Unfortunately, people either 1. do not know or 2. do not care.
The radio was full of idiots this morning calling in to complain. One of the largest complaints was that the city is already congested enough and the motorists NEED those traffic lanes. "They go from river to river!" they cried.
I live on Spruce. I walk part of it almost every day. It's probably one of the least congested streets in all of Center City Proper. That's probably why the city picked those streets, instead of Chestnut or Walnut or Market. The volume of traffic on Spruce pales in comparison to Walnut, which runs in the same direction. Perhaps it will change. Perhaps the advent of the bike lane will cause more congestion in motor vehicle only lane on Spruce. Perhaps, but we will have to wait and see.
This morning I saw the bike lane being used as both a driving lane of traffic and a loading lane. The lanes are clearly marked on the street with a bike symbol. Since it's only the first official day, I guess I should give drivers a few days to figure it out. While clearly marked on the street, there are not a lot of signs up. I spied a crumbled "Bike Lane Coming Soon" paper sign strewn in the gutter the other day. You might want to consider a more permanent sign, Philadelphia.
The most unfortunate thing about these lanes, however, is the amount of bitterness and hatred it brings out in people. One woman even suggested hitting cyclists if you should see one in the driving lane when there is a bike lane available. She actually said that. She actually advocated for violent action against other human beings. On the radio. Not in her house, not in her car, on the radio.
In a city that is up in arms over the signing of Michael Vick, it makes me question something I read a few weeks ago, back when the signing was fresh (though, for the life of me, I cannot find to link back). But it made me think, do we value the lives of animals over the lives of other human beings? Perhaps it is because we believe dogs are defenseless when they are being strung up a tree. But how is a person on a bicycle NOT defenseless against a two-ton hunk of metal flying down the road at 30 MPH? Is it because we can easily write it of with a "they should have known"? As in, "they should have known to stay in their own lane and not get in my way." Because we can't share the road. No one wants to. We are all selfish, bikers, drivers, pedestrians alike. We all get around like we own the city streets, that it belongs to us, and that those other people are using it wrong or inefficiently, thus causing us to be inefficient. And God forbid that. We hold our own race to a higher standard, because we have our own thoughts, volition, and free will. Is that the reason for the disconnect? Because we can stand up for our rights, instead of barking for them?
Another caller said, "there are more of us than there are them." In other words, cyclists shouldn't have the right to their own bike lane because they are a minority.
I was wrong to call these people idiots. They do bring up valid concerns on congestion in the city. What they don't bring up is solutions. Everything, on both sides, is "mine, mine, mine." Again, because no one is willing to share the road. The city is not a wasteland that we can continually grow outwards. The city government can't just go around widening streets, knocking down blocks of homes and businesses just to accommodate a parking lane, two lanes of traffic, a bike lane, a sidewalk, and some buffers in between. Perhaps that would work in theory. Perhaps we could all get along if there was a giant expanse of road that allowed for everyone to travel at will at the same time. What would make this road even more amazing would be the lane for the subway/light rail/whatever. But it's all a theory, it would look totally ugly if it were actually implemented and the fact of the matter is that it can't be implemented. We just don't have that much land to dedicate to transportation. And why would we even want to?
Since we can't expand outwards exponentially, we must look for solutions within the confines of the grid. We need to look at ourselves and how our own actions are helping or hindering our city environment before getting caught up in a finger pointing of who's fault it is.
We can start by being nice. Or at the very least, being respectful of others. The bike lanes on Spruce and Pine are there, whether you like it or not. Do not use these lanes as your own personal vendetta against bikers or as a middle finger to The Man. Don't cut each other off so you can make the right hand turn first. And cyclists? Be appreciative and respectful of the cars on the road. You are a delicate being on delicate equipment up against a car who is the antithesis of delicate. In reality, it won't matter to you who's wrong or who's right if you're dead.
So, Philly, can we start there, by being more respectful towards the people in our own city? Can we?
Center City Philadelphia has put up some thoughts about the bike lanes on their website. I wholeheartedly agree with each bullet point:
Center City’s topography makes this an easy city to bike in. But those cities that have built real bicycle cultures and made a significant mode shift in commuting patterns have built extensive communication systems, including:
- signs or road painting to indicate when drivers can enter the bike lane to
make right turns;
- signs that warn drivers to yield to bikes when turning right and remind them
in general that cyclists have equal rights to the road;
- Parking, standing, and stopping rules indicating limitations in the bike
- Bikers also need education on when and how they should turn left from the
bike lane, how to cross vehicular traffic to turn left and reminders that with
safe streets, sidewalks are for pedestrians;