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First of all, it must be said that I find it very awkward to use the term “the city” to describe Philadelphia. As a Jersey girl “the city” is and always has been the wonderful island of Manhattan. But around this-here-parts “the city” is Philly and that was my destination on Monday.
I rode my bike to the bus station where I got some very intrigued looks as I folded up Conor’s Raleigh. I decided to take the Raleigh for two reasons: a) it was much easier to put on the bus than my Cannondale would have been, and b) I have a flat due to a broken stem. (The stem is the part of the tube that sticks through the tire’s rim; it is where you attach a pump to air your tires.)
My friend Z met me at the bus and we rode to lunch, then we rode to her apartment. We rode to the park and back. I acted as a mosquito buffet. We walked to supper and drove to Center City for another friend’s comedy show.
There are SO MANY bicycles in Philadelphia. I was overwhelmed. The bicycle population outweighs Bethlehem by at least 10 fold. You cannot walk a block without seeing half a dozen bicycles locked to street posts, bike corrals, or porches. It was FANTASTIC!
Not only are there oodles of bicycles, there are oodles of bicyclists. Whenever Josh and I are in a car and we see a bike or a person on a bike one of us exclaims, “Hey! A bike!” I feel certain that if we were to drive through Philadelphia playing that game we would be unable to discuss anything else.
I estimate that in 11 hours within the city limits I saw at least 100 bicyclists.
But here is the kicker: not one of those cyclists obeyed traffic laws. Even Z said to me, “You’re going to make me stop at stop signs aren’t you?” (I think she felt guilt-tripped into wearing a helmet.) I said that at a 4-way stop, if no one was coming, that a complete stop wasn’t exactly necessary. She proceeded to completely blow the next stop sign. I yelled after her, “That doesn’t mean don’t slow down!”
While walking to the comedy club I crossed the street on a red light. Z remarked, “So you won’t blow a stop sign but you’ll jaywalk?” I had to really think about that because I can see the disconnect in such logic.
I jaywalk when cars are not coming. I’m not disrupting traffic or endangering anyone when I choose to jaywalk. Blowing stop signs and red lights, or filtering up at a stop (passing cars on the right instead of waiting in line at a stop sign or light) endangers me, pedestrians, and motorists. So yes, I jaywalk and I obey traffic laws on my bicycle.
Overall, it was very difficult for me to be in Philly as a cyclist. I mean, I had a great time seeing my friends. But proper bicycle riding has become very important to me and I advocate for bicycle education for both cyclists and motorists. I got the sense that if I were to put my foot down at a stop sign in Philadelphia there could be hell to pay. I wanted to call out to every cyclist I saw who disregarded traffic laws, “You make me look bad! You’re the reason motorists hate bicycles!”
The only thing I can do is keep on keeping on. My choice to obey traffic laws means that there is one more cyclist on the road that does. It doesn’t matter if I get upset when other people don’t.
Please tell me, do you expect cyclists to disregard traffic laws? Are you surprised when cyclists come to a complete stop at a stop sign? What is your experience as a cyclist? As a motorist?