Monday, December 12, 2011

Montgomery County closes parks and trails??


Recently Montgomery County has announced that it may have to take drastic measures to close its budget. By closing all of the parks and trails this will include maintenance and law enforcement needed to keep these facilities operational. At a meeting on December 7 over 50 people spoke in opposition of this measure and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia expressed the views of 1500 people who sent e-mails to the Montgomery County Commissioners.

The implications of this are very serious, park employees will lose their jobs and hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial grants will be at risk. If this does happen the parks and trails will be subject to vandalism, crime, litter, and overgrown with vegetation. These spaces are used by hundreds of thousands people every year and generate millions of dollars for businesses along the trail.

So what would I do?

While I do not have a solution for the budgetary issues that Montgomery County faces, I do have a challenge for the 1500 people who sent e-mails through BCGP, the over 50 people who spoke at the meeting, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and all of the bicycling clubs through out the region. It's time for their actions to speak louder than their words.

I challenge bicycle clubs and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia to commit one day of service to provide needed maintenance along the Schuylkill River Trail, Perkiomen Trail or one of the parks in Montgomery County in the Spring of 2012. Since these places are important and bicycle clubs have benefited them, then it is time to give back. You can find more information about volunteer opportunities by using this LINK.

Parks departments have a list of things they would like to do that go beyond what can be normally handled by the park employees. Over the years I have volunteered with various groups to help clear brush, clean out illegal dump sites, and remove litter from heavily used locations.

So which groups are going to step up and commit to a date this spring?  Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Bicycle Club of Philadelphia, Suburban Cyclists Unlimited, Quaker City Wheelmen, and Sturdy Girls Cycling. Five days of service would accomplish lot.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Post Cranksgiving Interview


After holding the first Cranksgiving in Philadelphia, Gary and CJ took the time to answer some questions about how and why they created this event, what they have learned and plans for the 2012 Cranksgiving. 


1) What was your inspiration for creating a Cranksgiving Ride in Philadelphia?
Gary: Our introduction to Cranksgiving was in York, PA in 2007 while CJ was attending Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster. Since both of us have an interest in cycling, he told me about the race, and so we went out and did it! It turns out this race was the first one being run in York. It was actually started by Tone, a former messenger from New York City who had moved to York and brought the tradition, running in New York City since 1999, with him! After having so much fun doing the race out in York for the past 4 years, and with CJ no longer going to school in Lancaster, we decided to bring the race to a common ground, Philadelphia. Unfortunately, hunger is a problem in many major metropolitan areas around the world, with Philly being one of them. The city is very lucky to have a great advocacy group like Philabundance, which made us proud to be able to support them with Cranksgiving!

CJ: I remember a lot of posts on various bike blogs around Thanksgiving about this bike race, "Cranksgiving". I found the national site (www.cranksgiving.org), and found out that York was having one! Since I went to school only about a half hour away, it seemed like a no-brainer to participate. I called up Gary, since we had gotten into cycling together, and he made the drive down. We had a lot of fun, and met the organizer, Tone, an ex-NYC messenger that had started the whole Cranksgiving tradition in New York in 1999. Turns out he had moved to York, PA earlier that year to settle down, but couldn't resist bringing Cranksgiving with him. That was back in 2007. Since then, every year, we had made the drive over to York to participate. And every year, Gary says, "We should really start one in Philly next year!" I bugged him about it a lot this year, because honestly, I didn't want to make the 2 hour drive to York. What better way to get around that than to have our own ride? No, but really....We definitely wanted to spread the Cranksgiving spirit. Tone had provided us with a lot of pointers and suggestions from his 10+ years of organizing Cranksgivings, so it actually seemed like a very do-able thing. I encourage anyone who is thinking about starting one in their own city to DO IT!
2) How many people participated?
Gary: In our first year, we had about 15 people who participated. Next year (2012) we are hoping to more than double that!
3) How many pounds of food were donated?
Gary: We collected 167lbs of food. The manifest specified six different food items to be collected, and the winner of the "Most Charitable" prize brought in 10 extra items!
4) With the temperatures in the 60's it was like spring. What is your secret for having such good weather the day of the ride?
Gary: As far as weather, we could not have been more lucky. In years past in York, PA, temperatures had been in the low 30's, which was brutal! Hopefully next year mother nature is just as friendly to us as this year.
5) Was there anything that stood out during the ride?
Gary: The nicest thing about the day, other than the fact that we collected close to 200lbs of food, was how nice the weather was. Also, the Philadelphia Marathon was the same day and snaked around Center City, and we got lucky with the timing of that event and how it coincided with the start of ours. Fortunately, the amount of interference between the two was minimal. Although, some of our riders ended up not being able use certain routes because they were still blocked off. All part of the challenge!
6) What was the most challenging thing you had to do to plan this ride?
Gary: As with any event like this, the most challenging thing was promotion. Unfortunately, we got a bit of a late start getting things together, so that made getting the word out tough. Most of the other planning, such as arranging the stores and items to be purchased, as well as arranging sponsors and collecting the prizes, went fairly smoothly.
7) If you could change something for the 2012 Cranksgiving what would it be?
Gary: A couple of things really. First... start planning earlier! We definitely could have gotten the word out to more people, as well as collected more/better prizes for the participants. We also have been thinking about a few tweaks in the way we'll be running the race. Finally, after doing the race for the first year, we learned a lot about a number of logistical issues that come with running an event, and we definitely have a lot we can apply to next years event.

