The above picture is how I feel when I bike in Philadelphia. Okay–I could be exaggerating a tad. Go see the rest of the photos here.
Bike/car relationships are dangerous. W says bikes are stupid and you will get killed and no one should ride them. He thought this before but it was underlined when I took my spill on the trolley tracks a few years ago and spent the evening in the ER followed by a 4 week stay in a wrist cast.
In Portland, despite the trolley, I disagreed. Portland is such a bike city. I know this because Philadelphia is such a NOT bike city. You would think, from an aerial view that Philly would be great for bikes. Lots of mellow one ways and very very flat geography. Its not. Its soooo not. sososososo not.
After 8 months of watching and waiting and peeking at cars, fearful, scared, timid and shy–I ventured out last week on my bike. I had heard a lot of horror stories and I am naturally a very defensive biker but holy shit. It doesn’t matter how defensive you are here–biking is dangerous. Let me enumerate:
1. Philadelphia has HORRIBLE drivers. New Jersey is known as the worst driver state and guess where all the Philly commuters are from?? But still people here like to honk aggressivly, go 50 on side streets then screech at stop signs, they like to park in the middle of the street (in the space before the turn lane), honk aggressively at every opportunity, run reds, aggressivly uturn, to randomly stop their cars on 4 lane roadways and put there hazards on for hours at a time. This is not a once-and-awhile thing- you can pretty much garantee to see a least one hazard parked car on your commute.
2. Philadelphia drivers HATE bikes. I get the feeling they think bikes do not belong anywhere on the road and do not even get the consideration that pedestrians get (which is little–ie never expect a car to stop for you when in a crosswalk). They like to honk at any bike that is anywhere on the road. If you bike here DO NOT expect to get a lane–they will chase you down and try to cut a biker off or pass within 6inches–this includes semis. DO NOT expect to change lanes into a turn lane–they will run you down (you have to, I am ashamed to say, circle through the crosswalk onto street you want to turn on).
3. Philadelphia bikers are assholes. Its seriously hard to get mad at cars when the bikers here have been such assholes. Seriously–they run EVERY light,they go the wrong way down oneways, they do not wear helmets. I think they forgot that Cars will always win. CARS WIN!!! Big mass, little mass. Every day I bike home through a 6way stop with 6 blind crosswalks, everyday bikers run this light. Its nuts and stupid. I wanted to yell at this one dude in his fancy (see-through with no underwear–no one wants to see crack!!) spandex–so annoying running lights especially in fancy gear when he was probably biking a mile to work on flat surfaces.
4. Oneway side streets are SCARY. The other day I biked to school and went the mellow one-way route thinking it would be more relaxing. It was not mellow. Philly is made up of a lot of onewayss, pretty much all oneways except a few larger streets. This means that HUGE trucks and asshole drivers use the mellow oneways making them not so mellow. Huge trucks and assholes do not like bikers cramping their style. This means I stay off the mellow oneways and on the larger streets with obvious bike lanes.