Archive: November, 2009
What We've Found: Phila. apartment fire, Chinese mine disaster, political hijacking in Philippines, war games censured, Israeli-Hamas prisoner exchange and Pennsylvania plans to send inmates out of state
Julia Harte with your morning fix.
After at least 104 Chinese mineworkers were killed in a gas blast at a mine in northeast China, their relatives protested outside the mine's entrance, demanding that officials speak to them and answer their questions about the incident.
The bodies of 21 Filipino politicians and supporters were found earlier today in a small town in the Philippines, where they were believed to have been deposited by gunmen who hijacked their convoy and killed them on behalf of other politicians, in anticipation of the next national election in May 2010.
Two Swiss human rights organizations reported in a study that war video games allow players to virtually break many of the laws that actually govern real-world warfare, such as killing civilians, destroying homes and civilian buildings and torturing prisoners. The study's authors called upon game-makers to "consequently and creatively incorporate rules of international humanitarian law and human rights into their games."
Israel was rumored to be close to a deal with the Islamist group Hamas to exchange several Palestinian war prisoners for the Israeli soldier Sergeant Gilad Shalit, who was seized in 2006.
Recognizing the fact that Pennsylvania's prisoner population is growing faster than its prison system, state leaders plan to move as many as 2,000 criminals into prisons in other states beginning early next year.
|Photo | Jesse Delaney
|"Philadelphia should have these."
Friday: Thanksgiving may seem close but it's actually six excruciatingly far days away. The Down Home Diner gives you your Turkey Day feast early in anticipation of Thursday's main event. Don't eat too much, though because you have an entire night of Creepy Puppet films to sit through afterward, featuring dare we say it?! a puppet sex tape!!! Or you can dance those extra calories off with Joker and friends at the Mausoleum. There is $2 suggested donation per ticket to save the 941 Theater. Get on it.
Saturday: This week, Kristen Humbert investigated why no one will take donations generated by the Diabolique Fetish Masquerade Ball but that doesn't mean you can't hit up yourself and help out with their new cause: Leather Heart, an org that provides emergency funds to fetishists across the land! Why don't you hit up Cut the Craft and see if there's any costume options that fit the steampunk theme?
Sunday: Please, let's not sit here and pretend you don't read the Harry Potter books, are there opening night for each movie and secretly wish you were a wizard too. So don't be embarrassed when we see each other at Harry Potter and the Magical Muggle Museum. Then get all Ron and Hermione-ly romantic at Pop Revisited where Aimee Robidoux pieces together a love story, while her partner in crim Peter Andrew Danzig sings forgotten pop songs of the '90s.
Two of Philadelphiaâs best mixed martial artists will be on display tonight at Alexandra Hall. Locked in the Cage is headlined by Wilson Reis (check the CP e-trail on Reis) squaring off with Dwayne Sheldon, as well as the top-ranked 135-pound female fighter Tara LaRosa fighting Valerie Coolbraugh. Though they're both based in the area (the Brazilian Reis fights out of Jenkintown's BJJ United, while LaRosa fights out of nearby Woodstown, N.J.), neither athlete has appeared in the ring within city limits until now.
The card features three other pro fights and 12 amateur fights.
LaRosa and Reis are both top-level contenders, known for showing up; the duo alone could make the night. (Check out my Oct. '08 feature for more on Reis.)
Tickets are still available here for $45, or $65 with four 16-ounce beers. Quick math: That's 64 ounces of muscle to help you properly root on our homegrown bloodletters.
The show starts at 7:30 p.m. at at Alexandra Hall in Sherman Mills, 3510 Scotts Lane in East Falls.
It's been a long 24 hours of bike news in Philly.
Yesterday morning, Councilmembers Jim Kenney and Frank DiCicco co-sponsored and introduced laws aimed at greater enforcement and regulation of bicycles. One would would raise the penalties by jaw-dropping factors (a hundredfold, in one case) for bicycle infractions and require bicycles to register and carry license plates in the city.
