I'm getting all lawful lately. Not that I was some terror of the streets before, but suddenly I find myself sitting at empty intersections, on my bicycle, waiting for every single light. Like I'm a car. It hurts, but not much — waiting at every light costs me 167 seconds of my 20-minute commute to work. And you can have those seconds, Philadelphia drivers. But only if you stop acting crazy.
And "crazy" is the word for it. Following two recent deaths of pedestrians at the hands of bicyclists, long-simmering anti-bike sentiments exploded, taking shape in the form of aggressive laws proposed by Councilmen Jim Kenney and Frank DiCicco, which include such reasonable measures as a fine for wearing headphones that's nearly three times that of blowing a red — in a car! If only there were such a thing as double-italics!
The councilmen say they're just starting a "conversation." Good idea, but don't start by spitting. The past two weeks have seen much foamy-mouthed anti-bike whining, embodied by the Daily News' Stu Bykofsky, who — apparently because his own commute utilizes Pine and Spruce streets, which now host the only two east-west bike lanes in Center City — seems hell-bent on getting revenge for cars having to share the road with bikes. If anyone deserves revenge, it ain't drivers. In the last five years, 174 people, including 18 cyclists, have been killed by cars in Philly, according to the Bicycle Coalition. The number of pedestrians killed by bikes over the same period? Three.
To bike is to be screamed at, threatened and run off the road all the time. Yet it's the bicyclists who are trying to be reasonable. On Thanksgiving, a bike messenger was seriously injured in a hit-and-run. The driver, she says, screamed anti-bike obscenities at her while rendering her in need of reconstructive surgery. Did her fellow messengers scream bloody murder? No. They issued a statement: "We do not oppose the enforcement of existing laws regarding bicycle riding, but believe that equal and consistent enforcement ... is key."
When bike messengers are the voices of reason, it's time for drivers to wake up. Bicyclists aren't ideologues; they're commuters. If giving up those tantalizingly empty intersections will make drivers less likely to harass or kill them, most of them will do it. They are ready to be reasonable — but reasonable demands reasonable. Take my 167 seconds, Philly — but get off my back.