5-21-2005 The Wilkes-Barre Bicycle Authority

When times were hard, as they often were, groans and lamentations went up to God, but never to Washington.--George Kennan’s childhood reminiscence illustrates the typical American frame of mind prior to the New Deal.

Political analyst, advisor and diplomat, George Kennan (1904-2005) was in charge of long-range planning for the State Department following World War II. He developed the concept of "containment" as a strategy to keep Soviet influence from expanding and maintain the status quo.

Kennan believed that the Soviet Union would eventually have to relinquish its harsh grip on its citizenry and would change its foreign policies if the West could maintain a firm and consistent posture of opposition. He also served as Ambassador to the USSR and to Yugoslavia.

He was also a widely sought-after lecturer on foreign policy issues. At age 85, he received the Medal of Freedom.

Look up one of his books, kiddies.

I just finished watching Team America: World Police, which was released on DVD this past Tuesday. What a freakin' rush!

America!!! F>ck, yeah!!!

Grab a copy of that puppy and spin it. Even if you loathe the rest of the movie, the purchase price was worth taking in the depraved marionette sex scene. It's been a while since I spit beer all over myself and got to simultaneously choking and laughing real violent like. If you can't appreciate this flick, don't even bother coming to one of my keggers. Birds of a feather we ain't.

Even though it's soon to be illegal, (bike riding?) Gage Andrew and I hooked our bikes together and headed on down to the 50th installment of the Fine Arts Fiesta this afternoon. I either wander through, or past this event each and every year. Last year, wifey and I packed up the two oldest rodents, wandered on down there and settled in for the UUU rock 'n' roll show. What a great show they put on.

Anyway, the goings-on at the Square today were so disturbing, Gage Andrew and I rode away rather than participating at all. Yup. Instead of subjecting ourselves to that, we shot up to Musical Energi and bought two DVDs and a CD. Basically, the fiesta was swamped. It was a sea of humanity like none other that I've previously witnessed. It was a friggin' mob scene down there. And that's without anyone tossing Cabbage Patch dolls into the crowd.

I'm sure the organizers will be pleased as all hell. But if today's attendance is any indication of things to come, maybe they ought to shut down the entire Square next year. Whatever. Food for thought.

Just when I thought it was safe to heap all sorts of praise upon my elected officials...I crawled out of bed to find this bunkum waiting for me.

The Citizens Voice

W-B council plans ban on Square bike riding

By Denise Allabaugh, Staff Writer 05/21/2005

Wilkes-Barre council wants to pass an ordinance to ban bicycle riding on Public Square.

Councilman Jim McCarthy said some kids who ride their bikes on Public Square bump into senior citizens and damage property.

"We want to make sure it's Public Square and not a racetrack," McCarthy said. "It seems there is a different attitude with kids these days. They just don't seem to take into consideration that Public Square is for the public and it is not for skateboarding or bike riding."

Council will discuss the ordinance at a work session Tuesday at 6 p.m. and vote on it at a meeting Thursday at 6 p.m.

According to the ordinance, the penalty for anyone violating the ordinance is a $25 fine for the first offense, $50 for the second offense and $300 for the third and subsequent offense and/or jail time up to 90 days.
According to Wilkes-Barre Police Capt. Donald Crane, there is a state law that prohibits bicycle riding on sidewalks and in business districts.

Crane said police still have trouble with kids riding bikes on Public Square. Stunt bikes are a particular problem, he said. "They are a problem on the Square where people bring children and there are handicapped people and elderly people," Crane said. "There is a section of the vehicle code that states they shouldn't be on sidewalks."

Solicitor Bill Vinsko said the city ordinance was needed because Public Square is legally considered a public park. "It's a belt and suspenders action to supplement the state law," Vinsko said.

Councilman Phil Latinski supports passing an ordinance to prohibit bike-riding on Public Square as long as it is enforced.

A 1987 ordinance prohibited skateboarding on Public Square, but Latinski still sees kids skateboarding here. In 1997, former Mayor Tom McGroarty tried to amend the skateboarding ordinance to prohibit rollerblading. After strong opposition, the ordinance never passed.

"The skateboarders take chips out of the steps. We have an ordinance against them, but I never see anyone arrested," Latinski said. "An ordinance is only good if it is enforced."

Latinski said he is not only in favor of banning skateboarding and bike riding on Public Square, but he wants rollerblading banned as well.
"Someone can be seriously hurt and the city could be sued," Latinski said. "People walk through there and rollerbladers and bike riders put people in danger when they're walking. I'm for prohibition of that activity on Public Square."

