5-27-2005 Catch-22?


The person who stands up and says, ``This is stupid,'' either is asked to `behave' or, worse, is greeted with a cheerful ``Yes, we know! Isn't it terrific!''--Francis Vincent Zappa

Welcome to another exciting edition of BanningBicycles.com.


From the e-mail inbox Banning bikes on the Square seems ludicrous, doesn't it? Why would my ole' man and two other council persons be worried about something as trivial as this? I mean really, how much time do they actually spend on Public Square? An educated and informed guess would tell me nada, zip, zilch, none.

So why would these old farts worry about kids with bikes on the Square if they rarely (if ever) spend time there? Because a number of downtown business owners brought the issue to them! That's right. The DOWNTOWN BUSINESS OWNERS sought the resolution to end the abuses of Public Square by a certain faction of persons ( I call them "Square rats") who hang out on the Square. And if these council persons are truly concerned with the future development of the downtown, they have no choice but to hear and address the grievances of the folks who are trying to make a living there.

These scurfs are definitely a problem. But I think the skateboarders do much more physical damage. Damage that costs the tax payers in terms of dollars. I'm sure you've seen them sliding the bottom of their boards across the park benches, railings, and sculptures around the Square. They leave quite a wake of damage behind them.

The funny thing is that way back in `77 I had my own skateboard confiscated on the Square by none other than the W-B P.D.! Yep, my Mom had to go to Police H.Q. and get my $90 Fiberflex board back for me. As I remember it, there was an ordinance banning skateboards on the Square way back then. I guess it faded away in the `80s. And as you stated it's already illegal to ride your bike on the sidewalk in a business district. So the problem seems to be apathy on behalf of the government and the Police and not a lack of regulation.

Now if the politicians and Police are not enforcing the legislation that is already on the books, don't the business owners have a right to be upset? And if we're trying to save the downtown and it's businesses shouldn't we address the problem? So there you have it! Catch 22. If the elected officials ignore the problem then the business owners get upset. And if the try to enforce the will of those business owners and the existing legislation then the biking community gets upset. Ultimately, it's a no win scenario for the politicos. Which way would you go on the matter? Just curious.

Really, is it that difficult for the biking community to walk their bikes across the Square? Or, can it be constitutionally possible to ban the dirt balls and their bikes while preserving the desire of the conscientious bike community? Should the desires of that good bike community outweigh the desires of the vendors at the Farmers Market? Especially when we know it's possible to legally ride your bike around the Square on the road? Gotta go to work. Talk at you later,

Harry

Dude, I don't even know where to start so we'll take it paragraph by paragraph.

Banning bikes on the Square seems ludicrous, doesn't it? Why would my ole' man and two other council persons be worried about something as trivial as this? I mean really, how much time do they actually spend on Public Square? An educated and informed guess would tell me nada, zip, zilch, none.

Yeah, I follow that. And that in itself is a bit infuriating. Why go off half-cocked banning this, that and the other thing without first taking the time to cover every aspect of a given issue. I happen to visit Public Square seven days a week, 52 weeks per year. And I can count on one hand how many times I run across the wise noblemen on that Square. If it weren't for parades and special events to remind them of the Square's very existence, they might not be able to get there without directions.

So why would these old farts worry about kids with bikes on the Square if they rarely (if ever) spend time there? Because a number of downtown business owners brought the issue to them! That's right. The DOWNTOWN BUSINESS OWNERS sought the resolution to end the abuses of Public Square by a certain faction of persons ( I call them "Square rats") who hang out on the Square. And if these council persons are truly concerned with the future development of the downtown, they have no choice but to hear and address the grievances of the folks who are trying to make a living there.

First the cops requested action. Now, the downtown business owners brought the issue to them. It sounds to me as if attempts at damage control are well underway. Why would the cops ask the council to help them to control a few slacker kids on skateboards and bikes? If you ask me, no self-respecting Wilkes-Barre cop would ever do such a thing. And, yes, "they have no choice but to hear and address the grievances of the folks who are trying to make a living there," but that doesn't justify their being lazy and proposing unnecessary legislation. It seems as if the council’s credo is “ Ban it now…figure it out later.“ And I seriously doubt that the business owners approached any council members seeking new legislation. I'd bet that they asked some council members about an increased police presence in the downtown, or more specifically, on Public Square.

And I must tell you, for as many times as I cruise through that area on the detestable bike, it is the very rare occurrence when I peruse a cop patrolling any section of the area in question. If we really want to send the "Square rats" scurrying back to their do-gooder idiot magnets, we need a cop stationed on that Square during normal business hours for the foreseeable future. The plain fact is, we don't need any new laws. What we need is a beat cop, a bike cop or a horse cop laying down the law on the Square. Put a cop on the Square and all of this bike ban nonsense becomes an instant non-issue.

