Open Letter to SEPTA: Innovate, Don’t Discriminate People Travelling with Bikes on Trains

Thank you for recently allowing additional bikes on your trains.  Connecting your bike trips with regional rail is essential for building a sustainable transit network in the Philadelphia region.

I’m dissappointed that SEPTA now forbids bikes on the R1 line, and I suggest that SEPTA approach the challenge of accommodating large bags and bikes on the same train in a creative way.

I’m not sure the R1 works as well as it could.  It’s still pretty awkard lugging your bags around, up to the top rack, etc. “But, I’ve got these these bags..” is one of the biggest excuses folks use to avoid using transit and instead drive or taxi to the airport.  It would be nice for SEPTA to innovate a little here and designate a special space for large bags, bikes, strollers, etc. aboard the R1 line.

I’d like SEPTA to consider this: How do you make this connection as easy and comfortable as possible, considering there is a large transportation hub (PHL) at the end of the line?

If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.

Steve Bozzone

UPDATE: Mandatory Philadelphia Bike Registration Next Steps

The Bicycle Coalition obtained copies of the bills from Council staff today. Click to download DiCicco’s registration bill and DiCicco’s comments and Councilman Kenney’s increased penalties bill and no brake confiscation bill.

You can write and call Councilman Kenney (215) 686-3450, (215) 686-3451 and Councilman DiCicco (215) 686-3458, (215) 686-3459 directly and express your viewpoint about these bills. As stated in our press release, the Bicycle Coalition believes that to achieve better compliance with traffic laws equitable and consistent education and enforcement of current laws must be implemented.

Here is a press release from the BCGP, elaborating its position on the proposals:


November 19, 2009. Philadelphia, PA. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia opposes bills that are being introduced today by Councilman Frank DiCicco and James Kenney to increase penalties and require license plates on bicycles.

“This is the wrong approach,” said Sarah Clark Stuart, Campaign Director. “Bicyclists shouldn’t be singled out when the problem is all road users – motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians – bending the law to suit their own needs, with little if any consequences. The absence of adequate enforcement has led some road users to develop bad habits that endanger themselves and others.”

“These bills won’t make Philadelphia’s streets safer,” said Advocacy Director John Boyle. “The problem is not that penalties are too low, the problem is that tickets are rarely given out. It is pointless to increase penalties as proposed by Councilman Kenney when the current penalty system has existed only on paper,” he added. Other cities, including Los Angeles, Houston, Washington DC, Detroit, Albuquerque, and the states of Minnesota and Massachusetts have all repealed laws similar to Councilman DiCicco’s proposal. Los Angeles’ Police Department Chief directly recommended to LA’s City Council that their program be discontinued. Said Boyle, “Bicycle license plates are impractical and unworkable. Let’s learn from other cities’ experiences and not waste time and resources on an ineffective program.”

“Enforcement can work and up to now, traffic enforcement hasn’t been a priority,” said Breen Goodwin, Education Director. “To achieve better compliance with traffic laws, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia believes that equitable and consistent education and enforcement of current laws on all road users must be implemented. Until that happens, enacting higher penalties or registration programs is ineffective and counterproductive.”

Like many others in Philadelphia, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia recognizes that the city’s streets are chaotic. In the absence of adequate enforcement, all road users – motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians – bend the law to suit their own needs, with little if any consequences. This situation has led some road users to develop bad habits that endanger themselves and others.

Philadelphia’s streets need to be made safer for everyone. The first step toward safer streets is equitable and consistent enforcement of traffic laws as they apply to all road users. Up to now, traffic enforcement has not been a priority. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia urges City Council and the Nutter Administration to implement immediately an equitable and consistent traffic education and enforcement program to enforce the laws that are currently on the books before City Council raises penalties, requires mandatory registration, and puts other restrictions in place. Safety education coupled with enforcement, applied equitably to all road users, is the first step to improve safety for all.

The Philadelphia Police Department appears to be ready to engage in enforcement in tandem with the Bicycle Coalition’s Bicycle Ambassadors education program. The Bicycle Coalition urges City Council to help develop a strategy for an equitable and consistent traffic enforcement and education campaign applicable to all road users. The Bicycle Coalition looks forward to working with city officials to help calm the streets.

With regards to laws requiring registration and licensing of bicycles, the Bicycle Coalition does not support a mandatory program. Among other issues, we are concerned about the potential for a registration program to discourage riders, impose financial disincentives, and expose the City to numerous legal issues. Peer cities and states have passed and then repealed registration and licensing programs. We recommend a thorough investigation of registration and licensing programs in other cities to determine whether such programs would help or hinder efforts to achieve peace on Philadelphia’s streets.

