Stu Bykofsky is the Pavlov’s dog of Philadelphia journalism. He has been programmed to do the exact same thing every time he reads a newspaper column espousing vaguely pro-bicycle sentiments. Namely: Bashing bike lanes and decrying the WAR ON CARS. In today’s edition, Bykofsky reads a column by Philadelphia Weekly writer Randy LoBasso about biking in the cold, calls LoBasso a City Paper writer, composes an incomprehensible piece of bike-related doggerel, then rushes over to ride on a few of his favorite hobby-horses.
Weather is one reason bicycles can’t be a realistic, year-round alternative to cars and mass transit for most people. You want to ride, great, but stop pretending that most people want to, or will. I’ll get to the War on Cars in a minute.
Weather is not the only hurdle for bikeheads and a two-wheel-worshipping city administration. There’s also distance: More than 80 percent of bike commuters live within 4 miles of City Hall. Heaviest bike use is in areas of Northern Liberties/Fishtown, close-in South Philly, University City – and almost nowhere else.
Add to bad weather the age, physical condition, gender and courage of the rider. Most pedalists are under 40 and male. Please note, ladies and oldies, I said “most,” not “all.”
And? This is a classic straw-man. Who is claiming “most” people want to ride in the cold? Or bike in from the far Northeast? Or want their 86-year-old grandmas pedaling around on fixies? The more interesting question to ask is not whether bikes and bike lanes are good or bad things, but to ask where they are needed and where they would be counterproductive.
LoBasso, piggy-backing off of a Keystone Politics post calling for bike lanes on Broad Street, asked the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities’ Chief of Staff Andrew Stober if that was ever going to happen. Stober responded that because of the sheer volume of traffic and crazy people on Broad Street, they didn’t want to do anything to encourage bikers to use it. So probably not. KP’s Jon Geeting responded that Broad Street should be re-engineered so that it’s not such a crazy place to drive or bike or do anything.
All the problematic motorist behaviors Andrew lists would go away if we painted narrower car travel lanes, separated bike traffic from car traffic with medians, and possibly added a dedicated bus lane next to those medians.
Whoever’s right, that’s what a productive discussion sounds like.