CJ: Promotion, promotion, promotion. I want everyone to know about it! Get organized earlier, make up all the materials sooner, contact more sponsors, and just make sure that more people come out.
8) What kind of assistance do you need for 2012 and how can people contact you to help?
Gary: Tell your friends! Obviously we have the internet at our disposal for promoting the event via Facebook, message boards, etc... but the best way to get the word out there is just to tell your friends! This race is great because it's very laid back, the format of the race is a lot of fun, it's a great way to get involved with your community, and it supports an awesome cause. All that being said, we look forward to seeing you out there next year!

CJ: Just participate! And tell everyone! Post it on your Facebook, your cycling blog, your Myspace (hah), anything. Really, the great thing about Cranksgiving is that there is minimal preparation compared to other races and rides. The only other thing that we could use help with is sponsorship. It's always nice to have stuff to give out to riders. Of course, prizes take a backseat to the real purpose of this ride, which is to benefit a charity and help those less fortunate. Doing a good deed should be an award in itself! But anyways, if anyone needs to get a hold of us, we can be reached at: philly@cranksgiving.net. Soon we'll have an updated website with results and photos and everything, as well as post info for next year as it gets closer, but until then, send us an email and we'll definitely get back to you!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

2011 Annual Bilenky Junkyard Cyclocross




Looking to take a break from all of the Christmas festivities, then come to the 2011 Annual Bilenky Junkyard Cyclocross on Sunday, December 18, 2011 from 10am to 4pm.

First started as a fun race, it has evolved into friendly competition. Held in a junkyard the course offers a range of surface conditions from paved to dirt single track so the course is a challenge for Cyclocross and Mountain Bikes. Along with some equally challenging barricades: ramps, tunnels, bridges, hurdles, running sections, and a seesaw. Weather is also a factor; the surface could be muddy, frozen, or covered in snow. What makes this a truly unique experience is that it’s held in a junkyard creating some rather unique course markers and adding the chance of flat tires due to debris.

Over the years the number of racers has increased and this year to improve safety and increase speed Bilenky Cycle Works is holding smaller heats to avoid bottlenecks at the obstacles. Which means a full day of racing for racers and spectators alike.

Make sure to bring plenty of cash; Chewy's Food Truck will be on site throughout the day providing breakfast and lunch. And of course there will be beer.

To find out more use this link to go to the Bilenky Cyclocross Facebook event page, you can also register as a racer here. At a cost of $10, if register in advance, this will be the most fun you can have on two wheels.

Want to get sense about what to expect, watch this video


Friday, November 18, 2011

Philly Cranksgiving - Sunday, November 20




Looking for a charity bicycle ride that doesn't involve pestering your friends, family, and coworkers for a donation or requires months of training. Then check out the 2011 Philly Cranksgiving, on Sunday November 20 at 11:30am. All you need to bring is a bicycle, a lock, a backpack or messenger bag, and $15.00 to make your purchases. Plus your knowledge of the streets of Philadelphia or a map. No entry fee required and all items will be donated to Philabundace.

