Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Biking as 'Blood Sport'

"Barbarians on bicycles" is how one writer see the "two-wheel community"

Biking as 'Blood Sport'

In a piece on Fast Philly Sports, Ted Beitchman calls biking in the city a blood sport that puts pedestrians at risk.
In a piece on Fast Philly Sports, Ted Beitchman calls biking in the city a blood sport that puts pedestrians at risk. Reuben "Big Rube" Harley / For the Daily News, file

If you thought I am negative on biking in Philadelphia (I am not anti-bike, I am anti-bike-lane) spend some time with Theodore N. Beitchman’s blistering blowout of Philadelphia bicycling as a “blood sport” in the online Fast Philly Sports.

It is a good, hard-hitting (and funny) read.

And I’m not saying that because Ted gives me favorable mention. I enjoyed his accolade as much as the Inquirer’s bike-adoring,  car-hating Inga Saffron must hate her lumps, many of them earned.

Quick story about Inga, whom I barely know, even though we work in the same building. We move in different circles. She bikes. I walk.

Ted BeitchmanOne day last year our paths crossed in the lobby and she said something about my campaign against bicycles, which is not a campaign against bicycles. It is a campaign against (in my opinion) unnecessary bike lanes and, of course, bad bicyclist behavior.

She pooh-poohed the bad behavior. I challenged her to step outside to the corner of 8th and Market where, I would bet her, she would see illegal bike behavior in less time than it would take me to smoke a cigarette.

She declined. I took a smoke and before I could finish it, there was a dope riding on the sidewalk. I took a picture and sent it to her. She said it wasn’t clear. There are none as blind as those who will not see.

Here are the Top Four violations, as compiled by me, as could anyone with eyes, starting with the least frequent, climbing to the most frequent transgression:

1-    Riding against traffic in the street.

2-    Riding on the sidewalk.

3-    Going through red lights.

4-    Ignoring stop signs.

I have never seen a bicyclist come to a complete, full stop at a stop sign. (Hell, many cars don’t come to a complete, full stop.)

The overwhelming number of bicyclists do not stop at red lights unless there is cross traffic that prevents them from “jay riding.” A tiny minority obey the stop-light law. They deserve praise.

Most bicyclists say they shouldn’t have to stop at a red light. They have all kinds of excuses, but the simple fact is this: Bikes are “vehicles” under Pennsylvania law and have to obey the same rules as cars, for everyone’s safety. Almost none do.

In his piece, Ted calls biking a blood sport that puts pedestrians at risk. That is true, but minor – although I was clipped at 15th and Race by an idiot pedalphile who came whipping around a corner, on the sidewalk, at a high rate of speed.

Ted writes if William Penn came back he “would undoubtedly be the highest profile casualty of the ongoing war between barbarians on bicycles and the rest of us.”

He raises the valid issue of licenses and/or insurance. I have raised that issue and the “bicycle community” howled like scalded dogs. Councilmen Frank DiCicco and Jim Kenney took one step toward this entirely sensible idea, as far as public safety is concerned, and backed off after the cyclists screeched.

With the “bicycle community,” it is all about their rights. They are not interested in their responsibility.

(I think one way to sell registration to the bikeheads is to tell them registration, and having a license number engraved on their bikes, will help police return stolen bikes, which is a real problem in some parts of town. Having bikers carry insurance to me is a no-brainer – but don’t tell that to the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.)

The Bicycle Coalition estimates 2.1 percent of Philadelphians commute by bike. The city’s goal is to hit 5 percent by 2020. I have been saying for years Philly will not hit that number and – even if it did – it would still be only 5 percent. Yet Mayor Nutter insanely refers to bicycling as an “important” part of the transportation picture.

No mode of transportation can be taken seriously when most riders don’t use it all year round. Beautiful days like today, sure, there are more bikers.

When it rained two days ago, less so.

The vast majority of bike commuters live within four miles of City Hall. This comes from the Bicycle Coalition, I am not making it up. What I do “make up” is the observation that if the typical commute is no greater than four miles, that’s walking distance.

Demographically, bikers are predominantly younger and male.

I see the people who bike in Center City. They aren’t biking rather than using a car. Biking has pulled them off mass transit. Is that a good thing?

Stu Bykofsky Daily News Columnist
About this blog
Stu Bykofsky has been a columnist with the Philadelphia Daily News since 1987. Prior to the column, his assignments included theater critic, TV critic, copy editor, general assignment features reporter. He supports civil-rights and animal causes, he opposes political correctness, bicycles on the sidewalk and most other forms of selfishness and stupidity.
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Reach Stu at stubyko@phillynews.com.

Stu Bykofsky Daily News Columnist
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