Urban Velo

Philadelphia Cyclists Begin Response to Proposed Licensing and Fines

About two weeks ago we reported on a few council proposals in Philadelphia to require bicycle licensing and increase the fines for various cycling offenses, brought about at least in part by two recent pedestrian deaths as a result of cyclists colliding with them. The Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia has issued a statement in response, and is surely working behind the scenes to counter licensing through the courtroom if need be. Acknowledging that as with some motorists, some cyclists too bend and outright ignore the rules to suit their needs, the statement goes on to say:

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.

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 Peer cities and states have passed and then repealed registration and licensing programs.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.

The Sunday media coverage has shone light on the cyclist’s side of the debate, with the Metro reporting on the Philadelphia Bicycle Messenger Association (PBMA) rallying behind a hit and run victim of their own, while the Philadelphia Weekly featured an editorial about the one-sided and misinformed mainstream coverage of the council proposals.

Members of the PBMA are meeting Monday November 30th at 5pm at the corner of 16th and JFK Boulevard today to distribute an official statement about recent events.


  1. adamNovember 30, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    being from philly and being a responsible cyclist i let the councilmen know that i thought their proposals were crazy. cyclists need to be more responsible and careful and i think some cyclists should be fined for doing ridiculous things but that money should go to bike infrastructure.

    if you really wanna get pissed off read the stu bykofsky article though. im not a car hating cyclist but i think hes just completely out of touch and people like him are holding cyclists back

  2. patNovember 30, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    i feel like this stuff is validating motorist behavior towards cycling. word from philadelphia cyclists is that car drivers are being more eratic than ever since the crackdown.

  3. moondogNovember 30, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    hi, please look at phillybma.org for a list of media coverage.

  4. B. BillDecember 1, 2009 at 3:21 am

    This is retarded, but hey that’s America for you. You could always pull out a gun and shoot them !

  5. Joe PeraltaDecember 1, 2009 at 5:39 am

    Too bad about the heat, but it might actually end up with more and better space on the streets, like more enforcement keeping bike lanes clear. If the city wants revenue, there it is. They can only lose hitting on cyclists, and they know it.

    A riding academy is a good idea, and good PR, too. Of course it doesn’t reach the problem child.

    For the student of city cycling, I found this on the Philly collisions at

    “The first incident, on October 8, in the south of the city, caused the death of 78-year-old Tom Archie who was preparing to cross the road when he was struck by a cyclist riding against the flow of traffic.

    The cyclist involved, who has not yet been charged by police, said he shouted a warning to Mr Archie, but to no avail. The victim died two weeks later in hospital.

    A week later, on October 15, paralegal Andre Steed, suffered head injuries after apparently being hit by a cyclist at the junction of 16th and Locust. Witnesses described how they saw a cyclist pick himself up off the ground after the collision and flee the scene.

    Mr Steed died in hospital ten days later, and police are treating it as a hit-and-run. The rider involved has not yet been traced and the law firm where the deceased worked has offered a $10,000 reward for information that helps trace the cyclist.

    And a third collision, on October 14, resulted in a lucky escape for student nurse Kirsten Gwynn, who ended up in intensive care with a fractured skull when she was hit by a cyclist while out jogging.

    Again, the rider in question failed to stop, and has not yet been found.”

  6. LouisDecember 1, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    I certainly biased as a city-cyclist. However, I unlike some of my fellow cyclists, I obey traffic laws. Not too long ago, I was riding through a a green light at night but almost hit a pedestrian who decided to cross on red. Said pedestrian was wearing dark clothes and no lights of any kind, so I was barely able to see them in time.

    I might support something like the plan proposed in Philadelphia if it included a rough equivalent (fines and enforcement) for pedestrians crossing on red. Yes, I know there are jerks on bikes who run red lights and hit pedestrians, but responsibility for safe streets cuts both ways.

  7. NilesDecember 2, 2009 at 10:48 am

    I’m a courier in Atlanta, GA and I just received a fine totaling over 600 dollars for running two traffic lights, and riding no more than three feet down a sidewalk to lock my bike up. Not to mention the 36 hours I spent in jail for the matter (jail, for traffic violations?).In the same court room drug dealers and prostitutes were given a slap on the wrist and given the option of participating in some program or other to avoid paying their fines. Will this change my opinion or respect for the law? Absolutely not. This is my job, my livelihood, and I have to do what I have to do in one of the least safe cities for cyclists in the world.
    I would love to see a statistic on pedestrian related accidents, because I must agree with Louis that it’s only fair to penalize everyone. And from my day to day trips on the job, anywhere from fifty to a hundred miles a shift; six days a week (not to mention that I live on a bicycle, and don’t own a car), I feel that I see enough to without a doubt pin the pedestrian as my worst enemy on the road. From getting out of parked cars, to stepping into the roadway without looking, to assuming that a crosswalk draws an invisible force-field around them when crossing. I never cease to be surprised by the shear stupidity of the walking human.