Rich Adams, owner of Around Town Bicycles in Wilkes-Barre, feels kids should be allowed to ride their bikes on Public Square with some rules and boundaries. "There's worse things the kids could be doing. You can't just ban kids from places. You have to give them alternatives," Adams said.

McGroarty proposed to build a skate park in 1997 after hearing much opposition about the proposal to ban in-line skating on Public Square. The skate park was never built.
Adams feels if city officials want to ban bike riding on Public Square, they should build a "BMX park."

"Public Square is a good spot for BMX bikes since there are different concrete levels. It's better than flat-riding," Adams said. Councilman Tony Thomas, however, complained bike riders on Public Square are damaging the new benches the Leadership Wilkes-Barre Class of 2004 refurbished.

Thomas is not only in favor of banning bike riding on Public Square, but he wants to add an amendment to ban bike riding in Kirby Park during city events such as the Cherry Blossom Festival and the Fourth of July celebration.

During these events, he believes people should walk their bikes through the park so they do not put others in danger.


Hmmm...where should we start with this poppycock?

"We want to make sure it's Public Square and not a racetrack," McCarthy said. "It seems there is a different attitude with kids these days. They just don't seem to take into consideration that Public Square is for the public and it is not for skateboarding or bike riding."

"Kids these days?" Way back when I was one of those dreaded and oft-persecuted "Kids today," there were two incidents on Public Square which ended up being reported in the pre-turf-war version of the Times Leader. I saved the article, but didn't date it. I'd scan it, but wifey is getting sick of me ripping the scrapbooks apart. Methinks the following snippet is from 1975.

Add to the annoyances the bicycles manned by errant youths who pose a danger to pedestrians. In addition to their free-wheeling" many carelessly deposit their two-wheelers in hazardous positions on sidewalks.

I can't remember the other incident involving those "errant youths" and their menacing two-wheelers, but I was involved in the second incident. This is exactly what happened. This is what got one of our senior citizens to crying foul for anyone who would listen.

I worked a 12-hour day in Percy Brown's kitchen with the wall-mounted thermometer topping out in excess of 100 degrees. After punching out, and a quick change of clothes, I was heading around the Square on my 10-speed at a very modest rate of speed. All that awaited me on that particular evening was a shower and then some rather loud tunes at a friend's house in Forty Fort. I was riding on the street about a foot away from the curb while a senior lady was obviously making her way towards that curb in an attempt to jaywalk. She looked both ways before stepping into the street, and in the process--made eye contact with me. In other words, I was left to assume that she had seen me. So she stepped off the curb right in front of me and got herself run over. She went sprawling to the tarmac in one direction, and I went sliding on the tarmac in a whole other direction.

And within seconds I was being screamed at by her, the onlookers waiting for their busses, and a beat cop. The lady was hysterical and ranting away about these dastardly, no good "Kids today!" And the portly cop was reading me some sort of riot act without even asking me what had happened. And not appreciating his less than thorough investigation, I returned the verbal invective. He then threatened to bust me in the chops. Let's see here. Senior Citizen? Teenager? Obviously, this was an open and shut case. Long hair, ripped jeans and a mouth on 'im. Guilty as charged!

They got the lady on her feet, dusted her off a bit and sent her on her jaywalking way. As for myself, I was still being treated to the very best threats that beat cops had to offer at that point in time. And while I was inventorying the bike, taking stock of my road burns and staring him down like I f>cking meant him ill; I pushed off with one foot, pedaled with the other and told him to "F>cking blow me!" Funk him! There was no way he was going to catch me with that beer gut.

The fact is, due to their physical limitations, it's a rare day when a senior citizen encounters a teenager without perceiving them to be some sort of threat to their well-being. I understand how they got to be that way, but that doesn't mean that life as we know it should be forever altered everytime a senior comes in close proximity to those vile practicioners of youthful exuberance.

According to Wilkes-Barre Police Capt. Donald Crane, there is a state law that prohibits bicycle riding on sidewalks and in business districts.

He is 100% correct. According to my handy dandy Pennsylvania Bicycle Driver's Manual, Section 3508, Pedalcycles on sidewalks and pedalcycle paths reads as follows:

A. Right-of-way to pedestrians--a person riding a pedalcycle upon a sidewalk or pedalcycle path used by pedestrians shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian.

B. Business Districts--A person shall not ride a pedalcycle upon a sidewalk in a business district unless permitted by official traffic-control devices, nor when a usable pedalcycle-only lane has been provided adjacent to the sidewalk.