To the latter, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia which has been a consistent voice in calling for bicycles to obey traffic laws offered on its blog a very interesting case study in what's happened when other cities tried to introduce similar laws. Spoiler alert: They repealed them because they didn't work.
But the former bill, the penalty-raising one, has some interesting quirks, as well. For one thing, it may effectively outlaw many fixed-gear bikes.
You see, Philadelphia's and Pennsylvania's bicycle regulations differ slightly. One difference: the definition of "brakes."
The two bills introduced by Councilman Kenney have new penalties for riding without brakes (one fines you a thousand dollars; the other has your bike confiscated).
But what is a brake?
If you know about fixies, skip this paragraph. Most bikes as we know them in the USofA have brakes either hand brakes or pedal brakes. Fixed-gear bikes may or may not have hand brakes, but don't require them (although it's a good backup plan) because the rear wheel is inextricably tied to the crank. In other words, you pedal backwards and the rear wheel actually goes backwards or, if you've got some momentum going, it slows down. You brake by resisting the forward momentum of your legs. Read more about it on Wikipedia.
Which begs the question: What constitutes a brake? In a Daily News article, Councilman Kenney spoke about the brake issue and mentioned "delivery" workers. I'm guessing he's talking about bike messengers, who often ride fixed-gear bikes:
"The trend with some of our delivery-service people and messengers, for whatever reason, is to remove the brakes," Kenney said. "It's a state law that bicycles [must] have brakes."
Is it possible and not to knock the guy, it is kind of an arcane subject in most circles that he doesn't realize that these bikes have alternate braking mechanisms?
But Kenney's bill only raises the penalties for an offense already on the books. To see what constitutes a "brake" we have to look at the laws.
Pennsylvania's law â closer, I'm told by the Coalition, to widely-adopted bicycle regulations, has this to say about brakes.
Every pedalcycle shall be equipped with a braking system which will stop the pedalcycle in 15 feet from an initial speed of 15 miles per hour on a dry, level and clean pavement.
But Philadelphia's code says this:
Every bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheel skid on a dry, level, clean pavement.
Pennsylvania, in other words, only requires a "braking system," which fixed-gear bikes have.
Philadelphia, though, requires "a brake" â which could mean a hand brake, which a fixed-gear might or might not have (again: this is because fixed-gear bikes can be braked with the legs alone). In an interview yesterday, Councilman Kenney legislative aide Sarah Sachdev, who helped with the bill, did not know what a fixed-gear bike was, let alone whether the Councilman's $1000 fine/confiscation penalty would apply to one.f
Case you haven't heard...
Click above to see the rules and requirments.
Bicyclists, take heed: The Philadelphia Police announced today that officers will be launching the slightly-terrifyingly-named "Central Bicycle Enforcement Initiative" at Rittenhouse Square.
What, if anything, the timing has to do with today's proposal by Councilmembers Jim Kenney and Frank DiCicco for rather draconian bike enforcement laws, I don't know. But there it is.
I received two press releases about the "initiative." One came from the police. It read:
Tomorrow Friday, November 19, 2009, the Central Bicycle Enforcement Initiative will begin at 1:00PM at Rittenhouse Square. Members of the Bicycle Coalition will be on hand to help with the education on bike laws, rules and safety. Hand-out material will be provided.
The other came from the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. It was a little more involved.
While the police make the event out to be a friendly get-together between the two groups, the Bicycle Coalition's press release suggests that the Coalition got involved only after 9th District Police Captain Dennis Wilson informed them that he was already planning a crackdown.
(You may remember Captain Wilson, by the way, from just over a year ago, when the City Paper reported that his officers had somewhat inexplicably raided a houseful of activists and detained them. Charges were never pressed.)
