I will say this for the Bike Cult — enough is never enough for them and they never give up. In numbers, they are insignificant, yet they get their way because there is no organized opposition to push back.
Just 2.6% of Philadelphians commute by bike to work according to the most recent American Community Survey. Nationally, it is down slightly from the year before. That amounts to the tail of the dog, but this tail too often wags the dog. It’s kind of amazing when you think about it. Across the country there is this fever of remaking streets for a tiny speck who will use bike lanes when weather permits. It is Copenhagen Crazy.
In 2010, the city announced a wet dream of having 6% of commuters to get to and from work by bicycle by the end of a decade. For almost as long I’ve been saying it would not happen — and it hasn’t, despite some 200 miles of bike lanes. And the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia keeps clamoring for more. Its belief that if you build it, they will come, is a proven fallacy.
The most recent controversy involves putting up flexible posts at intersections of bike lanes on Pine and Spruce east of 8th street. The Society Hill Civic Association, which actually did not oppose bike lanes, did fight the flexible posts as harming the historical appearance of its neighborhood, as well as interfering with buses, delivery vehicles and residents trying to drop someone or groceries off at the curb.
Predictably, the Coalition howled like a wolf and tried to generate guilt over a bicyclist killed by a truck at 11th and Spruce to demand more protected bike lanes. It is a scare tactic. It lost that fight but it now has the city backtracking.
The Coalition wants more bike lanes for bikes only and for them to be “protected” by flexible poles for the length of every block, damn the inconvenience to anyone else. Pointless, too, as almost no crashes occur mid-block.
What the Coalition did not say is the death of the young woman was an outlier, an accident, a tragedy in which the truck driver was not charged with a crime.
Rather than being dangerous and requiring special protection, Center City is actually the city neighborhood where one is least likely to be killed by a vehicle.
Randy LoBasso was a tireless crusader for bike lanes while a journalist at the Philadelphia Weekly before the Coalition hired him as spokesman and paid him for doing what he had been doing for free. I oppose most bike lanes as being unnecessary, a waste of space and a contributor to traffic congestion.
I put a few questions about the current controversy in an email to him, which went unanswered. I realize I am an irritant — the only journalist in town who doesn’t worship at the altar of the Coalition and who asks uncomfortable questions.
Such as shouldn’t residents have a say in whether bike lanes are installed? I have suggested a citywide referendum on this issue, which the Coalition opposes. Why? It knows it would lose. We don’t want too much of that democracy thing. (Thanks to former City Councilman Bill Greenlee, the city can’t install bike lanes without the OK of the Council rep.)
We are not supposed to question the wisdom of the bikeheads, who are not as smart as they think they are.
When the city installed bike lanes on Pine and Spruce it neglected to provide left-hand turn lanes at Broad, leading to predictable jams.
Geniuses at work. So they added the turn lanes.
In 2019, just 10 years after installing them on the right hand side of the street — oops — let’s move them to the left. Huh? Why? Dubious claims of safety.
I will dismantle the safety claim in my next column.
Meanwhile, just reflect on why the media is so in love with bike lanes, why they are so insistent on shoving bike lanes — which cause traffic congestion and slow traffic — down the throats of the overwhelming majority of people who have no use for them. And never will.