Yeah. And that's enforced about as often as jaywalking laws, and laws banning skateboarders. Not to mention the laws banning folks from parking in the bus lanes 24/7. Oh, and laws against county commissioners driving sh*t-faced.

Thomas is not only in favor of banning bike riding on Public Square, but he wants to add an amendment to ban bike riding in Kirby Park during city events such as the Cherry Blossom Festival and the Fourth of July celebration.

During these events, he believes people should walk their bikes through the park so they do not put others in danger.

Since our council is not busy trying to finalize our reconstituted voting districts, I'm assuming they have enough time to compile some stats on how many people in this city have been injured by an errant bicycle. Anybody up for that? If there's so much f>cking danger going on here, I would have to say, "So prove it." Run the numbers. How many pedestrians were maimed by free-wheeling bicyclists during the recent Cherry Blossom Festival. I was there and I spied many a...that's, many a fellow bike rider that fine day. Funny though, I don't remember seeing any ambulances painstakingly making their way through the crowded concourse. How 'bout near misses? Did any errant bikes come close to crippling any innocent pedestrians? Did any seniors call our council folks and complain about all of the horrible things going on that day. Why, there were bicycles, and smokers, and people looking at my tightly clutched purse. There were people laughing too loud, littering and generally loitering too close to me. One lad spit his wad of gum on the sidewalk. And a couple of others used indecent language. The horror...the horror.

I say to you Mr. Council Chairman, you had better do something about all of these young people, or else I'm gonna be peeved up to here (pointing to blue hair) with you until I pull your lever again. And have those college kids beaten, neutered and muzzled already. They frighten the wits out of Thelma. And one of them looked in my general direction after dark. Besides, most of them aren't even registered democrats anyway.

Bicycles are a problem to be dealt with? So what's next on the diddily-squat agenda? Are we going to rehash the purchase of that $2,000 electronic gavel that was proposed a while back? With all the complex problems facing Wilkes-Barre right about now, this is the very best that these seven people can come up with? So much for the harmonious college town bullspit. So much for that pie-in-the-sky 21st century, progressive downtown we envisioned. Nah, we'd rather have a user-friendly downtown so long as the users aren't exposed to any of those damn dangerous folks sporting too much adrenaline.

How many more young folks do we have to run out of this culm heap of a county before it finally qualifies as being one big retirement community? What-f>cking-ever! Wilkes-Barre has spoken...and erred yet again. If you bring a bicycle into this town, you could be facing 90 days in jail??? Some cities have bike paths. And still others are following the same beaten path that leads to nowhere. And apparently, nowhere is exactly where some folks want to be.

Wilkes-Barre: Home to the Zen electorate and the fuddy-duddies who pander to them.

Sez me.

With ATVs being the freaking rage these days, this is something that every parent of youthful ATV riders should be covering with their kids.

Mine Site Fatalities Get DEP's Attention

May 17, 2005 PaDEP News Release

LEBANON: Pennsylvanians were warned today to “stay out and stay alive” in response to three recent fatalities at abandoned mine lands in Pennsylvania.

“Each year, there are dozens of fatalities and injuries at abandoned and active mines across the country, and already this year there have been three fatalities in Pennsylvania,” PA Dept. of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathryn McGinty said.

“With summer fast approaching, we need to warn people that mines and quarries are not playgrounds, and that the hidden dangers at these sites can kill you.”

McGinty was joined for the announcement by local emergency responders and officials from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) at a quarry in West Lebanon Township, Lebanon County. The quarry was the site of a fatality in 2003 when a 13-year old boy drowned after he fell while climbing. Due to the steep cliffs and dense vegetation at the site, emergency responders had to lower their boat into the quarry by ropes before attempting to rescue the boy.

According to statistics compiled by DEP and MSHA, there have been 40 fatalities at mines and quarries in 15 different counties in Pennsylvania since 1989.

DEP, in cooperation with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), has included Stay Out/Stay Alive materials with every all-terrain vehicle (ATV) registration and is working to inform hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts about the dangers of mines and quarries. In addition, DEP is working with state and local police, local emergency responders and property owners to post warning signs and restrict access to these sites.

“Pennsylvania has been blessed with great mineral riches, but the unregulated mining practices of the past have left us with some 250,000 acres of abandoned mine lands with unstable cliffs and spoil piles, water-filled pits, unmarked mine openings and dangerous, abandoned equipment and buildings,” Secretary McGinty said. “Although these places may look inviting, they can kill you. Don’t become another tragic statistic: stay out and stay alive.”

