THE TINY SLICE of you who bike to work (2.1 percent of Philadelphians, according to the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia) and the microscopic number of full-blown bikeheads (impervious to facts and reason) will be stunned to learn that I went bicycling through the Berkshires last week - and have pictures to prove it.
[Editor's note: Spending a half-hour on a flat, paved, protected bike lane may not actually qualify as "bicycling through the Berkshires."]
I was on a borrowed bike with painfully low handlebars and a plantain-size seat some health-insurance plans count as a vasectomy. My bike partner was my daughter, Sonya, who hauled her sheeplike dog, Mojo, in a trailer attached to her bike. (Mojo prefers the back seat of Sonya's tiny, fuel-efficient car, called the Drip, Frig or Flit. Something like that.)
It was fun. Bike-riding is fun, although a ridiculous commuting option for nearly all Americans. (Ditto three-quarters of the bike-loving Dutch, who live in hill-less Holland, which also boasts an excellent mass-transit system.)
The Berkshires are spot-clean, and the people are well-mannered. It's different from Philadelphia.
Here at home, bike enthusiasts are boning up for the highlight of their year - the annual (illegal) celebration of bike-riding (and proof that it doesn't make everyone fit): the Philly Naked Bike Ride, coming to amuse (and repulse) Center City on Sept. 4. It's revealing that bikers - to celebrate their hobby and general sidewalk nuisance - choose to break the law.
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.
A stepped-up bicycle-enforcement campaign (a few hours a day, a few days a week, only in Center City) began May 16. In two months, 590 bike warnings were issued, along with 10 tickets. Ten tickets in three months equals 40 tickets a year, the total written in all of 2010. Not exactly the KGB. As usual, enforcement remains a flat tire, a j-o-k-e.
Lax law enforcement makes bikers grin, but some lawmakers make them grim.
Last week, the Bicycle Coalition sent out an alert that the House Transportation Committee is planning to reduce federal funding for transit by 34 percent and, horror of horrors, funding will be eliminated for biking - and walking. Yes, the government throws money at walking. Your tax dollars at work.
The alert, from coalition Campaign Director Susan Clark Stuart, says the Philly/Camden area will lose $10.1 million in bike/walking funds, and, more serious to me, $188 million for SEPTA, PATCO and New Jersey Transit. The alert never mentions America's fiscal crisis.
Locally, Councilman Bill Greenlee in May introduced a bill that would require City Council approval before the mayor could strip a lane away from cars and turn it over to bikes. Bikers howled like horny wolves.
"The administration is big on transparency," Greenlee tells me, so he asks what's wrong with well-announced public hearings in Council instead of shadowy meetings with poorly attended community groups.
The city says that would slow the process down. Maybe it should be slowed down, because the city is not making good on its promises.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215-854-5977. See Stu on Facebook. For recent columns: