Monday, August 14, 2017

Not in my Country

Throughout Trump’s political campaign he made every effort to vilify anyone who spoke out against and demonize any ethnic group to turn them into a threat to America and Americans embraced him. While he failed to admit that in doing so he was enabling and drawing the support of radical domestic terrorists, the groups they belong to, and their supporters. Then refusing to repudiate and separate himself from them in any meaningful way.

That has finally come to haunt us, in the form of Nazi rally in Charlottesville, VA. And make no mistake calling the people who organized and participated in the “Unite the Right” Nazi’s is the only thing they can be called. It had all the trappings of of Nazi rally; a torch lit night march, chants of  “blood and soil”, an old Nazi slogan, and “Jews will no replace us”. To do call them alt-right or White nationalists down plays the enormity of what they did.

The “Unite the the Right” rally was planned and organized months in advance and included a speech by Richard Spencer, a pretender to Adolf Hitler’s legacy. As part of promoting the rally organizers and their supporters encouraged participants to bring pepper spray and anything else they needed to defend themselves. This event was considered so morally and ethically repugnant that AirBnB closed the accounts of anyone trying to find someplace to sleep if they were attending the rally, because it violated AirBnb’s anti-discrimination policy.

The rally’s organizer and participants are not the only bad actors involved here. In spite of months of advance planning by the city of Charlottesville, which included 1300 additional police officers and National Guard. Law enforcement failed to keep the Nazi’s separated from the counter protestors. Quite possibly a deliberate choice made on the part of the people in command. The only reports that anyone did anything to stop the mayhem appear to be on the part of New York state militia group who arrived heavily armed and broke up fights. A sad state of affairs when we have to rely on the questionable politics and motives of the militia movement. To say nothing of Trump’s mealy mouthed statement that failed to repudiate the Nazi’s for what they had done.

The permit for the rally was protected by the ACLU when the Charlottesville tried to move the event to a different park. As a Jew  and an American. I have never been able to fully support the ACLU since 1978, when the ACLU protected the rights of the American Nazi Party to march through Skokie, IL. At that time Skokie, IL had the largest population of Holocaust survivors outside of Israel. While these repugnant groups have the same protection under the Constitution as all Americans that does not mean I approve of their right to do so.

After WWII, a war in which all Americans united to stop the Nazi’s, the phrase “Never Forget” was heard throughout the Jewish community around the world. During college I went to school with several students whose families immigrated from Ireland and Italy in the 1890’s. In the same way members of my own family immigrated from Eastern Europe and Germany during the 1890’s All seeking to live in a country that allowed people to pursue their dreams and aspirations of a better life for themselves and their children.

During spring break some of these students would take trips to Italy and Ireland and visit family that still lived there and reconnect with their heritage. When I asked one of my grandmothers, whose family had immigrated from Poland, about this some subject her response was chilling.  From the 1890’s to 1939 letters were routinely exchanged and there were trips to Poland. She told me that “in 1939 the letters stopped and no one has heard anything from them since.”

What happened in Charlottesville should be considered an early warning sign of what could happen in America if Nazi’s, their enablers, and supporters are not met with “Fire and Fury”. Marches like this should be stopped in their tracks by counter demonstrators with linked arms to create human barricades to prevent these types of marches and rallies from moving forwards. Counter protesters who instead of chanting should respond with deafening silence. If the Nazi’s respond with violence, then they should be met with a level of violence that sends a message to any future rallies that they march at their own risk.

I know there will be trolls, Nazi supporters, and enablers who will label me as a liberal and say that liberals are supposed to tolerate everyone. To that I say, I hate Nazi’s whether they call themselves the alt-right or something less conspicous. I hate anyone who hates someone because their race, religion, country of origin, gender, and sexual identity.

And to anyone who says otherwise I only have one response, THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN IN MY COUNTRY.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire



It seems that yet again when it comes to bicycle infrastructure in Philadelphia we have been we have been subjected to the Machiavellian manipulations of yet another duplicitous member of Philadelphia’s City Council. This time it was Councilman Kenyatta Johnson when he wrote a letter against the creation of a protected bicycle lane on Lombard St. That letter will put an end to any attempt at restarting this project, ever.

Keep in mind that the “protected lane” was going to be nothing more than plastic delineator posts and as‏ @bikemamadelphia on Twitter stated; “Flexi-posts are like the press on nails of bike infrastructure”. Easy to install and equally easy for cars to tear them off the road.

So how did we arrive at this situation? Part of this was the process that Councilman Johnson and his office used to make sure they got the results they wanted. First they solicited opinions from the public on this matter and then further narrowed the field by only counting those comments from people within his district. Which resulted in 100 phone calls and e-mails being counted, 80 were against and 20 were in favor of the bike lane. Seems pretty cut and dried, at least on the surface. The problem is that the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia submitted 217 comments they collected; 91 were within Councilman Johnson’s district and 87 of those were in support of a protected bike lane. So now it was 80 against and 107 in favor of the protected bike lane. Not so cut and dried any more.

