There are posters up all over West Philadelphia, depicting a series of machines and construction barrels blocking the bike lane at 43rd and Baltimore Ave. “Investigating Bicycle Crash Caused by Construction Project Blocking Bike Lane” reads the poster, asking anyone who knows anything about a June 18th crash to contact Stuart Leon, a Philadelphia attorney focused on bicycle crash law.
A lawyer with whom we work closely at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Leon has been in law for 29 years and literally only works for bicyclists who’ve been injured by careless road users, like, say, people who don’t look before opening their car door in the bike lane, people who cut off a cyclist via a turn, people who block bike lanes, and lots of other instances in which a driver’s convenience is put over the safety of the much more vulnerable street cyclist.
Leon is currently representing a woman who, while riding east on Baltimore Avenue, was forced to swerve around a construction project at 43rd Street, hit the trolley tracks at a bad angle, and landed on her face. She suffered facial and dental injuries, and, according to Leon, required maxillofacial reconstructive work.
“She’s doing well, though,” Leon says, in spite of the circumstances of her crash.
While working on his case against the construction company that blocked the bike lane, Leon put up the signs around West Philadelphia asking for more witnesses to come forward — and the response has been “overwhelmingly good.” Turns out, lots of you have noticed this, and similar, construction projects around Philadelphia, and have been speaking out against such dangers. Leon shared this particular email with me:
Re: June 18th Witness
Dear Mr. Leon,
I am a possible witness to the construction project on Baltimore on the day of the crash I believe. I actually called 911 to complain about the lack of professionalism and carelessness of the construction workers. I think it was that day. 911 probably has a recording of my call.
I would be happy to chat with you.
In addition to this particular message, Leon says he’s heard from “witnesses to crashes other than my client’s, and photos from concerned citizens who saw this blocked bike lane situation, recognized it as a recipe for disaster and were moved to stop and take photos.”
Lots of the advocacy we’ve pushed regarding unblocking bike lanes since 2013 has focused on people in cars needlessly, carelessly blocking safe routes for cyclists. Although we’ve worked with the Philadelphia Parking Authority to seek a solution to this ongoing problem, parking in bike lanes persists, as does flagrant disrespect for lanes and sidewalks by construction companies.
Putting your own convenience over the safety others is stupid, and blocking bike lanes with your car, your equipment, or anything, puts vulnerable road users at risk. If Philadelphia ever wants safer streets in which zero people are injured or killed in traffic, it’s going to take an effort on behalf of all Philadelphians to set aside their own convenience and think of the safety of others (convenience which, by the way, can lead to a lawsuit.) Bike lane enforcement needs to be stepped up, sure, but policing unfortunately isn’t the only solution here. People need to follow the laws and think of who they’re affecting when using their machines.
And speaking of machines, when I spoke to Leon, he made a point to note that while blocked bike lanes are a problem, “none of these dangers compare to the constant danger that bicyclists face from smart phone using drivers. That is constant, non-stop and not going to stop. The streets are not safe around these people.”