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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 – even going back on some of the precedents they’ve set by recently opening new paths for bicyclists on major roads.

Bicycle shadow, Torino, Italy

Why? In recent months, two pedestrians have been killed by cyclists. We’re talking about bikes here, folks – not cars, not mopeds, not motorcycles. We’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

Arcola Road Bike Lanes

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 they’re available), staying off of sidewalks, and stopping at stop signs or stoplights, amongst other things.

Narrow Path
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 – flying down sidewalks to avoid being stuck in traffic as they rush from place to place in order to keep their jobs in line.

Philadephia’s Plans to Crack Down

Independence Hall and Skyline 2

So why aren’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.

Philadelphia Police Bicycle Squad

What are their plans? For starters, they’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.

Beautiful Bicycling

Councilman Frank DiCicco has a few other changes in mind as well. He wants to make changes to some of Philadelphia’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.

Bike Town Commuter Bikes

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.

Cyclists Protest

Patty, Dwight, David and Chris

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 they’ll have to register their bicycles despite their nonresident status. They also insist that the majority of cyclists are safe – 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

Philadelphia Art Museum

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.

Rocky Type Bikers!

So what’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 you’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 – offering you important information you’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 – well – most of them seem just a bit more welcoming.

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2 Comments for "Philadelphia Cracks Down on Cyclists – Hard"

Tom says on April 13th, 2010 at 10:30 am:

Philly does need to do something for bikers. I ride daily to Center City from South Philly because we have way too expsensive and rude public transportation system. (not to mention, unreliable) The sidewalks in alot of ares are the only safe way to get around for a bike as the taxis will run you right off the street. I know this and have had this experience way to often. Also weekends are hazardouz due to all the bars in town, where people do drive after drinking. The bike lanes provided on Pine and Spruce are in need of repaving, I have been tossed off my bike due to the hard bumpy and potholed surfaces. Broad, Market, Locust and Walnut are 4 major bike routes thru the city and are in desperate need of lanes. You gotta be joking if you tell people to ride on Broad St and don’t supply a safe lane all the way from S Philly and at least to Temple Campuses, both North and South. As for asking bikers to register? You can demand ’til the cows come home, but face it no one will as bikes are recreational and bikes get stolen way to often for people to register them. You took away all the meters and by that reduced locking stations by far. We are outta safe places to lock bikes. Now for bike messengers, I agree strongly that they are dangerous, and therefore should be regisered and employers should be fined for hiring non registered messengers.


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