Here's the slightly-abbreviated dilly, according to the Bike Coalition (read the full press release, including bicycle violations and how much they cost, here):
The Bicycle Coalition's Education Department sat down with Captain Wilson from the Philadelphia Police 9th District today (November 19, 2009). This meeting confirmed that Police intend to begin an enforcement and education campaign beginning tomorrow, November 20, 2009. The campaign will focus on egregious actions of motorists and cyclists in the Center City area.
Bicycle police officers from the 9th, 6th and Center City Districts will be on the streets enforcing the rules of the road in Center City. In addition to other violations, the Police will be stopping bicyclists riding on the sidewalk, not stopping at red lights or stop signs and riding the wrong way in the road. The Police Department will also have vehicle units out on Spruce and Pine Streets ticketing motorists who are driving in, or illegally double parking in the bike lane or driving aggressively.
. . .
In response to this enforcement campaign, the Bicycle Coalition will have Bicycle Ambassadors out on the streets helping to educate bicyclists who may not know the rules of the road and provide tips for riding in traffic.
. . .
Please be advised that this is not a warning period and tickets will be issued. Safety education coupled with enforcement, applied equitably to all road users, is the first step to improve safety for all.
. . .
Don't know if you saw this little thingamajigger on Phawker, (which itself links to this thing from Washington City Paper), but our Police Commissioner may have a truthiness problem from his days down in DC. From the WashCP:
An affidavit filed today in U.S. District Court raises questions as to whether former D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey may have committed perjury in his sworn testimony about the Pershing Park fiasco. Ramsey had repeatedly stated in depositions that he had not ordered the mass arrest of approximately 400 people during the Sept. 27, 2002, World Bank/IMF protests.
Yet the affidavit, by Det. Paul Hustler, a 22-year D.C. Police veteran, maintains that Ramsey indeed ordered the arrests.
Hustler's affidavit, taken Nov. 16, [PDF] is just the latest shock in a pair of Pershing Park class-action civil suits in U.S. District Court. In recent months, the case has been dogged by allegations of massive discovery violations. Judge Emmet Sullivan has called for an outside investigation into how basic evidence in the cases had gone missing.
We took a quick read through Hustlerâs testimony, and indeed, if heâs telling the truth, it might not bode well for Chief Ramsey. So, being the judicious reporters that we are, we (technically, an intern) placed a call to Ramseyâs public affairs office, to ask if he had any thoughts on Hustlerâs statement. Here's what the lady who answered the phone told us, in whole:
"We're not willing to comment, and neither is he!â Click.
So, um, there you go.
This morning, Councilmembers Jim Kenney and Frank DiCicco introduced legislation aimed at reining in bicyclists.
The particulars: Three bills were introduced today, two as an either-or pair.
Councilman Kenney introduced two bills (co-sponsored by Councilman DiCicco) that each seek to increase fines for riding on the sidewalk (from $10 to $300), wearing headphones (from $3 to $300), and riding without brakes (a $1,000 penalty in one bill; confiscation in the other).
Councilman DiCicco introduced one bill (co-sponsored by Councilman Kenney) that would require all riders to register their bikes with the city (at a fee of $20), and mount license plates on their bikes. The penalty for not doing so would be $100.
The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia â which has been a vocal advocate for bikers' following traffic laws â has voiced its opposition to these bills.
They make two points. The first is that raising penalties while enforcement is still so lax is counter-productive and unfair.
The first step toward safer streets is equitable and consistent enforcement of traffic laws as they apply to all road users. Up to now, traffic enforcement has not been a priority. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia urges City Council and the Nutter Administration to implement immediately an equitable and consistent traffic education and enforcement program to enforce the laws that are currently on the books before City Council raises penalties, requires mandatory registration, and puts other restrictions in place.
The second, regarding bikes being required to have license plates, is that similar attempts have failed elsewhere and would simply discourage people from riding.
