|I <3 PowerPoint.|
I've been to Academy of Natural Sciences forums before, so I know that PowerPoint presentations are the norm â¦ but still, was anyone else surprised when David Byrne started clicking off slide after slide?
Last night's bike lecture, led by the Talking Heads co-founder and author of Bicycle Diaries (Viking, $25.95) which was only OK, despite what they tell you, and I'm a bike head began a little late. There was a video montage of bikes in cinema (The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, unidentifiable '80s movies, etc.) to keep the audience placated, though. Then, at around 6:30, Byrne took to the stage, in a black button-up shirt and loose, comfy-looking black pants, looking as dapper as ever. Byrne hasn't really aged at all he looks the same as he did 20 years ago, but with gray hair.
I was only able to stay for an hour, but here's what I learned:
While writing Bicycle Diaries, the three books Byrne thought about most were Michael Sorkin's Twenty Minutes in Manhattan, Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and Christopher Alexander's The Timeless Way of Building.
Frank Lloyd Wright may have made many beautiful buildings, but dude had wack ideas about how cities should look. He essentially wanted there to be a few skyscrapers dotted on various plots of farmland. In other words, no community.
The General Motors pavilion at the 1939 World's Fair was frightening. They wanted highways everywhere. They got 'em.
Byrne is fairly confident that cities will be less car-focused and more people- and bike-focused in the future. He kept uttering things like, "It will probably change soon, I hope" and "Some of the cities might come back."
Italy seems like the perfect country to bike in (because of the small streets).
In L.A., the actual streets are so anti-pedestrian that they build artificial streets.
Byrne called the floating whore houses in Utretch "charming." It was funnier then than it sounds now.
Sadly, I had to leave after that. Cloggers, if you went, how was the roundtable discussion afterward?
The Daily News' Stu Bykofsky and I have a little back-and-forth going over the bike lanes on Spruce and Pine, and today I invited (okay, challenged) Stu to take a bike ride with me and CP's Isaiah Thompson first down a city street without a dedicated bike lane and a city street with one.
Last week, in my editor's letter, I accused Stu of being a bully. And this morning, Stu sent me an e-mail that read:
"Stu bullies motorists today. Don't miss it!"
And I'll hand it to Stu for sticking it to the maniacs who find it acceptable to operate their two-ton steel, glass and vinyl weapons on residential city streets while texting, dialing and/or talking on cell phone.
And though I take issue with his use of statistics in some of his bike lane pieces, he's got good numerical backup in this morning's piece:
That cellphone use creates deadly distracted driving is disputed by no (sane) person I could find - and I even looked on the Internet, the corkscrew colony for crackpot contrarians.
Cell-phone use quadruples the risk of an auto accident, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It causes 636,000 crashes, 330,000 injuries and 2,600 deaths annually, according to the Harvard Center of Risk Analysis, which estimates the cost at $43 billion.
All age groups use cell phones while driving, but it creates an unusual effect among the young - the least experienced drivers and the most cell-addicted:
"If you put a 20-year-old driver behind the wheel with a cell phone, their reaction times are the same as a 70-year-old driver who is not using a cell phone," says University of Utah psychology professor David Strayer. "It's like instantly aging a large number of drivers."
Is it an easy target? Sure. But a very worthwhile one nonetheless. In the piece, Byko makes enforcement suggestions that would be well applied to cyclists as well.
Drivers have been warned, but many continue to roam with phones in hand. Does this come from a misplaced sense of entitlement - or no sense at all?
Why do they persist? Not enough enforcement.
Solution? Blanket enforcement.
For a week, police should stop and ticket every violator they see. They are not hard to find.
Skip a few weeks, then repeat as often as necessary to drive the fear of enforcement - and the $75 fine - through their gooney-bird skulls.
To all the people who complain about scofflaw cyclists yes, there are cyclists who bend and snap the law. And the reason they do is that there's next to zero enforcement (and that cyclists are regularly treated as non-entities by the police and drivers).
A couple of days ago, I got a rather chipper email from the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the region's largest bicycle advocacy group.
In it, Executive Director Alex Doty wrote the following (emphasis added):
Yesterday morning, there was a copy of a letter from Councilman Kenney on my desk asking the head of the Parking Authority for stepped up enforcement of vehicles blocking bike lanes. How did we get from November's legislation to this?
See below for details of a very productive meeting we had with Councilmen Kenney and DiCicco hosted by Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler. What I took from that meeting was that the Councilmen are fed up with sidewalk riding. While I understand why some people do it, I am also fed up with sidewalk riding. But the Councilmen, like us, are also fed up with cars -- and even pedestrians not following the rules of the road. Fed up enough to follow up one of our concerns with a letter to the Parking Authority. Thank You, Councilman Kenney!
