Stu brings 'naked truth' on 2 wheels

Stop the presses! Stu Bykofsky has finally discovered the joy of bike-riding!

That's the fun spin a lot of tweets and other references to today's Stu Bykofsky column are giving, though of course regular readers will recall that Stu has always said he's in favor of bike-riding, just against scofflaw riders. Which apparently is (not sure where this statistic comes from) "almost all" of them.

Stu Bykofsky isn't against cycling; he's against scofflaw cycling. Here, he hits the saddle for some biking in the Berkshires. (Photo: Sonya Bykofsky)

Almost all bikers break the law. If they don't ride on sidewalks (most don't), then they ride against traffic or ignore stop signs or fail to stop at red lights. Despite repeated promises from the city, enforcement on bicycles - vehicles under state law - is as rare as snow in July.

So the new Give Respect, Get Respect enforcement campaign that's been going on for a couple of months in Center City should be just the ticket, so to speak. And as Morgan Zalot reports,

A traffic-enforcement team of bike cops stopped 803 cyclists and motorists from its May 16 launch through Thursday. Of those, 600 were cyclists... Of the cyclists stopped, 590 were issued warnings, while three were cited for moving violations, which commonly include running red lights or riding against traffic and carry the same $120.50 fine as they do for motorists. Seven cyclists received code violations for riding on the sidewalk, which carry a $50 fine.

Stu points to the small number of tickets for bikers as evidence that "enforcement remains a flat tire, a j-o-k-e." This has been a longtime theme in his debate with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

But I would like to see a comparison, percentage-wise (after all, Stu is constantly reminding us what a small "slice" of the commuting population bicyclists are) between law-breaking cyclists ticketed and car drivers ticketed for talking on cell phones while driving, also illegal in Philadelphia. Thus far, enforcement in that area - for an infraction as dangerous as driving drunk - seems to also fit the "j-o-k-e" description.

Zalot's news report begins with a bicyclist literally scoffing at the law and saying "I'm not worried." If the drivers I've seen around town over the past week are indicative, those who are breaking the cell-phone law are also unfazed (and despite the quote about "educational focus" for cyclists, I"m betting a great many are also "uneducated" about the law).

Until that much larger number of "scofflaws" engaging in behavior that kills thousands of people every year start worrying and modifying said behavior, I have a hard time getting exercised about a dude riding on a sidewalk.

That said, it's good to see Stu getting exercised by his own pedaling, and we can always hope that he'll carry the stunt to the extreme and this year, finally, participate in Philly's Naked Bike Ride. Come on! Who's with me on this?