Congress recently extended the federal Abandoned Mine Lands fund, which provides money to states to reclaim mines that were abandoned prior to passage of modern mining laws. The fund expires at the end of September. However, Governor Edward G. Rendell has put Pennsylvania in a leadership role in the fight to ensure that Congress reauthorizes a federal mine reclamation fund and that the state secures its fair share.

The fund is supported by a tax on all coal mined in the United States and must be spent to reclaim coal mines before it can be used to reclaim abandoned quarries and other non-coal sites. The total cost to reclaim all abandoned mine sites in Pennsylvania is estimated at $15 billion.

The following is a list by county of the 40 fatalities at abandoned mines and quarries in Pennsylvania since 1989:

Northampton County – 9
Luzerne County – 7
Northumberland County – 4
Chester County – 3
Lancaster County – 3
Berks County – 2
Lebanon County – 2
Schuylkill County – 2
Washington County – 2
Bucks County – 1
Fayette County – 1
Lehigh County – 1
Mercer County – 1
Somerset County – 1
York County – 1

Although, I do have a question. If Tony Thomas Jr. wants to make it illegal for the amazing grandson and myself to ride our elongated bike to our favorite hangout (Sunkist soda & Chips Ahoy! cookies) next to the flowing fountain at the Square's epicenter, when is he gonna do something about the ATVs running up and down my street at all hours of the day and night? And what about those slacker speds zipping past the adobe on those motorized go-peds? Is a clear and present danger to pedestrians and smallish grandchildren alike somehow acceptable when we're talking about Thompson Street?

Yeah. That's what I thought.

We already know that our city leaders have authorized some hefty sums of money to spruce up the city's damaged playgrounds. But take a look at what I found on this internet thingie.


From the e-mail inbox Mark,

Act 72. What do you think?


In my inner space, this one is easy to process. Gambling was not coming to Pennsylvania anytime soon until it was wrapped in this tax relief nonsense so as to push it through the resistance. Tax relief is not going to happen. And neither are new text books, better schools or any other useless snake oil they are currently selling to the unwashed masses.

Slot machines are coming to Pennsylvania and that's about it. Well, that is, until those folks pretending to be Injuns get the full-blown gambling package that they obviously covet. We're getting slot machines and little else.

Don't much matter to me. You won't see me pumping as much as a wooden nickel into any of them.

I found this at The Beacon, the Wilkes University student newspaper.

Your Voices: Thanks from Wilkes-Barre's Mayor

By Thomas M. Leighton, Mayor of Wilkes-Barre

Published: Monday, May 2, 2005

Dear students of Wilkes University:

I am writing this editorial to thank you for a cooperative and productive year in the city of Wilkes-Barre. It is my desire as Mayor to continue our positive relationship into the future, as well as advance along the course of my pledge to increase the college-town atmosphere within the city.

For those students who will be graduating in May, I wish you the very best in your future endeavors and I hope that you have enjoyed your time spent here in the city.

For all returning students, there is much change on the horizon. The city is currently working on a host of initiatives to increase the college-town feel within Wilkes-Barre. Underway already is the South Main Street Project, which is a $21 million downtown development initiative that consists of a 14 screen state of the art movie theatre. In addition, the city is working to install new streetlights, a new downtown parking garage, and an intermodel complex. It is my hope that these types of projects will yield a whole host of new opportunities for the city's college students to enjoy in the downtown area next year.

Looking forward to the future of Wilkes-Barre is increasingly becoming an optimistic exercise and not one filled with disappointment and thoughts of stagnation. I look forward to enjoying the experiences of the future will all of you. Have an enjoyable and safe summer break.

Thomas M. Leighton Mayor

One minor caveat, though. A person (college student or otherwise) shall not ride a pedalcycle upon a sidewalk in a business district unless permitted in writing by Jim McCarthy, Phil Latinski and, or Tony Thomas Jr., who shall from this day forward be known as The Wilkes-Barre Bicycle Authority. Not quite a quorum, but we've got some other elected folks yet to weigh in on this less than pressing issue--something they are utterly clueless about. Trust me, I ride through that Square on a bicycle more often than any other Wilkes-Barre resident. And I have yet to see any of these elected folks hanging out down there.

Gage & Taylor

Are we progressive, (NOT!) or what? Please, by all means, (Did I say "please?") come to downtown Wilkes-Barre and don't be shy about spending copious sums of your hard-earned cash. But, hang on to some scratch just in case you and your dangerous bicycle need to be bailed out of the far end of the cell block.

I have forgotten where I read this ditty that I am about to adapt for my purposes, but what's a maniac like me to do?

Ignorance is bliss...and it's name is Wilkes-Barre.