Cranksgiving was first held in New York City in 1999. Each year it is held on the Saturday before Thanksgiving urban cyclists to socialize, compete, and enjoy themselves while also raising food for local soup kitchens or food pantries in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. Since its beginnings it has been adopted by organizers in numerous cities in one form or another where all types of cyclists participate to have fun while benefiting a local charity.

Philly Cranksgiving requires you to navigate from Love Park to Tattooed Mom's on South St. You will be supplied with a manifest (shopping list) and purchase these items from check points (predesignated supermarkets), make sure to save the receipts as proof that you followed the route. The organizers have made a point that this is a ride and not a race, but there will be a reasonable time you must complete the course by.

Come and bring a friend, its a great ride and great test of your navigational skills.








Lock your bicycle - Winning

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It seems the only way to get the local media to report on the issue of bicycle theft is when it happens to one of their own, 6ABC reporter Brian Taff, we get an in depth report.


After watching this video I can understand why Brian's lock got cut, it was never intended to be a primary lock in a city environment. It's the type of lock that could be cut with the scissors they used to give us in kindergarten. While its effective to lock a rim or a seat, I would never use it as a primary lock for any bicycle.

The error is compounded by the advice given by Lee Rogers, owner of Bicycle Therapy. Given the cost of replacing a rear wheel, a minimum of $140.00, I would never lock a rear wheel with any cable. All it takes it some bolt cutters, a little bit of muscle, and you have a set of rims.

But instead of pontificating, I would rather bring in an expert of my own, Hal Ruzal, founding partner of Bicycle Habitat. In 2003 Hal did a video where he walked the streets of Manhattan with a camera crew rating how well people had locked their bicycles.


This lead to to two more videos, the third leads off with Hal showing you how he locks his bicycle before he goes on a tour of the streets.


So what grade would you give yourself on how you lock your bicycle?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fourth Annual Philadelphia Tweed Ride



Just like Sarah Palin's mythological Paul Revere I would love to ride through the streets of Philadelphia ringing church bells and shooting guns to alert everyone about the Fourth Annual Philadelphia Tweed Ride on Saturday, November 19 at 12:00. I'll just have to settle for writing about it in this blog.

What is a Tweed ride? Contrary to what you may be thinking the Philadelphia Tweed Ride is not a bunch of hipsters. Participants are a wide range of ages and backgrounds. A tweed ride is a return to a bygone era in England when families would dress in their best clothing, assemble a picnic lunch, get on the train with their bicycles and go out to the countryside. Riding their bicycles home.

What should I wear? Ideally your looking for Edwardian or Victorian era look. You don't have to dress in vintage clothing, with a little bit of creativity you can use modern clothing to create a vintage look. If your looking for inspiration use this link and scroll down to the Third Annual Tweed Ride and you'll find links to photo galleries of last years riders.

What kind of bike should I ride? Every bicycle and cyclist is welcome, of course if you have something that looks vintage, like a three speed or an British bicycle like a Brompton all the better. This is not Critical Mass and the ride organizers make it clear at the start that they expect everyone to obey the traffic laws. With the normal stop and go traffic in Philadelphia and the large number of cyclists that participate you'll never get lost. But be prepared to have people wave at you, because they do think it's some sort of parade.

Will there be other activities? In the course of the ride there is one stop at a local park. Where pipes are smoked, hip flasks are sipped, and don't be surprised if a croquet game starts.



Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lets annoy Stu Bykofsky




As many of you are aware we have a local news pundit, Stu Bykofsky, he makes his living as a commentator for the Philadelphia Daily News. Back in 2009 Stu made bicycles, bicycle infrastructure, and cyclists his personal crusade.

And like Don Quixote, Stu has his imaginary world where bicyclists are the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse and bicycle lanes are the road they travel upon. In his columns cyclists are “bikeheads” and “pedalphiles” and every cyclist is a lawbreaker. Running red and stop signs, riding on the sidewalk, and weaving in and out of traffic. Bicycle lanes and cyclists slow down traffic and create congestion. Since Stu is just writing commentary he doesn't have to back up his claims with facts.

