Francesco DeLuca

That’s the goal of a cadre of Philly cyclists who dream of turning the city into a bike-friendly paradise. In their way: one cranky Daily News columnist … and a whole lot of angry (sometimes punch-throwing) Philly drivers

Not to be outdone, the bikers returned fire with equally eloquent verve:

 

If people would get on a bike in Philly, there’d be less fat in their brain.

People, CARS are still breaking the law in Philly.

Cars are coffins.

It was all just so … Philly.

“The right-of-way is not the privileged preserve of those who have automobiles,” proclaims Noel Weyrich. Weyrich is a writer (formerly with this magazine) who headed up the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia nearly 20 years ago, when the city’s first round of bike lanes debuted. He still rides, and he drives. “The people who have a problem with the lanes on Pine and Spruce are beneath my contempt,” he says. “They want to drive to the restaurant and home again, and they don’t give a shit about how the dishwasher who stays until 2 a.m. gets home safely. They’re so stuck in their own lifestyles that they can’t even imagine anything else. Well, they can all go to hell.”

And anyway, he says, all that anonymous commentary in print and on blogs amounts to nothing. “This is a non-issue,” he says. “Nobody on the other side cares enough to really step forward and put their ass on the line saying These bike lanes should not exist. If they’re not doing that, then they don’t really care.”

But Stu Bykofsky cares. Deeply. The longtime Daily News columnist has been acerbically enumerating his objections to the expanded bike lanes since last fall, in a series of columns that read like what might have happened had George Carlin become a crusading journalist. “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,” he wrote in June. “What would it take to get bike commuters up to 10 percent? Gas at $6 a gallon, as in ‘bike-friendly’ Europe? Government diktat?”

But however intense the war of words, the real battlefield for the Bike People and the People Who Are Not Bike People (don’t call them anti-bike — they’re for bikes! They just don’t like bikers who don’t follow rules, or demand too much road, or get in the way) is, of course, the streets. That’s where the conflict between the two wheels and the four wheels is now playing out daily, in blaring horns, in upraised middle fingers, in shouted curses, in vandalism, in deliberate cut-offs — and in the occasional police charges of assault, threat, and reckless endangerment.

From freedom to fistfights, here we are. 

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