reminder for motorists to share the road.
Stu: I find that when I do drive and see two abreast, if I give them a light, courtesy toot of the horn, they usually move to the side. Good rule.
Recklessly opening a car door into moving traffic would be against city law.
Holly: My only question is, why wasn't this always against city law?
Stu: That's just common sense and safety. I support it, but who will enforce it? My reporting over the years shows police are barely there on bike enforcement. I will suggest, again, turning enforcement over to the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
Contact Holly Otterbein at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-854-5809.
Contact Stu Bykofsky at email@example.com or 215-854-5977.