There is one thing, that try as he might Stu has not been able to counter, the bi-annual bicycle count held by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia which the City of Philadelphia government uses as part of traffic engineering. Stu claims the numbers can't be trusted because of the partisan nature of the BCGP and looks for loopholes in the instructions such as “don't count bicycles on rainy days”. Which is the equivalent of counting cars during a blizzard. But for all of the whining and kvetching Stu does he is unwilling to provide a bike count of his own. After all how difficult would it be to send some interns from the Daily News to the same street corners that the BCGP uses?

So now you can help to annoy Stu Bykofsky by participating in the BCGP Fall bicycle count by volunteering 90 minutes of your time during the morning or afternoon rush hour. For more information click here. Remember your not just helping to improve infrastructure for cyclists throughout Philadelphia, you're also annoying Stu Bykofsky.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Honk, Honk




In Honk I made an attempt to educate the Honker, in this post I'll address what options you the cyclist have as the Honkee. First of keep in mind the state you are in, your riding along try to pay attention to the traffic around you because the slightest accident can hospitalize and all of sudden some moron behind you blares their horn for no apparent reason. Scaring the daylights out of you, as you desperately look around for the signs of the impending accident. When in reality it's some impatient idiot driving an SUV. Who thinks they are going to get to the next traffic light that much faster if you get out of their way.

So with your adrenaline on overtime there are options you can take, unfortunately some of them just generate more anger on the part of the automobile driver who is under the impression they are not at fault.

1.     Yell at them – This never works because you come off as an angry jerk that is causing the problem.
2.     Give then the finger – Not a good option, keep all of your fingers firmly on the handlebars unless you are going to wave back at them with all five fingers on the same hand. An extremely aggressive gesture that never works

So what are your options? 
1.     An air horn – I’ve considered myself but have yet to follow though on it. One way to go is the Airzound based on the reviews on Amazon and the video below it seems to be very effective. Personally I though it had to many parts where something could be stolen or break and I would consider using a refillable air horn with a handlebar bottle cage mount so for city riding I just have to remove one item when I lock my bike.


           2. An electronic horn – I’ve tried these and they sound like a really loud cricket.

           3. A whistle – Whistles have become the most effective and low-tech solution I have found, my personal preference are the Fox 40 whistles. These whistles are ear piercingly loud and the harder you blow the louder it gets, sometimes they even get mistaken for a policeman’s whistle. They also come with a bite guard so you can hold the whistle in your mouth for long periods of times with out drooling. Where it around your neck on a lanyard and you’ll always be able to find it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

South Philly Costume Crit 2.0




Looking for something to do this Saturday, October 29? Check out the Philadelphia Costume Crit 2.0. A costumed bicycle race at FDR Park at the tennis courts and recycling center. Hopefully the race organizers will require anyone not in a costume or someone who is wearing regular clothing over the Lycra to start at the back of the pack.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Philadelphia Stolen Bikes and a Facebook Solution

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In 2010 as a response to the on going problems with bike theft in Philadelphia a Facebook page was created where people could post stolen bikes in the hopes of recovering them, Philadelphia Stolen Bikes. Reading through many of the posts it seems that they have had success in recovering stolen bicycles, where the thefts have been happening, stolen bicycles that have been sighted, and the possible neighborhoods bicycle thieves live in.

With populations that change apartments, many of Philadelphia's neighborhoods intimidated by criminals, and the “no snitching” culture; quality of life crimes have become an acceptable part of a neighborhood. In the past this would have been a community effort as neighbors who knew neighbors and talked amongst themselves to prevent these crimes or identify the people who commit them. An interesting phenomena that has occurred with the Internet and the development of social websites. The creation of new communities within Philadelphia based on a common interest, in this case stolen bicycles. This a growing trend as documented by the Wall Street Journal and I am glad to see that it has reached Philadelphia.