  8. DaveDecember 3, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    I always thought that jaywalking was a silly offense until I moved into the urban core. There you encounter a certain type of pedestrian who will cross main roads in the middle of the block with absolutely no regard for on coming traffic. (That’s while driving). While biking you have to deal with aforemenioned population plus another sizable population that simply give you a blank look as you ride towards them. I am not saying that the Philadelphia pedestrians were doing anything wrong, but I see a higher percentage of pedestrians violating traffic laws than either drivers or riders.

  9. Joe PeraltaDecember 4, 2009 at 5:31 am

    Motorists grouse about bikes – cyclists grouse about pedestrians. The real problem is bikes are in the No Man’s Land between the traffic lanes and the sidewalk. We’re too slow for the cars, and too fast for the pedestrians. Throwing 3 different traffic types into 1 mix is a recipe for crashes. Pedestrians have the sidewalks – we need our own space.

    Pedestrians aren’t so much stupid as they are ignorant. Most of our problem pedestrians have acquired bad habits, like using their ears to detect approaching traffic, and depending on a semi-conscious “prey image” eye-brain reflex to recognize hazards. I’ve seen a motorist pull out in front of a big speeding red fire engine, with lights, siren, and air horn going, with that same stupid blank look on her face. She just didn’t recognize it until it was almost on top of her.

    Education like billoards and PSAs would go a long way to wising up the ignorant. They have to learn to look, and to recognize the unexpected.

    In the meantime, I’ll always consider them a challenging, unpredictable hazard – just like motorists think of cyclists.

  10. J.C.December 5, 2009 at 8:40 am

    “I never cease to be surprised by the shear stupidity of the walking human.”…says the man who sees no problem with himself running traffic lights.

    I wonder if any of those pedestrian deaths were at the hands of those who think riding without brakes is not dangerous?

    Reading some of the comments on the articles from the links provided shows me that some bikers are just plain stupid. Here we have people claiming that cars shouldn’t be allowed on city roads. Would those be the roads that would not exist if not for gas taxes and licensing fees, etc. that automobile drivers pay?

    And why do bikers that break laws, and run red lights, and ride without brakes (that makes it more dangerous for both them and others on the road) think everyone should show them such respect when they show no respect to others by breaking laws and running red lights and riding without brakes?

    I never cease to be surprised by the shear stupidity of the pedaling human.

  11. ElvisDecember 5, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    First, the first well and truly decently paved road networks in this country were impelemented at the behest of American Cycling enthusiasts over a hundred years ago.

    secondly, I have been both a pedestrian, driver, and cyclist. I have to say I have seen far more careless drivers and pedestrians than cyclists, especially if you consider experienced riders who ride daily. A person who puts in 4000 miles a year is not going to be as clueless as a bimbo crossing the street on her cell phone or stirring her $5 “latte”.

    There are some careless cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers. However, when a driver or pedestrian carelessly causes a lawfully operating cyclist to crash, no one makes across-the-board campaigns denouncing peds or drivers the way they do if a cyclist does something. Certainly if a cyclist deserves a ticket, he should get a ticket, but these crackdowns are idiotic. Every day I see drivers run red lights, swerve at me on my bike, etc. And nine out of ten pedestrians I enounter enter the street without stopping or even looking both ways. If someone runs out in front of me like a super lemming how is it my fault?

    So some people ( perhaps J.C. above) have encountered careless cyclists. I am sure there are such. My own blood boils when I see idiots riding against traffic or on sidewalks. But much of what noncyclists construe as reckless is actually safe and it’s the noncyclists ignorance because they don’t understand what the cyclist is doing. Same goes for traffic infractions: But I have actually had nonbiker cops who do not know the law tell me I am breaking the law and don’t do it or I’ll get a ticket, while doing nothing illegal!

    Even, however, if the behavior actually is reckless and gainst the law, the cyclists — even if they are being careless — at least *know the pedestrians and drivers are going to be there*! A lot of pedestrians and drivers don’t even bother to look for cyclists, which explains a lot of the animosity and ill feeling; they don’t realize they were being stupid when they jumped out in front of me on my bike because they never thought to look for bikes.

    I’d say educate all concerned, and enforce any relevent laws. And keep in mind that “pedestrians have the right of way” does not mean you have the right to jump out in front of a bike, car, or 18-wheeler and cause an accident for you, the other party, or anyone in the vicinity.

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