Police crackdowns against bad motorists increased last year in Philadelphia, while pedestrian and bicycle enforcement declined, according to statistics supplied by the Police Department at my request.
In news that will be cheered by bicyclists, tickets handed out to motorists stopped in bike lanes increased. Both the Police Department and the Parking Authority are empowered to write such tickets.
Is it any surprise that parking enforcement officers write more tickets than the cops? No, and they write a ton more.
In 2017, cops wrote 472 tickets for bike-lane infractions including double parking, parking in a no-parking zone, and stopping in a no-stopping zone. In the same year, the PPA wrote eight times more — 3,982 tickets.
In 2018, police stepped up and wrote 764 tickets for autos, an increase of about 60 percent. In the same year, the PPA increased its output to 4,674, up 17 percent. (Motorists are permitted to make brief stops in bike lanes — to discharge passengers, for example.)
In 2018, says Philadelphia police spokesperson Capt. Sekou Kinebrew, “we partnered in several initiatives regarding traffic congestion in Center City,” and that could have impacted the number of tickets written.
The figures prove cops are cracking down on those who block bike lanes.
How about enforcement against illegal bicycle behavior?
That is almost nonexistent.
In 2017, a measly 45 tickets were written for bicyclists for such offenses as riding on the sidewalk, blowing through red lights and stop signs, and riding against traffic. In 2018, that slumped to 43 tickets. That’s less than one per week and is a travesty, given the flagrant abuse of traffic laws by many bicyclists.
“We attempt to balance enforcement with availability of resources,” says Kinebrew.
That response doesn’t satisfy Shelley Kardon, a Center City resident who coincidentally reached out to me as I was preparing this column.
She was crossing the Parkway at 19th a few days back. “A woman with a baby carriage was walking to my left,” she says. They were crossing on the green light when a speeding bicyclist blew a red light, “missing me and the woman with the baby carriage by a fraction of an inch,” Kardon says.
Pedestrians also basked in lax enforcement. They got 483 tickets in 2017, but that sank 35 percent to 310 in 2018.
While cops were lenient on two wheels or two legs, they were tough on four wheels. Cops wrote 84,820 tickets to motorists in 2017, but jacked their output to 97,216 in 2018, a 14 percent increase.
Turning to another wheeled vehicle, in the last two years Philadelphia police have written no tickets for illegal skateboarding. Zero.
And since the city is decriminalizing marijuana, I’m not surprised tickets written for pot possession have declined 5 percent from 4,229 in 2017 to 3,998 in 2018. I am surprised the figure is that high, no pun intended.
Weed is still illegal, Kinebrew said, but most enforcement is driven by citizen complaints.
Maybe potheads are easier to catch than jaywalkers or red-light-running cyclists.
By the way, I also monitor tickets written to sidewalk cafes that usurp more of the sidewalk than permitted.
It seems 2017 was a banner year, with 676 inspections made and 223 tickets written, 10 percent higher than the 204 tickets issued in 2016. In 2018, however, the bottom dropped out, with only 174 inspections and 34 violations written up — a drop of 84 percent.
“In light of the increase in construction activity in the city,” Streets Department spokesperson Keisha McCarty-Skelton tells me, “the right-of-way unit was focused more on construction closures last year and did not perform as many cafe sweeps. We plan to schedule more cafe sweeps this season.”