These scurfs are definitely a problem. But I think the skateboarders do much more physical damage. Damage that costs the tax payers in terms of dollars. I'm sure you've seen them sliding the bottom of their boards across the park benches, railings, and sculptures around the Square. They leave quite a wake of damage behind them.

Lord knows I've seen them. And if it were my call to make, they'd all be on their way to the emergency room with blood-soaked hair. But it's not up to me. In a nutshell, it's all in the hands of the mayor and, or the police chief. Instead of contacting anyone on council and demanding immediate action, maybe those aforementioned business owners should be snappin' out on the mayor. Only the pig-ignorant of the business owners don't know that the mayor of this city and not the council can call the police chief and demand a change in tactics. I think a big reason Wilkes-Barre went tits-up on us was because we lost sight of the basics. You know, that silly stuff like seeing to it that the city was clean, neat and safe. And the way I see it, there can be no reasonable expectation of public safety and law and order on the Square without first maintaining a steady police presence. So maybe we need to harass our mayor until the horse cops stop sniffing around the Square every now and again, and start taking it back from the gas-bagging "Square rats." I think it goes without saying that a cop should be practically camped out Public Square. But, by the same token, it's well beyond oxymoronic to think that news laws minus the cops necessary to enforce them will make a spit of difference. Doesn’t matter though. Someone can still take credit for authoring the latest ban at election time.

And what’s next? Graffiti is a growing problem throughout the entire downtown. What should we do, pass an ordinance banning kids from entering that area without first registering at police headquarters?

So, how 'bout it Mr. Mayor? Can we have an itty bitty but steady police presence down there?

The funny thing is that way back in `77 I had my own skateboard confiscated on the Square by none other than the W-B P.D.! Yep, my Mom had to go to Police H.Q. and get my $90 Fiberflex board back for me. As I remember it, there was an ordinance banning skateboards on the Square way back then. I guess it faded away in the `80s. And as you stated it's already illegal to ride your bike on the sidewalk in a business district. So the problem seems to be apathy on behalf of the government and the Police and not a lack of regulation.

Dude! You were once a skateboard slacker? I'm shocked. I'm stunned. I'm saddened. Oh, and I'm busting your gonads, too. Five years before you had your fibermuck thingy confiscated, the cops used to push us along for doing something as dangerous as playing acoustic guitars in the middle of the Square after dark. And once, Benny Victor even tried to rip my arm clean off for something as lame and heretofore unbeknownst to me as attempted jaywalking. The point being that once a upon a time, in a culm heap not so far, far away...police officers ruled not only the Square, but the entire downtown. So I ask you, what has changed since those days?

Now if the politicians and Police are not enforcing the legislation that is already on the books, don't the business owners have a right to be upset? And if we're trying to save the downtown and it's businesses shouldn't we address the problem? So there you have it! Catch 22. If the elected officials ignore the problem then the business owners get upset. And if the try to enforce the will of those business owners and the existing legislation then the biking community gets upset. Ultimately, it's a no win scenario for the politicos. Which way would you go on the matter? Just curious.

Which way would I go? I'm quite certain that I wouldn't push for new laws based on anecdotal evidence alone. And I don't think this issue can be reduced to the business community versus the biking community. There are two distinctly different pedaling groups involved here. There are those who think doing tricks and playing daredevil on the Square is cool. And they would be plying there "skills" elsewhere if we had the wherewithal to have a single cop circling the downtown area all day long. And then we have bikers such as myself. I'm not sure that I'm a part of a wider biking community, but I've been called much, much worse things. Frankly, I don't see a no win scenario at all. If what the business owners seek is but a bit of law and order, banning me and my kind from doing anything in the downtown won't result in the much sought after outcome. And therein lies the fatal flaw with this ill-advised bike ban ordinance. It paints with too broad of a brush. And it does not at all address the real problem. The real problem is that anyone can do pretty much whatever they want to do so long as the downtown lacks a beat cop of some sort.

Really, is it that difficult for the biking community to walk their bikes across the Square? Or, can it be constitutionally possible to ban the dirt balls and their bikes while preserving the desire of the conscientious bike community? Should the desires of that good bike community outweigh the desires of the vendors at the Farmers Market? Especially when we know it's possible to legally ride your bike around the Square on the road? Gotta go to work. Talk at you later,...

Is it too difficult for the biking community to walk their bikes across the Square? You ask this of a person who skipped the Fine Arts Fiesta two days in a row only because it was too damn crowded to take a bike as long as mine into the fray. Gage Andrew and myself probed the perimeter of the fiesta, but I decided that taking my bike and the attached trail bike into that mass of humanity was not the prudent thing to do. Trust me, I don't need any lectures concerning responsible biking. And we need not ban the dirtballs. We need what we had thirty years ago. Namely, a cop seeing to it that the dirtballs and their antics are clearly not welcome.