So how were these additional pro bike lane comments ignored? Simple, according Councilman Johnson’s Communication Director; “The ones reported to me were “direct comments,” explained Johnson’s communications director, Kaitlyn Manasterski. The 80 percent opposed were “among the immediate neighbors who contacted us.” This is the equivalent of overturning the results of an election, by disqualifying absentee ballots because they were mailed in and not submitted in person.

This brings us back to a larger issue, that being the bad deal the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia made with Philadelphia City Council a few years ago. The one where in exchange for a safe streets bill the BCGP agreed to let members of the City Council have the ability to veto any new bike lanes. Without cause or reason. This is not the first time this deal has bit cyclists in the ass and it won’t be the last.

I wish I could say I was completely surprised by how this played out. I saw Councilman Johnson’s multiple appearances at various meetings for the Schuylkill River Trail Watch. He made a lot of promises and did not deliver on any of them.
At the end of the day it is clear to me that Councilman Johnson and his staff had predetermined agenda when it came to the protected bicycle lane on Lombard St.

They rigged the public opinion process to get a result they wanted. The used Councilmanic privilege to ensure that any future attempt to reopen this conversation will never happen. At the end of the day Councilman Johnson has strengthened my opinion that Philadelphia’s City Council is nothing more than a Council of Con Men.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Schuylkill River Trail Safety Alert - July 26, 2017

Safety Alert 7/26/2017

Good afternoon All,
Town Watch Integrated Services (TWIS) wants to alert you to 2 incidents that happened on the Schuylkill river trail.
  1. Occurred on 7/19/17 - on the trail near Race St. a group of teens muscled away a bike from someone:
  2. Occurred on 7/23 - two teens snatched an IPhone and ear buds from a jogger on the trail near 25th St.
We ask for you all to be safe when using the trail and remember report anything that you observe that is suspicious behavior to you. You are all the eyes and ears of the trail.
I would also ask again that you patrol in pairs and let us know when you your using the trail so we can continue to coordinate your activity. Remember if its suspicious report it to 311 and TWIS.
Thank You for your vigilance & cooperation


** If you know of someone who wishes to volunteer as a Town Watch member contact me at nick.schmanek@phila.gov

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

License to Fail

It seems that every so often people insist that cyclists need to be licensed and insured, like car drivers and their vehicles. This sort of thinking is often an emotional response when car drivers feel threatened by a change in or enforcement of existing laws. With 5th Squares recent lawsuit to have the city enforce existing laws regarding parking on the Broad St. median has brought this issue to the attention of the usual collection of kooks.

Usually this consists of small groups of individuals who claim that cyclists are the most dangerous vehicles on the road. Why? Because they said so. Even video evidence that shows car drivers are statistically more likely to do so is dismissed with unsubstantiated claims of how cyclists run red lights and stop signs. So I thought it was time to delve into this matter and see how past attempts to license cyclists has worked.

The lack of bicycle insurance similar to car insurance is easily answered. A bicycle can easily be insured for its replacement cost through a standard renters or homeowners insurance. And let’s face it, just how much damage other than a dent can a bicycle do to a car in a collision.  

There is the economic feasibility of offering bicycle insurance similar to car insurance. Since the cost of replacing a damaged bicycle is far lower than that of a car, it would not be cost effective for insurance companies to create policies. Given the very low premiums they would have to charge. The bottom line is that if insurance companies thought they could profit from this they would have offered this type of insurance for cyclists a long time ago.

So now we are going to explore the reasons why licensing bicycles and their operators has never worked.
There are three reasons why bicycle licensing fails.
1. The challenge of licensing children, since they ride bikes too
2. The difficulty of keeping a database complete and current
3. Licensing in and of itself does not change the behavior of cyclists or motor vehicle operators who are disobeying traffic laws.
Let’s start with number 1;  The of licensing children, given that they ride bikes too. How old does one have to be to have a license? What about people who don’t live in Philadelphia, but do ride their bikes in the city or tourists. Will they be required to get a bicycle license?

Then there is issue number 2; The difficulty in keeping a database complete and current. You are going to have to hire people to create and maintain a rather large database. Combined with the cost of doing so. Computer servers, employees, office space, and the materials needed to create a physical license all cost money and that is going to have to come from somewhere. A number of cities have tried this and failed due to cost and manpower. Seattle, WA is a particular poignant example of how this is not as easy as it sounds.

