But Philly’s transportation czarina, the peppery, plucky Rina Cutler, is undaunted. “As with anything else that’s new, there were very strong supporters and very loud opposition,” she says. But she says public feedback so far is still running 60/40 in favor of the lanes.
Cutler’s vowels carry an unmistakable trace of Boston — where she grew up — and her grit comes from years spent hammering her way through parking, traffic and transportation issues here and in Boston and San Francisco (where the Chronicle called her a “Boston bulldog who carried a ticket book with her and handed out tags on her way to lunch”). Her rear hasn’t so much as grazed a bike seat since childhood, but she’s unswerving in her belief that bike-friendly streets are better — and safer — for everyone. “Besides,” she adds cheerfully, “you have to start somewhere to drive a change agenda into people’s behaviors.”
By December, the city reported that automobile traffic on Spruce and Pine during peak hours was down 11 percent, speeds had slowed by two miles an hour (that’s “traffic calming,” in bike-lane-ese) — and bike ridership during the same hours was up 65 percent. The “experiment” was deemed a rousing success. Come spring, it was official: Not only were the lanes in question going to be permanent, but the city could expect more like them. The City Planning Commission had put together a 10-year blueprint that would, it hoped, make Philly a leader in alternate mobility, boosting the number of cyclists from 1.6 percent of the commuting population to five percent over the next decade. While hardly a panacea, the thinking went, the bump would make the streets friendlier for existing riders (who make an estimated 75,000 trips a day), which would attract still more riders, which would lower street congestion, free up more parking, cut carbon, maybe slenderize the city — all while putting a P.C. polish on the city’s image. Cutler’s transportation department dug into a $17.2 million pot of grant money to begin filling in gaps in the bicycle-and-walking-trail network. The city would also be providing more bike parking (spiffy racks made from old parking-meter posts) — to go with the miles of additional bike lanes.
But certain city drivers — already fed up with other drivers, cyclists, and John Butterworth’s daily reports on just how much their commute sucks — were teetotaling the new green Kool-Aid. All you had to do was scan a paper or city blogs to see that their mood was black:
[Cyclists] expect a person driving a 3,500-pound auto that has to be inspected, insured and licensed to yield to a wanker on a 25-pound two-wheeled convenience riding the public streets with a total disregard for traffic laws.
… [B]ikers are a bigger menace than drivers.
More PC garbage destroying the country!