Philadelphia Cracks Down on Cyclists – Hard
While cities around the world are embracing cyclists and their love for the open road, the city of Philadelphia is taking a much stronger stance â€“ even going back on some of the precedents theyâ€™ve set by recently opening new paths for bicyclists on major roads.
Why? In recent months, two pedestrians have been killed by cyclists. Weâ€™re talking about bikes here, folks â€“ not cars, not mopeds, not motorcycles. Weâ€™re talking about your standard, two-wheeled, pedal by foot, bicycle. In both instances, the cyclists involved in the bike/pedestrian collisions left the scene of the accident, bringing a new question to light. How do cities keep track of traffic violations caused by those riding bicycles?
Bicyclists vs. the Rules of the Road
Traditionally, bicyclists are required to follow the same rules of the road as vehicles. This means riding on the proper side of the road, staying in bicycle lanes (if theyâ€™re available), staying off of sidewalks, and stopping at stop signs or stoplights, amongst other things.
The truth, however, is that a growing percentage of cyclists think their status as riders entitles them to special privileges. Some stop at red lights but take advantage of their smaller statures to run through them in small clear spaces when oncoming traffic is clear. Others refuse to stay in bicycle lanes, swerving in and out of traffic and from between parked cars at their own (often misguided) discretion.
Not to mention the bike messengers â€“ flying down sidewalks to avoid being stuck in traffic as they rush from place to place in order to keep their jobs in line.
Philadephiaâ€™s Plans to Crack Down
So why arenâ€™t cyclists forced to follow the rules of the road? Philadelphia residents, angered pedestrians, and frustrated drivers are asking the same questions. And councilpersons are attempting to introduce local legislation that will change everything.
What are their plans? For starters, theyâ€™d like to force bicyclists to register their two-wheeled vehicles with the city. This means each bicycle ridden by a Philadelphia resident would be given a small tag, similar to the license plates on a car, to make them easy to identify if they are involved in accidents of any kind.
Councilman Frank DiCicco has a few other changes in mind as well. He wants to make changes to some of Philadelphiaâ€™s already existing legislation governing cyclists as well. Right now there is a fine of $10 for cyclists riding on sidewalks and a fine of $3 for cyclists who wear headphones while riding. He wants to increase each fine to $300 per incident instead.
Philadelphia has recently changed its rules governing cell phone use while driving, enforcing stricter rules than the state of Pennsylvania currently mandates. Drivers may not use a cell phone while driving unless they are using a hands free headset – no exceptions. The same rule applies to cyclists.
Most cyclists, not only in Philadelphia but from South Jersey and surrounding areas, are miffed about the pending changes. Workers who commute from South Jersey by train, bringing their bicycles for transport throughout the city, wonder if theyâ€™ll have to register their bicycles despite their nonresident status. They also insist that the majority of cyclists are safe â€“ and that it is the persistent mistreatment or disregard of cyclists by motorists that leads to so many accidents and injuries on the road.
Exploring Philadelphia by Bicycle
Tourists to the City of Brotherly Love, especially those who stay in the City Center, may find it convenient to ride a bicycle to local attractions rather than taking a taxi or attempting to navigate the subway systems. The problem is that they may suddenly find themselves subjected to an entirely new set of laws while navigating already dangerous roads.
So whatâ€™s the solution? Ask your Philadelphia hotel concierge about the best modes of transportation to each of your destinations. He may recommend a taxi, trolley, or even horse drawn carriage ride (depending on what section of the city youâ€™re in). At the very least, he may be able to help you figure out exactly what rules have changed as far as cycling is concerned â€“ offering you important information youâ€™ll need before you hit the streets.
And, if worst comes to worst, you can simply visit some of the other bicycle friendly cities in the world instead. There are plenty of them to choose from and â€“ well â€“ most of them seem just a bit more welcoming.
- Ontario expands e-bike rules (cbc.ca)
- Volunteer To Make Burien Safer For Bike Riders & Pedestrians (b-townblog.com)
- Commute on foot or bike? DOT wants to count you (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Cyclists: Stay off the sidewalks (bjsmith.wordpress.com)