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Philadelphia's "Bad Guys" on Bikes

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A couple weeks ago, a West Philly woman and her 9-year-old daughter were walking on Baltimore Avenue around 47th Street when a young boy rounded the corner on his bike, drove into them, then sped away. The mother called the police, one of whom told her cyclists have been snatching purses from people where she was walking. The boy could have been part of that crew. But he's not the kind of "bad guy" Mexico City-based journalist Ruth Samuelson is talking about in her piece "When the Bad Guys Ride Bikes."

Samuelson tells the story of Philadelphia resident and champion runner Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein, who collided with a bicyclist on a path last month:

"I just remember seeing him, and all of a sudden I was on the ground," she says. She spent the night in the hospital, recovering from a head wound that reached the bone and required three layers of stitches. "I think what happened is our heads hit and then something on his bike must have punctured my forehead," she says about the accident. The city path divides for pedestrians and bikers in certain areas, but not where she was hit.

Samuelson also cites a New York Times article from 2009, when two bike-pedestrians collisions in Philly resulted in death.

Despite her provocative title, however, Samuelson does not contend that cyclists ride into pedestrians deliberately. This isn't about purse-snatching. Instead, she notes it's a combination of factors, including bad attitudes and poor urban planning, that conspire to create dangerous circumstances.

Not surprisingly, the piece has generated plenty of responses, stoking the fires of pro-bicyle, anti-bicycle and who-cares? factions alike. Shockingly, Samuelson didn't mention Philadelphia's safety program "Give Respect Get Respect," which was a campaign to educate pedestrians, drivers and cyclists of their rights and responsibilities. (Apparently, last year, some brochures were handed out in Center City.)

So which side are you on?
· When the Bad Guys Ride Bikes [Atlantic Cities]
· Philadelphia Police Dept Launches "Give Respect Get Respect" Enforcement Campaign Today [Greater Phila Bicycle News]