Especially when we know it's possible to legally ride your bike around the Square on the road?

Now, I ask you, are there any bigger law breakers than the average folks who seem to completely lose their minds as soon as they stick the key into the ignition? You have no friggin’ idea what it's like to mix it up to the tune of 3,000 miles pedaled a year with these otherwise sane folks so given to fits of road rage. If you could experience this on a regular basis, you would not smugly suggest that those of us that enjoy biking should simply stick to the roads.

The traffic-crazed moms driving the Windstars filled with smallish kids launch F-bombs my way because I'm not "on the sidewalk where I belong." And the inattentive folks on the sidewalks fire rather acerbic verbal salvos my way because I'm not "on the road where I belong." You and I both know that it's very, very easy to differentiate the serious bikers from the haphazard death-wish bikers headed north to the soup kitchen. Fact is, the pricey gear attached to my bike is worth more than some of the piss-ant cars passing me on any given day. But still, I have to endure the dimwitted mutterings of the people who can't see their toes when they get completely nekkid. And while their bodies are certainly no high-end specimen of what adult human beings are ultimately capable of, their brains are often even more repugnant than their wide-load asses.

While I'm not given to delusional self-importance on most days, I recognize that the great majority of the Big & Tall folks who happen to detest my bicycling ways are the very folks that wish they had the intestinal fortitude to work themselves near as hard as I work myself. Rather than changing that which most upsets themselves about their ever-widening condition, they lash out at those not so lazy as to ever wear a gray tent with Goodyear emblazoned on the side of it to a Halloween party. Get where I belong? Sure. When the rest of them get on the 1,200 calorie a day diet where they obviously belong.

Believe me, I pedal many more miles on the streets than I do on the sidewalks. On the streets, you have a bit more room for error. On the sidewalks, anything can jump out at you from around the next corner, the next driveway, or the next parking garage exit. But if you think I’m going to strap two of my grandkids to the bike and mix it up with the crazies that ignore every traffic law possible on that bumper cars free-for-all of a place, you’ve got another thing coming. And so do any perturbed city business owners, city councilmen or city cops. Before taking my grandkids into that 10-45 call waiting to happen, I’d just assume sprint into the belly of the structure fire to end all structure fires with a certain ex fire chief covering my backside.

Walk my bike across the Square? Why? Because the city government will not provide us with any routine police protection on Public Square? I think not. You know, they say that 14-screen theater of ours will be open by Thanksgiving. And the folks that scrap for votes in this city all know that our downtown is, and has been struggling against the well-deserved perception that it is an unsafe place. So rather than “solving” our laundry list of complex problems by stupidly banning bicycles, maybe our city leaders should do what they were elected to do already. Namely, they should provide for the safety of it’s residents. Sorry, but another toothless ordinance won’t make that happen. Only a well-placed police officer can do that. So…where the hell is he?

I, for one, am a staunch proponent of having bicycle cops patrolling our downtown. Bicycles are stealthy and then some. And they can pop out of any alley, trail or garage in a nanosecond and catch the idiots completely by surprise. We had bike cops for a while there, but then McGroarty went and practically bankrupted the city, so the stealthy bikes were mothballed and seemingly forgotten. I was not happy about that development. Fast-forward to 2004.

Gage Andrew and I were riding into the heart of the concourse during the height of the more than week-long Healing Field festivities. Lo and behold, just up ahead of us was a bike cop stopped by the side of the goings-on. I was thrilled to see one of those rebuilt bikes back where it belonged--in the thick of it The dude’s name was Foy. I mean him no disrespect, but I do not know his rank. Anyway, we were barely moving along while amongst the sea of folks walking slowly along, and I was doing my level best to keep us balanced at such a slow speed. And as we approached our newly emerged bike cop, he suddenly barked at me rather abruptly to slow down. What are the odds against that? I was probably the only person in Kirby Park that day that was excited to see him there. And who does he go and yell at? Me. I cried myself to sleep for a solid week.

The point is, bicycle riders can’t get out of control while under the watchful eye of a member of our police department. And neither can the skateboarders, the hookers, the panhandlers and the folks with much worse premeditating going on inside their fat heads. We don’t need a new ordinance. And we don’t need to start second-guessing why bicycle riders do what they do, or why they won’t be content with being treated as second class citizens.

What we need is a cop controlling the day-to-day goings-on at Public Square and not another knee-jerk reaction that results in yet another meaningless ordinance. I don’t care what anyone on council thinks. If we really want to clean up that forlorn outpost that was once the go-to place in this entire county, we need one cop to begin to make it happen.

One cop.

A Catch-22? Methinks not.

Sez me.


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