Car, bike enforcement scorecard

FILE PHOTO Tickets: Hate to say it, but they're a necessary evil.
FILE PHOTO Tickets: Hate to say it, but they're a necessary evil.
Posted: February 11, 2014

THE YEAR 2013 was tough on the Phillies, but also tough on those who expected continued safe-streets enforcement promised by both the cops and the city government.

Regarding bicycles, pedestrians and cars, enforcement in 2012 improved over 2011, but 2013 brought serious backsliding in car and bicycle ticketing.

In 2012, cops wrote 152,964 moving violations. Last year, the number of tickets dropped to 117,028 - a whopping 23 percent decrease.

In 2012, a paltry 88 tickets were written for bad bicyclists. That number fell to 79 last year, a 10 percent drop.

The only category in which the numbers increased was ticketing of pedestrians - 423 tickets were written in 2012, but 461 pedestrians were cited in 2013, a 9 percent increase.

I also keep tabs on enforcement of sidewalk cafes that seize more sidewalk than permitted. That's the Streets Department's jurisdiction, and here we have good news.

In 2012, the department made 231 inspections and wrote 35 tickets. In 2013, Streets inspected 793 sidewalk cafes and wrote 170 tickets. That translates to 243 percent more inspections and 385 percent more tickets than the year before.

While praising sidewalk cafes as a "welcome amenity," Streets Commissioner David Perri says they must adhere to "approved seating plans" to keep "public sidewalks safe" for all users.

Safety is also a concern for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

For historical perspective, in 2008 police ticketed 270,929 motorists. The dramatic decline to last year's 117,028 might make you think that Philadelphia drivers have vastly improved their driving skills or are driving much less, but that's not the case.

In 2008, cops wrote a paltry 14 bike tickets, so there's been improvement in enforcement, but is it keeping up with what we're told is an explosion in bicyclists?

In 2009, Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities Rina Cutler told me that the city's aggressively pro-bike plans are predicated on enforcement and that the cops were on board. "All the laws need to be enforced for this to work," she said.

They are not being fully enforced. Because Cutler was out of town, my query was turned over to Director of Public Safety Michael Resnick.

He didn't respond to my messages. Taking care of his personal safety, I guess.

For the record, bicycles are classified as vehicles by state law, something that bikeheads like to dismiss while lawbreaking. The Four Great Bicycle Sins - all illegal - are blowing through red lights, ignoring stop signs, riding on the sidewalk and riding against the flow of traffic.

But this is - yes, I'll say it - a two-way street. Because bicycles are vehicles, motorists must understand that two-wheelers have as much right to the road as four-wheelers. Cops should crack down on aggressive jerkwads.

The Nutter administration has a supernatural attraction to bikes, laying down a red carpet for them while tweaking parking regulations to bedevil drivers. It announces programs like "Give respect, get respect," then floats off to the next hill of beans.

I applaud police for the dramatic 25 percent reduction in homicides last year - that's really important - but are the police who prevent killers the same cops who write tickets? I asked the cops to explain the decrease.

Lt. John Stanford, a police spokesman, says crime is down across several categories and when cops are solving crimes they can't be writing tickets.

With that said, he couldn't explain why police ticket-writing productivity - and car stops, down by 3,000 last year vs. 2012 - had plummeted.

Obviously, I'd rather have cops locking bad guys up than writing tickets, but is it either/or? The commissioner has to tell commanders to get cracking.


Email: stubyko@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5977

On Twitter: @StuBykofsky

Blog: ph.ly/BykoColumns: ph.ly/StuBykofsky

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