Councilmembers Kenney and DiCicco are, of course, the very same lawmakers who sought a little while back to impose hefty OK, more like hysterically insane fines on bicyclists for riding with headphones, riding on the sidewalk, or riding fixed-gear bike unequipped with a brake (I actually agreed with them wholeheartedly on that one).
Though the laws were harsh, the tone taken by DiCicco and Kenney was always reasonable, and they spoke of equal and equitable enforcement. This little bit of news shows that they meant it, and that they're willing to respond to public input: Democracy with a D, if you ask me.
Which makes, by the way, whoever invented the "Frank DiCicco sucks: equal rights for bikes" T-shirt look even more dense than they did when said shirt appeared in a Philadelphia Weekly article about the laws.
Who sucks now, T-shirt? Hm?
Neighborhood Bike Works is taking full advantage of the Martin Luther King holiday and day of service, recruiting volunteers to help spruce up its old and *new* locations.
REI and the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia are sponsoring the event (REI is kicking in a $7,000 grant for an Earn a Bike mountain bike program) and there's still time to volunteer (today and in the glorious future of 2010). Locations are below.
On the *new* note: NBW is expanding both its children's programing and its supremely awesome bike church to North Philly, near Temple the drop-in public bike shop, powered by volunteers who will not only help you find what you need but teach you how to fix your bike yourself.
It's a terrific program, it raises funds for the kids, and it's a hell of a way to learn about bikes, whatever your starting skill level (I volunteer there myself!). The fact that there will soon be a bike church in North Philly â and, apparently, one in South Philly and other locations at some point â increases tremendously Philadelphia's coolness as a city, so this is good news.
The new location is already open for kids' programs, and the expanded bike church program will be opening soon. E-mail Cat for more info or to volunteer.
Locations for volunteering today (call 215-386-0316):
3916 Locust Walk
230 N. Salford Street.
1424-1426 Susquehanna Ave.
|Patchin' tubes, oh yeah.|
|Aleida Silva Garcia, Jeanette Lloyd, and Melanie Cotton - the "LT" girls volunteering.|
There are, of course, no more seats available, but those interested in attending the 6 p.m. reception and 6:30 lecture can sign up to be on the waiting list by hitting davidbyrneusf.eventbrite.com.
We Win! Cutler to recommend making the Pine/Spruce bike lanes permanent, expansion of center city lane network
Cutler says that during the pilot phase, bike traffic on Pine and Spruce Streets went up significantly on those streets while car traffic dropped 11 percent. And average speeds, she says, dropped only slightly: "The average vehicle speeds changed by at most two miles an hour, where the speeds changed at all." She says that change is not significant, making the pilot program in her view a success -- so much so that the bike lane concept could expand: "We certainly are going to take a look at additional east-west streets and try to figure out where else in the city we might want to do this." So the obvious questions are: Where next? And why just east-west streets? I say Fifth and Sixth to connect Northern Liberties and the Northeast with Bella Vista and South Philly would be a good start. Then maybe Walnut and Chestnut west of the Schuylkill to connect University City with Upper Darby. Where do you want a bike lane?
Cutler says that during the pilot phase, bike traffic on Pine and Spruce Streets went up significantly on those streets while car traffic dropped 11 percent. And average speeds, she says, dropped only slightly:
"The average vehicle speeds changed by at most two miles an hour, where the speeds changed at all."
She says that change is not significant, making the pilot program in her view a success -- so much so that the bike lane concept could expand:
"We certainly are going to take a look at additional east-west streets and try to figure out where else in the city we might want to do this."
So the obvious questions are: Where next? And why just east-west streets?
I say Fifth and Sixth to connect Northern Liberties and the Northeast with Bella Vista and South Philly would be a good start.
Then maybe Walnut and Chestnut west of the Schuylkill to connect University City with Upper Darby.
Where do you want a bike lane?
Received a letter to the editor (which you can read in its entirety after the jump) from Darco Lalevic of the Pennsylvania Cycling Association about the recent uproar over driving and cycling and walking in the city.
Among his very interesting points:
- "Enforcement will not fix things" he cites the 270,929 tickets issued to motorists in 2008 as proof that enforcement doesn't alter behavior.
- More cyclists following the law taking a full lane when entitled to, for example would snarl traffic and thus "motorist aggravation and incidents of road rage would increase."
- Cyclists are killed by cars much more frequently than pedestrians are killed by cyclists.
He builds the idea, brought up in a 2008 article in The Atlantic, that essentially there are too many rules and regulations on streets and roads in the United States and that more rules, perhaps paradoxically, lead to more accidents.
The city needs to embrace newer thinking on urban traffic engineering going forward. There are more ideas other than just converting a car lane to a bike lane. In fact there is ample evidence that our tendency to add more rules and more signs increases our risk.
