Mayor Nutter, The Philadelphia Bicycle Advocacy Board Needs To Make Room For Children & Families
Dear Mayor Nutter,
First, we want to sincerely thank you for your prioritization of pedestrian and bicycling safety during your tenure as Mayor of Philadelphia. With the implementation of MOTU, the buffered bike lanes on Spruce and Pine Streets, creating and maintaining over 500 miles of bike lanes, and the coming launch of an equitable bike share, your work will be unforgettable.
Your most recent initiative founding the Philadelphia Bicycle Advocacy Board should be a cherry on your administration's work, however we and other voices in the bicycling community noticed it sets aside a place for recreation and sport cycling but misses some very important voices at the table. Your table of advocates is missing more women cyclists, working cyclists (bike messengers and bike-based-businesses), university biking leaders, bike shops for the common rider and most dear to us the voices of family and children cyclists.
Who are we? We are Dena Driscoll and Marni Duffy, two Philadelphia bicycling moms that co-organize Kidical Mass Philadelphia. We host monthly rides for families in Philadelphia, on Philadelphia streets, to encourage more families to get out biking for transportation and recreation. We have spoken nationally and locally about why family cycling is important and by default we become the de facto voice of family cycling in Philadelphia.
Why do we care about an advisory board? If Philadelphia wants to be the greatest biking city in the US (and that’s what we want too!), family biking must be prioritized. Designing streets that are safe for families like us guarantees that they are safe for everyone.
Why do we bike with our kids? For our health, the environment, economic reasons, and road safety. We know that obesity in Philadelphia children is an epidemic. We know that physical exercise and time outdoors is important for our health. We know that cars are not good for the environment our our children's lungs. We know that our families cannot afford owning and maintaining two cars or SEPTA passes for everyone. We know that protected bike lanes improve traffic and safety for all road users and that motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death among children in the United States.
Why would family cycling voices help you reach your board's goals?
Your board's first goal is: "To advise the Mayor on ways to promote bicycling among Philadelphia residents and on public policies that effect bicycling." If you want to get more people cycling, believe us when we say that families are natural spokes people and role models for cycling. We know from our daily commute that people are naturally curious about biking with kids.
Family cyclists are in touch with the best practices and policies created around the world that truly create safe bike infrastructure for ages 8-80. Although we are not planners we are the voices reminding them how fast children can move on a bike, how bike racks need to be accessible for larger or smaller bikes. Having the voice of parents that ride with their kids daily on your board would draw attention to where the infrastructure is lacking and where energy and resources need to be spent.
Your second goal is: "To create, market, and promote national and international cycling races in Philadelphia to attract the finest and most highly-rated bicycle riders to compete in our City, including supporting and raising funds for the annual Philly Bicycling Classic." We understand the economic value that bike racing provides and we are excited to bring our families to these events but we also know the economic value that a well thought out (protected) cycling network provides to our cities as well and that too cannot be forgotten.
The third goal is: "To promote City policies, including but not limited to traffic regulations, that make bicycling safer and more attractive." Again, we urge you to look to the most vulnerable road users: children, when considering this important input on policy and design. The number one thing we hear from other people on a daily basis regarding biking, with or without their kids, is, "I would do that if it were safe out there!" Cycling as a family is already very attractive: it is time spent together, getting exercise and fresh air, cutting down on travel time, cutting out the expense of owning or operating a car, that benefits the entire city but providing safe bicycle infrastructure makes something more than attractive it makes it doable for families.
The fourth goal is: "To foster volunteer efforts (i) that promote bicycling among people of all ages in all neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia; and (ii) that establish or maintain bicycle trails." Families volunteer together and promote cycling just by being out on their bikes. If you want to convert a block to cycling, get a neighbor on a bicycle with their children and give them the infrastructure to cycle to the places they need to get to: work, school, the grocery store, and the playground etc.
Family biking is a natural placemaker in neighborhoods: people are drawn to the bike and the kids!
The last goal is: "To encourage private sector support of bicycling, especially among Philadelphia employers." Biking parents live AND work in Philadelphia! We speak up for the benefit of cycling at daycare, school, work, and play. We can encourage businesses and employers to listen and take cycling seriously if we have the means to get to work, shopping, and school safely. We are sure more parents would bike their kids to school and then bike to work if there were protected bike paths and bike racks at the different places they need to go.
Help us move Philadelphia into the best US cycling city: put families first by listening to what is important to us, and the voice of our future: our kids! We welcome you and your family, as well as the members of your board, out to our December Kidical Mass ride where we will ride through the lights in South Philly! Details here.
Dena Driscoll and Marni Duffy