There are some steps that you can take to make recovery of your bicycle goes smoothly in the vent it is found.
1.     Take a picture of your bicycle and a picture of you with the bicycle. You'll need to do this to document ownership.
2.     Write down the serial number of your bicycle and take a picture of it. The serial number can usually be found on the bottom bracket. If you can't find have your local bike shop show you where it is. This will also help you document ownership
3.     File a police report. Yes I know the police are not going to be terribly sympathetic, by having the theft on record makes it harder for a thief to claim they own or found the bike.
4.     Alert friends and coworkers who live in the city, regularly search E-Bay and Craigslist, talk to local bike shops, and post to the Philadelphia Stolen Bikes Facebook page.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Philadelphia Bicycling Tales of the Absurd – I




In Philadelphia its tough enough with periodic attempts by various Philadelphia City Council and those trying to get elected to Philadelphia City Council to make bicycling and bicycling infrastructure as difficult as possible. But when President of the Traffic Court Thomasine Tynes states:

“Make city bicyclists register their bikes, cite them for moving violations such as riding on the sidewalk or blowing through stop signs, and then have those tickets dealt with by Traffic Court, Judge Thomasine Tynes suggests. "I am not against the cyclists," Tynes said. "But the problem is there is no punishment for not abiding by the law."

I find it astounding that any traffic court judge, let alone the President of the Philadelphia Traffic Court could make such egregious statements. A simple Google search under “Pennsylvania Bicycle Laws led me to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation website regarding bicycles and traffic law. Section 3508 A&B, clearly explains that riding on the sidewalk is against the law and Section 3501-B states that: “Bicycles are considered vehicles under Pennsylvania Laws and must obey all the rules of the road which apply to vehicles. These are the "responsibilities" mentioned above. The "rights" refer to the roadway space required to operate the bicycle in a safe, lawful manner.”  In other words, bicycles are subject to the same laws as cars and the same fines.

You don't need to have a bicycle license or a bicycle license plate for a police officer to write you a ticket. Valid ID is all the police need and if you don't have one they can hold you at the station until they can verify your address.

So what would I do?
I would send President of the Traffic Court Judge Thomasine Tynes to a remedial course in traffic law. Clearly Judge Tynes needs this based on the statements she has made. What this really boils down to is enforcement of the existing laws by the Philadelphia Police Department, if Judge Tynes truly feels that this is an important issue than she should pressure the police to step up enforcement of the current laws instead of trying to create ineffective new laws. Otherwise this is just another attempt by an elected official to make name for themselves without actually doing anything.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Lock your bicycle

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With the return of all of the college students to Philadelphia a rise in theft of bicycle parts and bicycles, all you have to do is read Craigslist or hangout at any number of local bike shops. The worst part is that many of these thefts could have been avoided. Below are list of some of the most common statement you will read or hear when someone has his or her bike stolen.

I locked my bike outside overnight and now its gone.
I locked my bike to a fence and now its gone.
I locked my bike to the railing outside my home and now its gone.
I locked my bike in the backyard and now its gone.
My front/rear wheel was stolen.
My saddle (seat) was stolen.
My cable lock was cut.

Meet the bicycle thief’s favorite tool, bolt cutters, capable of cutting any lock and chain you can buy in your local hardware store, cable locks, and chain link fence in less than 10 seconds. And can easily be concealed in a backpack or under a jacket. And leaving your bike in a public place with an inferior lock won’t help as demonstrated in this video.


So how can you reduce your risk of having your bicycle or parts of it getting stolen?

Step 1. Make the investment in a high quality lock, my preference has always been Kryptonite locks, because of the way they rate their locks and the effort they make to create locks for any situation. Get the five foot long Kryptonite chain and wear it like a belt. Yes I know the lock may cost almost as much as your bike, but it’s cheaper than having to buy a new bicycle.

Step 2. Think about what you are locking your bike to solid objects are best, lampposts, parking meters, signs, and bike racks. Remember chain link fences and railings can be easily cut. Please avoid the trees, its bad for the trees and trees can be easily cut.

Steps 3. Never leave your bicycle outside overnight. No matter how securely you've locked it, even if you think locking it a backyard  is out sight. All you have done is give a bicycle thief plenty of time when everyone is asleep. For all the years I have had bikes I always made room where I lived to store it indoors, even if it meant having one less piece of furniture or some highly creative storage techniques. Like bike lifts or wall mounts.