San Diego, CA: (2012) “The city’s Fire Rescue and Police departments reported the licensing program has drawn virtually no revenue for any city department over the last three years.” (1)
Long Beach, CA: (2011)The cost to administer the bicycle license program greatly exceeded its revenue. (2)
Los Angeles, CA: (2008)“Currently LAPD lacks the resources in staffing and funding to implement and maintain the program in the manner it was designed. A lack of fiscal procedures exist to purchase and distribute licenses to the public, monitor and maintain the citywide database, and an overall lack of personnel to properly implement the program. (3)
San Jose, CA: (2008) An audit revealed that in 2008–2009 the city collected $636 in bike license fees.“ Program was cancelled in 2013 (4)
Seattle, WA: (2008) Seattle has over 500,000 bicycles in the city and found maintenance of the project difficult due to the required cost of record keeping and police manpower required to maintain the program.
Houston, TX: (2008) “About 100 were actually registered. Since people move around so much, even those who registered their bikes had outdated data, and finding the owners if the bike was stolen and recovered was usually impossible.” (5)
Ottawa, Canada: Ottawa estimated that a bicycle registration program would cost $100,000 a year but only bring in $40,000 in revenue. (6)

Number 3, is something we see in the news every week; Licensing in and of itself does not change the behaviour of cyclists who are disobeying traffic laws. How many times do we read about or see on TV hit and runs where the driver is never caught? Or even when they are caught it does nothing to reduce the chances of it happening again.

At the end of the day I do not need a license for a police officer to write me a ticket as a cyclist. Any more than pedestrians need a walking license to be ticketed for jaywalking. If cyclists truly are the law breakers that some would believe, riding through the streets of Philadelphia with reckless abandon. Then the most effective solution is actual enforcement on the part of the police. Until that happens in a manner that involves equal enforcement and education of all vehicle operators then it will be business as usual in Philadelphia.

Monday, July 17, 2017

An interview with Alexandria Schneider; Queen of Philly's Mass Rides



On September 26 & 27, 2015 Pope Francis came to Philadelphia as part of the World Meeting of Families, which included an outdoor mass on September 27. In order to facilitate an estimated 1 million pedestrians ability to move freely, a 4.7 square mile area of Philadelphia was closed to motor vehicles. It was announced months in advance so everyone could prepare.


About two months before that weekend an event appeared on Facebook, the PopeRide on Saturday, September 26.  The PopeRide was going to follow a route through the the closed section of Philadelphia to celebrate car free streets. Organized by Alexandria Schneider, she thought that this ride was going to be her and a few dozen friends.


On the day of the ride 1500 people had signed up on Facebook and the belief was a third to half would show up. However on Saturday morning more and more people started showing up, far more than anticipated. The final count was 3000 participants. Since then, not a summer has gone by where Ms. Schneider has not held a large scale ride through the streets of Philadelphia. This year is no different.


Ms Schneider took a few moments out of her schedule to give an interview for the Philadelphia Bicycle Journal.


Prior to the PopeRide had you ever done anything like this before?
Nope!  I'd biked with friends, but that was it.  


What was your reaction at the PopeRide when you found out 3000 people showed up?
Honestly, I was exhausted from the ride the night before, but when I got the call saying that 3000 people were at the start line, I went straight to a MASSIVE adrenaline high and didn't come down until about 8PM that night!  


What was your inspiration for this ride (Cycle en Couleur)?
For this ride?  Maria and I had been talking about good-naturedly teasing Diner en Blanc for a while, but I was stuck on single-color rides.  Roulante en Rouge came and went, Bike in Blue was a flop, but then Maria brought up Cycle en Colour, and it stuck!  


How much time does it take to put together a ride like this?
It depends on a few factors, but generally a week or so to kick around and firm up the ride concept with co-organizers, maybe an hour or two to draw up the route, and then a few hours a week in the lead-up weeks for prep, like pulling materials together, and promoting.


What are some of the key things you have to plan for when creating large scale rides?
The biggest thing is "location, location, location".  You need to find a starting location that's big enough for a potentially huge group, make a route that's fun and has nice views but has enough safe street space for a bike mass, and find an ending location that gives people space to stay if they want to, but can leave easily.  


When you're not planning a ride what else do you do?
My day job is in IT, and when I'm not doing that or riding, I love baking, shooting sports, cooking, gaming, and listening to music.  


Every time you hold a ride you have perfect weather and a massive turn out. What is your secret? Do you make an offering to Taranis, God of the wheel and if you do, what is it? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taranis)
Well, I've had one ride that didn't have those, Byko's Safe Bike Ride, but that wasn't supposed to be massive.  But either way, I legitimately have no clue.  I DO obsessively refresh Weather Underground and yell at the sky beforehand though.  I also don't say the word for that thing that falls from the sky during a storm before a ride.  For theatre folks, I treat it like you treat the name of The Scottish Play :P