It reminded me of a trip I took to Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2004 and the shock and general amazement I felt at the way traffic seemed to move effortlessly despite there being no traffic signals at all. As you can see in the video (not mine) above, the motorbike-preponderant traffic weaved in and out at intersections, darting and bending, behaving more like schools of fish than the vector-based traffic stateside. This piece on the blog Cafe Hayek gets more into this trend of minimizing traffic laws rather than making them ever more complicated to deal with each new issue.
Could this work in Philadelphia? Or would the chaos be catastrophic?
Read Darco Lalevic's letter after the jump
Name: Darco Lalevic
Subject: Letter to the Editor
In all the media attention to City Council's efforts to crack down on cyclists, the resulting uproar over criminal cyclists, and cyclist's protesting their rights, none of the loud voices has addressed the practical issues involved. Stu Bykosfky pointed out that while cyclists gripe about dangerous motorists, in fact 270,929 tickets were issued to motorists in 2008, but only 14 to bicyclists. Clearly, enforcement of traffic rules for bicycles is necessary. However, what no one points out is that enforcement will not fix things (look at the number of tickets issued to motorists). Certainly the additional revenue for the city would be miniscule, and enforcement clearly does not change behavior. And while I wholeheartedly support enforcement of bicycle laws, does the general public know what would happen if all cyclists obeyed the law? More cyclists would take entire lanes of traffic where there are no bike lanes. They would stop at more lights and stop signs, delaying and slowing other vehicular traffic. Motorist aggravation and incidents of road rage would increase. Cyclists, who are already far more likely to be killed in a traffic accident, would be at even greater risk, for both accidents and intentional assaults. Motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians all regularly break traffic rules in this city, but it's the motorists who wield greater risk of death and injury.
The incidents which precipitated City Council's action are the issue. Cyclists killed by cars are the issue. Two pedestrians were killed in collisions with cyclists. Regardless of fault or negligence on either side (from what I have read, in one case the cyclist was riding illegally, in the other, the pedestrian was crossing illegally), and notwithstanding the personal tragedy for the families involved, death by bicycle is a rarity. In 2008, there were 92 traffic fatalities involving motor vehicles. 38 of those were pedestrians. Unfortunately, the city does not accurately track cyclists deaths, so I have been unable to tell if the approximately 22 cyclists killed are included in that number. Considering the overwhelming ratio of cars to bicycles, the higher risk of fatalities among cyclists is an issue.
The first step in addressing this is for the city and the police department to treat and respect bicycles as the vehicles they are. Enforce traffic laws, but treat bicycles as vehicles. Enforce laws on aggressive driving and prosecute road rage incidents. Many city cyclists have tales of being assaulted by vehicles, yet rarely is anything done when these are reported.
The city needs to embrace newer thinking on urban traffic engineering going forward. There are more ideas other than just converting a car lane to a bike lane. In fact there is ample evidence that our tendency to add more rules and more signs increases our risk. Last year, the Atlantic published a little recognized article on the very subject (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/traffic).
I love my city, but it frustrates me when every debate comes down to calling cyclists "morally superior", calling drivers "reckless and stupid", and saying "sharing the road equally is insane". Let's stop bashing each other and do something positive.
Pennsylvania Cycling Association
|Buzzing the tower|
Local artist/Nite Lighter Joe Boruchow -- whose exhibit Public Service: New Paper Cutouts at The Bean Cafe, (615 South St.) closes on Tue., Dec. 8, btw -- sends a link to a piece he posted on his blog his reaction to the heavy-handed proposals being offered by City Council to solve the great bike menace.
For those familiar with the proposed bicycle laws in Philadelphia, I offer this cutout. Not in Philly? Check out how the tribal hill people of our city council suggest bettering our fine metropolis - http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/70444347.html
My friend Chris McKenna just sent this video shot by bike evangelist Michael McGettigan of University City's Trophy Bikes. McGettigan set up a camera at Rittenhouse Square it appears to be the east intersection with Locust to see if anybody at all comes to a full stop (that's his red folding bike in the foreground). There are, count 'em, three stop signs and a flashing red light which means, as McGettigan explains in the video, that drivers must come to a complete stop and then proceed when it's safe. The coming to a stop issue is one that's always brought up by people on the "cyclists are scofflaws" side of the urban biking argument whenever these things are hollered about.
What did McGettigan find? Hardly anyone cars, trucks, vans, SUVs, SEPTA buses, school buses (and, okay, cyclists, but we already knew that, right?) comes to anything even resembling a complete stop unless there is a pedestrian directly in front of them. Most drivers roll right through. Some come to a stop only once they've entered the intersection to find a pedestrian already in the crosswalk.
What other intersections could use the McGetti-cam treatment?
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