Friday, December 04, 2009

Cyclists kill pedestrians in Philly!

Pedestrian deaths see cyclists targeted on the streets of PhiladelphiaBy Simon MacMichael
Posted on 20 November 2009

It may take its name from two Greek words that combine to mean ‘brotherly love,’ but emotions are running high in Philadelphia following a series of collisions in the last month between cyclists and pedestrians.The Philadelphia Inquirer said that those incidents resulted in the deaths of two pedestrians and left another with a fractured skull. And in two cases, the cyclists involved didn’t stop.

The newspaper added that concern over the rise of cyclists flouting laws in the Pennsylvania city led two councilmen, Jim Kenney and Frank DiCicco, to table bills yesterday at a scheduled session of the city council that, if enacted, would result in cyclists there having to sport license plates on their bikes and facing higher fines for traffic violations.

The first incident, on October 8, in the south of the city, caused the death of 78-year-old Tom Archie who was preparing to cross the road when he was struck by a cyclist riding against the flow of traffic. The cyclist involved, who has not yet been charged by police, said he shouted a warning to Mr Archie, but to no avail. The victim died two weeks later in hospital.

A week later, on October 15, paralegal Andre Steed, suffered head injuries after apparently being hit by a cyclist at the junction of 16th and Locust. Witnesses described how they saw a cyclist pick himself up off the ground after the collision and flee the scene. Mr Steed died in hospital ten days later, and police are treating it as a hit-and-run. The rider involved has not yet been traced and the law firm where the deceased worked has offered a $10,000 reward for information that helps trace the cyclist.

And a third collision, on October 14, resulted in a lucky escape for student nurse Kirsten Gwynn, who ended up in intensive care with a fractured skull when she was hit by a cyclist while out jogging. Again, the rider in question failed to stop, and has not yet been found.

As a result of those incidents and wider concern about lack of adherence to traffic laws by all road users, police in the city, the birthplace of both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, are today launching a short-term campaign ticketing law-breaking cyclists and car drivers in the city center. And in doing so, they will be accompanied by Bicycle Ambassadors from local cycling advocacy group, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, who will be on hand to educate both cyclists and motorists alike about road safety issues where bicycles are concerned.

But officers acknowledge that long term they face an impossible task in tackling problem cyclists. Sgt. Ray Evers told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Are we as diligent about it as we should be? Probably not. But we have to prioritise. We can't even stop every car violation we see."

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, rising numbers of cyclists in the city have been accompanied by an increase in those who ignore road traffic laws. It said that the Bicycle Coalition’s bike counts had shown that in 2008, over 11,000 people cycled to work on a normal day, with 36,000 people doing so at least once a month. But it added that during the year just 14 tickets were issued to cyclists by police, while motorists received over 200,000.

The bills introduced before the city council yesterday are designed to discourage cyclists from breaking traffic laws as well as making it easier to identify those who have been involved in hit-and-run incidents.

Under Councilman Kenney’s bill, cyclists riding on the pavement or wearing headphones while riding would each face a fine of $300. Currently the fines are, respectively, $10 and $3.

Kenney, who has campaigned on a number of green issues, certainly isn’t anti-cycling. He told the Philadelphia Inquirer: “"Overall, it's a good thing that so many people are riding bikes. And I think it's possible for all of us to share the roads and sidewalks safely, as long as we all respect each other's space."

He added, “"the vast majority of people ride responsibly, but I think we need to step up the enforcement of rules so that the behavior by those who aren't responsible starts to change."

Meanwhile, the bill introduced by DiCicco, if passed into law, would see cyclists aged more than 12 years have to register their bikes within six months of purchase and furnish them with license plates. A one-time registration fee of $20 would be payable, with a $100 fine for those failing to register.

DiCicco believes that registration would help track cyclists not stopping at accident scenes, saying that as it currently stands, "With a bike, someone can just keep going and there's no way to identify them."

Both Kenney and DiCicco believe that their initiatives would benefit all road users, the former saying that there are reckless pedestrians and cyclists, just as there are reckless drivers. He said: "I don't want to go to war with the bikers. I want to keep people safe."

In a statement on its website, the Bicycle Coalition said that it “recognises that the city's streets are chaotic.” But it saw the root cause of the problem as a lack of enforcement of existing laws, and that introducing new ones and increasing fines would not address the issue.

Campaign Director Sarah Clark Stuart said: "This is the wrong approach. Bicyclists shouldn't be singled out when the problem is all road users---motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians---bending the law to suit their own needs, with little if any consequences. The absence of adequate enforcement has led some road users to develop bad habits that endanger themselves and others."

Advocacy Director John Boyle added: "These bills won't make Philadelphia's streets safer. The problem is not that penalties are too low, the problem is that tickets are rarely given out. It is pointless to increase penalties as proposed by Councilman Kenney when the current penalty system has existed only on paper."

