Biking in the City: Philadelphia Weekly Sparks Conversation on the Struggle Between Bikes vs. Cars - Generocity Philly

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Aug. 30, 2013 11:40 am

Biking in the City: Philadelphia Weekly Sparks Conversation on the Struggle Between Bikes vs. Cars

For anyone who's part of the nearly 2 percent of Philadelphians who regularly bike, you know it's an adventure to say the least. Motorists, pedestrians, buses, potholes, and the unexpected surprises can make a daily commute feel more like a game of Frogger.

For anyone who’s part of the nearly 2 percent of Philadelphians who regularly bike, you know it’s an adventure to say the least. Motorists, pedestrians, buses, potholes, and the unexpected surprises can make a daily commute feel more like a game of Frogger.

So what’s going on out there at our intersections and avenues? Is a secret war being waged between bicyclists and drivers?

To explore this question, this week’s Philadelphia Weekly (PW) cover story investigated the ongoing conflict between drivers and bicyclists. PW reporter Ray LoBasso began the story by highlighting this year’s Naked Bike Ride, an annual tradition where committed bicyclists parade down a 10-mile route in the bare minimum of clothes. While by no means a scientific survey, Lobasso saw the turnout as a sign that bicycling’s popularity is growing and becoming a part of our culture.

But integrating bicycling into our culture is only half the battle. The other half is integrating bicycling into our streets safely, efficiently and in a way that does not impede the still considerable number of drivers.

For those who bike or drive consistently, the issue is a day to day negotiation. Drivers are having to adapt to more bikes on the road, and bicyclists are entering a world that is still dominated by cars.

PW’s story looked at both sides of this issue by talking to bicyclists, pedestrians and even Daily Time’s columnist Stu Bykofsky, who is known for his searing critiques of bicyclists and bike paths.

“I am anti-bike lane,” Bykovsky told PW. “I don’t think they’re necessary. I think—I know—they slow traffic. Not I think. I know because while I don’t own a car, I have Philly Car Share and I drive in the city. So, I don’t think the bicycle lanes are necessary.”

On the other end of the spectrum, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, one of city’s most committed advocacy groups for bicycling, was featured heavily in the piece.

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Yesterday, the organization praised the PW story in a blog post on their site.:

“One thing we appreciate about the column is that it reflects the many reasons why some people break traffic laws while bicycling. Education, enforcement, and safety all play into it.”

Specifically, LoBasso explained his own reasoning for blowing through stop signs, which is that cars get frustrated with him as tries to build up speed after stopping. These situations, he wrote, can actually lead to even more dangerous run-ins with drivers.

The Bicycle Coalition also made sure to add some points of its own to the conversation, such as the need for uniform enforcement by police and the importance of educational materials that explain the law. The post also stated that LoBasso underplayed the importance of separated infrastructure such as bike paths.

One point that LoBasso and the Bicycle Coalition both stressed is that bicycling is not a sub-culture, as it might seem when looking at the gung-ho participants of the Naked Bike Ride. Instead, they argue that biking is just another form of transportation, and mutual respect is necessary for it to become mainstream.

Read the full story here.


What’s your take on the bicyclist/driver relationship in Philly? What could be some possible solutions to ease the tensions? Leave your comments below. 

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