With regards to laws requiring registration and licensing of bicycles, the Bicycle Coalition does not support a mandatory program. Among other issues, we are concerned about the potential for a registration program to discourage riders, impose financial disincentives, and expose the City to numerous legal issues. Peer cities and states have passed and then repealed registration and licensing programs. We recommend a thorough investigation of registration and licensing programs in other cities to determine whether such programs would help or hinder efforts to achieve peace on Philadelphiaâs streets.
My own opinion is that these bills, while well-intentioned, are over-reactions to a problem that's consistently misunderstood and blown out of proportion.
There have been two deaths of pedestrians by bicyclists recently: that's tragic. But step back and look at the number of pedestrians or bicyclists killed by drivers in any given period, and you'll see that bicycles are the least of our safety woes.
These fines mostly apply to laws already in place. I think those laws are OK (although I propose you should be able to have headphones if you only use one ear bud!), but the high fines are seriously misguided.
If more Philadelphians tried riding through inner-city traffic themselves, they'd understand how scary it can be, even for the most experienced riders. Many of the people who ride on the sidewalk do so simply because they find it scary to ride with cars â and looking at the numbers of fatalities and accidents, it's a perfectly logical fear. These riders need a little help, not fines.
Regarding headphones, The Bicycle Coalition Advocacy Director John Boyle points out the Pennsylvania law contains no prohibition at all on headphone use. The proposed fine for headphones ($300) is almost three times the fine for running a red light which, it seems to me, is a much more dangerous offense.
To be fair to the Councilmembers, both spoke eloquently and sensibly about their bills today. Both insist they support and encourage biking in the city, and both have emphasized that these bills are open to discussion and amendments, and that they're willing to listen.
- Ask A Man-About-Town
- Award Tour
- Bad Idea Factory
- Below the Curve
- Brian Hickey
- Budget Fuss
- City Council
- City Hall
- CP Abroad
- CP in the Community
- Criminal Justice System
- Day Tripper
- Death and Taxes
- Delaware River
- Dubious Distinction
- End of Days
- Film Fest
- Financial Meltdown
- Free Library
- Gay Stuff
- Get Lit
- Hall Monitor
- Health Care
- Hello, Kitty
- Ice Cubes
- In Memoriam
- Marcellus Shale
- MUST READ
- Mysterious Mysteries
- Non Sequitur
- PA politics 2010
- Parking Wars
- Parks and Recreation
- People Send Us This Stuff
- Philadelphia Police
- Philadelphia Union
- Philly From Scratch
- philly madness
- President Obama
- Print Edition
- Readers Write
- Real Estate
- Rock Bottom
- Screwing Philly
- So Lush
- Sporting Life
- Sports Complex
- State Politicians
- State Politics
- Street Art
- Stuff We Like
- Taxi Drivers
- Tech Fetish
- The Budget Crisis
- The City Paper
- The CLOG
- The Human Condition
- The Mayor
- The Phightin Phils
- The World
- Things that make you go hm
- Tinfoil Hats Off
- Under the Table
- Under the Tables
- Urban Development
- Urban Planning
- urban wildlife
- Video Poker
- We Call Shenanigans
- Web Junk
- Weekend Omnibus
- White House
- What We've Found
- Women's Issues
- Flyered Up!
- How 'Bout That Weather?
- it's always sunny in philadelphia
- get out
- 10-track mind
- Bruce Being Bruce
- Gigantic Surprises
- Hello Canary
- Hello Puppy
- get lost
- Inside The Fishbowl
- Library Closings
- Local Support
- Night Moves
- Skeeze Police
- State Politicians Screwing Philly
- That's a cool stencil!
- Things We See
- This Week
- This Week in Oates
- University City
- What we don't heart
- what we heart
- Feeling Guilty
- Broke in Philly
- Dear Paper Doll
- Do A Good Thing
- Film Fest Schism
- G20-20 Vision
- Great American Heroes
- Pearl Jam Week
- Stars of the Photostream
- Lower Merion Webcam-Gate
- The Cycle
- Equality Forum
- Bureaucrat of the Week