Zero is achievable, if you want it

On Tuesday, Dec. 19, Philly’s cycling community will, again, create a human protected bike lane along 13th Street to keep cyclists safe.
"Protected bike lanes now" reads a sign held by some 100 cyclists and supporters on Nov. 29 on Spruce Street, after a cyclist was killed by a trash truck 24 hours prior. (Courtesy of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia)

In the weeks since cyclist Emily Fredricks’ death on Spruce Street in Center City, there’s been a sense among Philadelphia’s cycling community that not enough is being done to bring Vision Zero to Philadelphia.

 

Vision Zero is the idea that there are legislative changes you can make via engineering, education, and enforcement to cut all traffic deaths in an area down to zero. The city has made a commitment, and written an action plan, to do just that, by 2030.

 

Which is good. But even as those fighting for safer streets have stepped up their advocacy in the cold, those in charge of enforcement have continued turning a blind eye to some egregious behaviors by motorists on the streets where the tragedy occurred, and advocates have attempted to take matters into their own hands.

 

Philadelphians set up a human-protected bike lane the day after Emily’s passing, and a vigil was held that night. Tellingly, cyclists were honked at, screamed at, and had to ride in packs around rucks illegally blocking the bike lane, just to travel a few blocks and remember one of their community members.

 

The Streets Department was out the next weekend with a striping crew, repainting the worn out, faded Spruce Street bike lane.

The crew was able to repaint several lanes, but not as many as they probably could have. At every block, the workers were delayed by people pulling over in front of them, parking their cars in the bike lane, and running off to do whatever errand they felt was more important than restriping the street. Meanwhile, a line of people in motor vehicles behind them, screamed and honked for the striping crew to get the hell out of the way so they could get by.

Trucks have continued using Spruce and Pine’s bike lanes for parking, and someone holding a holiday party on the 2100 block of Spruce last Thursday used the bike lane as their official valet parking zone, complete with hired valets.

Another cyclist was struck by another truck on Friday, on 13th and Pine, which is another intersection that’s supposed to be safe for cyclists even though it does not include physical protection.

You can’t get to zero deaths if you continue to turn a blind eye to some of the most egregious traffic behaviors by those operating some of the most dangerous machines in the city. As the weeks since Emily’s passing — and years before it — have shown, you can’t expect motorist’s behavior to change because of a tragedy. After all, for those who drive on the regular, fender-benders, head-on collisions, and broken bones are just part of what you sign up for when you pass your driving test. Only a change in infrastructure will stop the egregious behavior.

That’s why tomorrow, Tuesday, Dec. 19, Philly’s cycling community will, again, create a human protected bike lane along 13th Street to keep cyclists safe from motorists using lanes designated for bikes as their personal parking lots. If you’re interested in participating, come out to 13th and Pine, where the latest cyclist was hit, from 8am to 8:30am. 

 
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