opinion

More bike lanes in Philly? Let's put it to a vote

Stu Bykofsky, STAFF COLUMNIST

Updated: Tuesday, August 1, 2017, 6:03 PM

Riding in a designated bicycle lane. How do Philadelphians really feel?

It’s time for a recount of the numbers of those opposed to “protected” bike lanes that were proposed for Lombard Street west of Broad in Center City, in Kenyatta Johnson’s Council district.

Based on figures provided by his office a few days back, I reported about 100 calls and emails were received, 80 percent of whom opposed changing the current “buffered” bike lane to a bike lane “protected” by plastic delineator posts. The change would have turned the current bike lane, which allows stopping for up to 20 minutes, into a lane that bans stopping, meaning passengers could not be picked up or discharged at the curb, nor would delivery trucks or school buses be allowed to stop.

The numbers, however, did not tell the whole story. They are small because no one has polled all Philadelphians. How about a referendum? Stick with me for a minute.

After the column ran, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia complained, saying it had asked supporters to write letters to Johnson. It said it had received and forwarded 217 comments and those were unaccounted for in the tally reported to me by Johnson’s office.

The ones reported to me were “direct comments,” explained Johnson’s communications director, Kaitlyn Manasterski. The 80 percent opposed were “among the immediate neighbors who contacted us,” she said.

Don’t other people count?

“They count,” she said, but “we went with the immediate neighbors on Lombard in opposition.” Had a majority of those been in favor, Johnson would have been in favor, too, she said.

The coalition admitted that Johnson’s blocking the change was a “setback for the city’s efforts to install a network of 30 miles of protected bike lanes.”

I am not pro-car; I don’t own one. I am not anti-bike. I am for full disclosure, sensible rules, and letting the majority rule over narrow special interests.

You probably don’t know about the plan to bring protected bike lanes to a street near you because this city lacks transparency about its plans. Posting something on a website is no substitute for open, healthy debate.

The Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems doesn’t respond to my requests for information, but plans for protected bike lanes for North, South, and West Philly have been revealed elsewhere.

So we have a plan for a massive remake of streets — and the city, in thrall of the bike cult, doesn’t want you to know about it, because you won’t like it. Or so I think.

In the Lombard Street case, the coalition, an effective lobby despite having only 3,000 members throughout the region, alerted the bikeheads and produced an orchestrated response of 217 comments.

There is no lobby for nonbikers, for homeowners and taxpayers who want to be able to drop off their groceries in front of their homes and pick up Granny or the kids. Are they selfish? If the city has an answer for these people, I haven’t heard it.

From the reaction to my work, I sense that Philadelphians haven’t been asked and don’t want bike lanes, and I could find no poll that asked Philadelphians how they feel about them. I know the feedback I get is not statistically valid. How can we find out for sure?

We have an election in November. Put a bike-lane referendum question on the ballot.

It wouldn’t be binding, but it would give the mayor and city planners an idea of what we, the people, want. I’m for it and the coalition’s Randy LoBasso said it’s OK with him.

It’s a democracy. Listen to the people.

Stu Bykofsky, STAFF COLUMNIST

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