The following is an unedited Letter to the Editor sent to City Paper from former Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate Joe Sestak who announced his candidacy for President of the United States on Sun., June 23.
The City Paper wrote a June 26 article that mentioned I had announced my candidacy for President of the United States but that “it doesn’t look like sidewalks, bike lanes, or any other roadway improvements will be part of his platform.” In fact, my announcement videos that were posted on our website, www.joesestak.com, layout such infrastructure investments of $1 trillion over 10 years.
The article — and headline — then questioned whether there was an NIMBY (not in my backyard) issue by my suggesting last year that funding for a proposed installation of bicycle lanes on a high-income, safe street to improve its “safety” should instead be used to improve road safety in a low-income, very unsafe part of the street where there were eight bicycle and pedestrian accidents (including one fatality) last year, as compared to none in the last five years in the higher income area. It was not NIMBY, as there are already bicycle lanes nearby.
The reason was that the local city stated that the new section of bicycle lanes was to increase the safety of the high income street because it was “a corridor with a high number of KSI (killed or seriously injured) crashes.” However, that proved to be untrue. The traffic accident database showed it was in the top three safest city corridors the past five years.
But what was more disturbing of a government misleading the public was that the city was using the “high number of KSI (killed or seriously injured) crash” data from a different portion of the street where the median level of income was $44,000 and instead using it to justify bicycle lanes for a $220,000 median level of income area. The 347 accidents (including fatalities) in the lower income section have been 17 times more over the past five years than in the higher-income section.
As the reporter said to me, bicycle lanes are often justified for safety because it is hard at times to get approved otherwise. At a time when the public trust is so low in government, I objected to that line of reasoning, particularly since two separate university and health foundation studies had pointed out that the life expectancy between these two respective income areas is five year less for the lower income population, partly because of transportation safety for the poor area.
I wanted the funding for the bicycle lane project to go forward but for the lower income area due to: (1) the inexcusable misuse by the government of high traffic accident data in a poor area to justify safety lanes for an already very safe high income area; and (2) the need to immediately rectify an untenable safety situation for the lower income area which should not have to wait any longer just because they have less of a voice in government — especially since there were no safety concerns that existed for the higher income area.