There has been a lot of news over the past few weeks here in Philadelphia, regarding bicycling, bicycle accidents, bicycle regulation, rules of the road and enforcement. Until now, I've resisted writing about my thoughts on these topics for a variety of reasons: I wanted to be better informed on the issues and I need to be level-headed in my response; I needed to see what the position of the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia is regarding these weighty issues. The problems are manifold. There was a recent and extremely unfortunate accident involving a cyclist and a pedestrian, resulting in the death of the pedestrian. Let me be clear, I am in no way condoning the unknown cyclist's behavior and I am in no way blaming the pedestrian for this travesty. The pedestrian was run over, knocked out and left hurt on a city side walk near 16th and Locust Street; the pedestrian, Andre Steed, later died from the injuries he sustained. The cyclist fled the scene and has yet to be apprehended. This is the kind of horrendous news that makes me so angry that I could scream. It's a sad, senseless loss of a vibrant life and it makes the tenuous relationship of cyclists and the rest of the world at best, tense. We need to enforce bicycle laws, get cyclists, myself included, to stay off the sidewalks, bike the correct way on the streets and learn to stop at lights and signs. It will be a huge learning curve for everyone but I believe it can be done, if the right steps are taken to educate, enforce and encourage cyclists, drivers and pedestrians about the rules and rights of the road.
In light of these hot topic issues, I do feel the need to chime in on a few things that Philadelphia City Council is proposing. Specifically, Councilman Frank DiCiccio, has put forth a bill to make it mandatory for all bikes to be registered and licensed. I think this is a ridiculous bill that will be impossible to enforce and regulate and will severely hurt cycling in Philadelphia. It smacks of making a quick buck off the backs of some cyclists while others will either be turned off of biking or disregard the proposed rule altogether. Yeah, I'll pony up the twenty bucks per bike if the bill passes, the money for me is not the issue, it's the principal of the bill that pisses me off. How will the registration work? Will all bike shops and mega-stores be required to have the license at the point of sale? Will we cyclists have to pass through some arbitrary check point to prove we are registered? Somehow I don't see the hundreds of young, poor, non-driving immigrants I see biking everyday in my neighborhood to their jobs a) understanding the bill and b) complying with the rule enough without fearing for their own personal legal status. My partner, Liz, said that bikes are vehicles and like all vehicles, should be registered. True, but we aren't required to have insurance. When there is a never-ending scourge of bicycle thefts that never gets deterred, when we have fewer and fewer places to lock our bikes, and when motorists on cellphones run cyclists off the road, yell, honk or completely disregard our street rights, I find it reprehensible to create a bill that in effect, punishes the majority of law-abiding cyclists in Philadelphia. You want to know what bicycle bill should be discussed in City Council - making it mandatory that ALL CYCLISTS wear bike helmets. Take that $20 bucks and spend it on a helmet. We need safer streets, more poles and bike racks, better signage and less cars in Center City, not ineffective measures to discourage bikers from being green, clean and law-abiding citizens.