Resist Mandatory Bicycle Registration in Philadelphia

Bicycle Registration is an old and tired idea.If you are a Philadelphian who rides a bicycle, call your City Council member to declare your opposition to Councilman DiCicco’s latest proposal to create mandatory bicycle registration laws.  Compulsory registration, increased fees, and potential confiscation of a person’s bike are all on the table. These potential new laws would create more barriers to cycling and widen the gap of inequitable access to active forms of transportation.

Consider who in Philly would be most affected by such a law, and how it would be enforced. Why is there so much focus on vulnerable road users violating the law, when most people involved in serious driving crashes are rarely held accountable?

I vehemently oppose the confiscation of one’s bike as an enforcement tactic.  I do, however, support increased enforcement of existing traffic law for ALL forms of transportation.  There is no reason to increase fines and impose confiscation on laws that are not presently enforced.

If you live in Philadelphia: find out what district you’re inidentify your council member(s).  Contact them so they know why mandatory bicycle registration is bad for everyone!

Oregon recently went through a similar drive to mandate bicycle registration.  Here’s how it was received.

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has published a position statement, along with a list of cities that have repealed existing bicycle registration laws.  These cities include Detroit, Houston, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Albuquerque.

Continue reading

Support Neighborhood Bike Works, For Free!

Philadelphia’s Neighborhood Bike Works is one of the brightest bicycle equity organizations in the United States.  They are grassroots , thus constantly challenged to find necessary funding to spread their bike love, to persons of all economies.  Donate your 5 minutes to help sustain this important resource.

Fill out a quick survey about Philadelphia-area nonprofits: and Generocity will donate $5 to Neighborhood Bike Works! Just enter “Neighborhood Bike Works” as your nonprofit of choice. NBW’s address: 3916 Locust Walk, Philadelphia PA 19104.

via Timothy Colman

Portland Police Training Video on Bike Law

The most striking thing I learned from this video is that police have an incentive to not file reports in order to save time, at their *discretion*.   Fair enough, we are working with limited resources.

I worry about this sort of subjectivity.  To me, a PO’s job is to observe boundaries.  I hate to think that ticketable offenses or at least writing reports for things like right hooks, dooring, etc. can be shrugged off if it doesn’t seem necessary to the police officer.  In all likelihood, most crashes involve a level of property damage, and that should warrant some level of accountability.

Full disclosure, I’m still upset over a recent incident where a rider on Williams was flagrantly doored by a driver in a rage, who happened to be driving without insurance to boot. The hit cyclist’s bike definitely needed some serious repairs, but thankfully the rider was not seriously hurt.  When we asked about a report, perhaps a citation for the driver not driving with insurance, the PO simply shrugged and said it was a civil matter.

I do really appreciate the transparency and the meeting-at-the-same-table approach of this project.  Let’s see this sort of resource updated regularly  with new material, there is certainly much more ground to cover.

Thoughts on Critical Mass – Portland / NYC

I’ve never ridden in a Portland CM, but have enjoyed many PDX group rides in the past year. I used to ride in the NYC CM when we were 1500+ strong, would ride on the highway, etc. and not a single arrest. Sometimes the police on scooters would help us block traffic. It was awesome! It was fun! There were kids! Costumes!

The heavy-handedness came during the RNC in 2004, when everyone was dodging police and it got really scary. It folded into the NYC Police “We Got This (Police State)!” campaign. Consequent rides became us vs. the police and this ended up attracting a lot of troublemakers. The ride started eating itself (some might argue by the design of heavy handed policing) and the radical elements really took over. It was all just sheer adrenaline rush, and I don’t think we convinced anyone that bikes were the better form of transportation. That’s when I decided I was over CM. Antagonizing pedestrians, bus riders, etc. was against the guiding principles I enjoyed earlier in the CM movement.

Moving to Portland, the fun rides here are WAY more fun and WAY more effective than any CM I’ve ever been on. Portand *has* reached a critical mass, certainly not an *ideal* mass, but we are at the point where things are turning in our direction. Traffic is calmed, a ton of commuters are using bicycles, bike infrastructure is constantly developed, we have a zoobomb monument… yet still, plenty of work to do! I think if other cities could lead their CM rides like a pedalpalooza ride, they’d be much more effective.

Well done, Portland!

Joe Biel produced a video about PDX critical mass, aptly titled ‘AfterMass: Bicycling in a Post-Revolutionary Portland’