Alex Doty, the Bicycle Coalition’s current executive director, remains a bit more diplomatic, though equally adamant that everyone needed safer roads. Like many bike advocates, he frequently points to research showing that positive “traffic calming” effect bikes tend to have. He’s a rider himself, of course, a bespectacled 42-year-old with a trim dark beard shot through with gray. In certain circles of government, his opinion matters. With his group’s objections joining others’, Council caved and tabled the issue. “We’re trying to reassess how to solve this problem,” Kenney says. “I knew the legislation was harsh. I didn’t think we’d get attention otherwise.”
But to get distracted by the call for new laws misses a blazingly obvious fact: Nobody’s figured out how to enforce the old ones. Sidewalk riding is illegal. Reckless riding — and driving — could always land you a ticket. Cutler says she’s been working with the police department to get more bike cops giving more tickets to both drivers and bikers, but Kenney’s not optimistic.
“They just aren’t going to do it,” he says. “I’m not going to get them to take bike enforcement seriously.” (Bykofsky critique #402: Just four tickets, he reported, were issued to cyclists in the first quarter of 2010.) With a smaller police force, and a big-city crime rate, street violations are small potatoes. When was the last time you got a ticket in Center City for something other than parking?
The next step seems obvious: Bikers and drivers both need to follow the rules better, and to respect each other.
“We’re not actually talking about trying to take half of all streets for a bicycling network,” the Coalition’s Doty assured a TV news reporter back in June. “What we’re saying is, ‘Can we create a handful of streets that are really inviting to bikes?’” Since more people ride on roads with lanes than without, we would then, he says, “avoid bike-and-car conflicts on other streets.”
Perhaps. But just as the lanes won’t simply appear all at once, this great mental shift toward sharing the streets is a process, says Planning Commission director Alan Greenberger. “Some things in a city exist because you need to will them into existence,” he says. “If we don’t do this and other cities do, we’ll be seen as Neanderthals. That’s not the direction we want to go.”
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Mind-numbing traffic is just one of the prophecies to pop up from Bykofsky since he began busting balls over everything from illegal riding to the agenda of “Mayor Greenjeans.” And in case he wasn’t clear: “To summarize my view: Laws should be enforced on both motorists and bikers; the road should be shared, but not equally; many drivers are aggressive jerks; some bikers come off morally superior; bikes will never (short of a catastrophe) be a substantial method of commuting in America; a tiny 1.2 percent of local commuters [since gone up to 1.6 percent] use bikes now.”