May 6, 2011 Leave a comment
We Philadelphians take a perverse pride in our city’s gruff demeanor. And while such behavior and our subsequent pride in it makes sense when rooting for any one of our sports teams, it makes less sense when it affects how we get around. All too often we walk across the street in the middle of the block or walk against the signal, distracted by our i-pods and other electronic devices and we indignantly yell at the drivers or bicyclists we surprised when doing so. When we ride our bikes in Philadelphia we just as often lash out anyone who is upset by our behavior, whether or not we are at fault for riding on the sidewalk or running a red light in the first place. And let’s not forget that when we drive our cars we are just as likely to make illegal turns and block cross walks. Thus we believe that it is the bicyclists, or those crazy pedestrians or those speeding drivers who are the enemies, and not our own bad habits.
Our bad transportation habits are really bad communications habits. Moving down the street, any street be it filled with pedestrians bicycles or cars, requires constant communication between the people around you. When we walk, bike or drive, we just want to make sure that no one will surprise us, or make any movements we can’t adjust to. But in the 21st century communicating between travelers is surprisingly dangerous. Pedestrians are listening to electronic devices, drivers in cars are separated from the traffic around them and bicyclists often block out the rest of the world, concentrating on those things directly in front of them.
Creating a culture of communications between bicyclists, drivers and pedestrians requires a concerted effort both from the public sector AND the public itself. The City is embarking on an ambitious project to expand our bicycle network, to provide bicyclists a safe system through which to travel. Bike lane networks help build expectations as to where bicyclists should travel in greater numbers. But we are also building expectations for HOW bicyclists, drivers and pedestrians should behave through a unique collaboration between the Philadelphia Police and Health departments.
However this can’t all come from the City… drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians need to calm down, look around and pay attention to all Philadelphians, no matter how they move.