As for the proposed requirement to buy a license, the Bicycle Coalition said it believed that adopting such a measure could “discourage riders, impose financial disincentives, and expose the City to numerous legal issues.” It said that the Philadelphia city council should study and learn from the experience of other cities and states that had taken similar steps and subsequently repealed the legislation, including Houston, Washington DC, Detroit, Albuquerque, and the states of Minnesota and Massachusetts, and highlighted that the Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department had made a direct recommendation to the city council that a scheme there be shelved.

Boyle maintains, “Bicycle license plates are impractical and unworkable. Let's learn from other cities' experiences and not waste time and resources on an ineffective program."

Breen Goodwin, Education Director, said that the Bicycle Coalition believed that the key issue going forward was to educate all road users about safety and ensure that existing laws are enforced consistently and fairly on all those who use the road. She believes that “Until that happens, enacting higher penalties or registration programs is ineffective and counterproductive."

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At 12:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the vast majority of people ride responsibly"

At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If your point is that cyclists should never endanger pedestrians, then I'm in full agreement with you.

If your point is that cyclists are a singular breed of jerk that do not belong on the roads and therefore do not deserve infrastructure, then I cannot agree.

More and better roadway engineering would improve and regulate their behavior, I feel.

At 3:08 PM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

oh please, spare me the bullshit..."more and better roadway engineering.." is gonna make for better cyclists..

what crap.

how bout these adult cyclists getting some training on how to ride responsibly and obey ALL traffic laws that apply to them...say for starters.

At 4:31 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

This post is merely an extension of the stated principle in the "Child hit by bicycle" post that mocked the pro-bike StreetsblogSF blog, which sees every occasion of a motor vehicle and bike accident significant enough to provide a link to the story. Otherwise the point is that, yes, there's a lot of misbehavior by drivers of all kinds of vehicles. Of course everyone has a right to be on the road. But cyclists seem to think they are a special case, that they are in fact an oppressed minority, which may be the root of a lot of the anger and acting out we witness by cyclists on the streets of the city.

At 6:37 PM, Anonymous Philip said...

rocky's dad,

Why do you think appropriate infrastructure would not faciliate compliance to regulation?

At 7:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"how bout these adult cyclists getting some training on how to ride responsibly and obey ALL traffic laws that apply to them...say for starters."

Cool. And while we're at it, let's ask ourselves whether laws that pertain to muscle-powered vehicles weighing 30 pounds should be the same as laws that pertain to self-propelled vehicles weighing 5,000 pounds and that interfere with our hearing and vision.

Then we'll be getting somewhere.

If we're going to have cyclists on the roads, and it seems like we are, we better make some provisions for them. If not, all we're saying is "fuck you, cyclist", so it's only natural that they would say "well fuck you, too."

At 7:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Of course everyone has a right to be on the road."

Yes, but they don't have a right to endanger others.

The minute I start putting pedestrians in danger, I've relinquished my right to bicycle on the road, as I see it.

The same holds true of drivers of automobiles.

At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Philip, you're shifting the burden of proof there.

I'll answer for rocky's dad:

"Why would it?"

Now I'll answer for you:

"Because that has been the experience of every city in the world that has made those types of changes."

Now I'm off to the bike-nut circle jerk.

At 6:33 PM, Anonymous Fulbotto D said...

Rob - from another comment, i think the readers need to see this too:

Rob, I've got bad news that I thought you might be able to help me with - There is a new and insidious trend which needs to be crushed before it gets any further. The hipsters are giving up fixies in favor of those crazy-loud filthy 2-stroke vintage mopeds. Mark my words, if we don't do something NOW, then the city is going to be over-run by these little fuckers by next summer.

Fixies are annoying and dangers, but these un-mufflered mo-peds are way worse. Will you help draft a noise ordinance on them? (same goes for annoying harley's too)

At 10:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Bus Riders attack people in San Francisco"

Police arrested a fourth person wanted in connection with an assault and robbery of a young actor on a 9 San Bruno bus in October.

A 24-year-old woman was stabbed twice on the Muni J-Church line near Market and Church streets at about 10:40 a.m. today, police said.

Why has this blog not addressed the menace that is your typical MUNI rider. Along with these violent incidents the rate of iPhone theft (including a gunpoint mugging on the J-Church) is alarming.

MUNI riders are a bunch of scofflaws that must be stopped.

At 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cyclists like this ruin it for everyone. They destroy lives -- as seen here -- and they give the rest of us who actually do obey the laws a bad rep.

At 11:54 AM, Anonymous Fulbotto D said...

Rob - I just wanted to jump in again since I don't know how to contact you otherwise. I just head about 4 harley riding scumbags tear up divisidero. I can still hear them blocks and blocks away.

What is the process you were able to use to get the city to listen to you on the bike plan? Can we get the city to start enforcing the noise volations which are already law? Heck, it's easy money with all the new hipster mo-peds out there


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