Step 4. Be careful what you own. Bicycle thieves are not stupid and they recognize high-end bikes like Trek, Jamis, Cannondale, and Specialized. There are plenty of older bicycles available through Craigslist and Via Bicycles, who specialize in restoring older bicycles. You can still ride a quality bicycle that is not a target.

Step 5. Lock your bicycle thoroughly, especially if you have quick release. It only takes a bicycle thief seconds to remove any part off your bicycle. Get a cheap cable lock to lock down your saddle
Seat and seat post - $50.00
Rear rim - $125.00
Front rim - $75
These are just costs for basic replacements.

In the end this is all up to you and how important a primary source of transportation is to you.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Reader Feedback

Following the post about Chinatown and Bicycle Lanes I received this e-mail from Peter F. a reader in New York City about his recent experiences riding Philadelphia's bicycle lane. While many of us take for granted what we experience it is always interesting to see how an outsider experiences them.
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Nice blog!  I'm a NYC bike commuter, who was in Philly Friday....took my folder on AmTrak, as you can see from the pix.  Feel free to publish it and my account below! 

Here's a story of my return ride to Penn Station 30th from Independence Sq that I wrote to my friend, a fellow cyclist who lives in Philly:

Spruce Street bike lane is very nice. As you instructed, from Independence Square I picked it up a few blocks away and took it to 22nd Street which I thought you said.  But unable to get onto JFK Boulevard from 22nd I continued on it in search of the next Left to Penn Station. Which took me to the absolutely lovely new green painted bike lane on Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Like Dorothy finding the Yellow Brick Road, I was certain I arrived at the Nirvana of newly bike-able  Philly. I  hung a left toward the Art Museum  Surely there would be additional  bike routes there to lead me to 30th Street Penn Station. 

And yes, there are more pavement stripes that look like bike lanes at the Eakins Oval by the museum.  Nice!

Buoyed by this excellent experience I check Google Maps (unfortunately Ride the City, which maps bike routes in many cities, omits Philly) and saw promising walking directions via the Schuylkill River Trail path and figured I would take that. But I missed the entrance to the trail.

 No matter, following the circle another 100 feet or so I take a right on 24th Street which has a new painted  stripe on the right side. "I am a bike path" it says to me. Down the hill I ride, confident that I will emerge on a route back to JFK Boulevard.  

The "lane" gets narrower. "And what's with the trucks?" I say to myself  Seconds later I am on a narrow strip at the side of the US Highway 30 with no exit in sight until I get a half mile back to 15th Street!  Ugh!  Nothing like riding over sewer grates and discarded highway garbage with a few feet separating a concrete wall from 6 ton semis. And too narrow to turn around and go back. I commit to the terrifying ride to the first exit. Low gear and slow so if I fall I'll be on the wall side. 

I make it safe and sound, and once again am impressed by the pharmacologic effects of adrenalin! 

If you point me to a Philly DOT site I will compliment them on what is a much improved bike network but ask them to post a clear sign on the 24th street intersection that it leads to the highway and what looks like a bike lane is not one at all. Of course, they should paint diagonal lines in the space between the line and the curb so that it would be obvious this is curb space and not a lane.   The Philly bike network seems to be largely paint anyway, so this is inexpensive to do. 

Plenty of excitement for one day.  And looking at the map, you likely said 20th Street and not 22nd for the R turn from Spruce. That damn bike lane on 20th and the green painted beauty on Franklin seduced me into a false sense of a traffic-calmed Philly. It's rough side just a few moments away!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Park(ing) Day - 2011

On Friday, September 16 take sometime to walk around Center City Philadelphia and celebrate Park(ing) Day. Park(ing) Day was founded by Rebar, a San Francisco art and design studio, in 2005 to raise awareness of the need for green spaces in urban environments. By converting a single parking space into a parklet for one day, the only limitation on what you can do is that of your imagination. Philadelphia celebrated Park(ing) Day for the first time in 2008 with over 25 installations for relaxing, cycling, creating art, education, and socializing.

On Friday, September 16 take some time to walk around Center City Philadelphia and visit some of the 34 Park(ing) Day parks. To see a map with the location of all of the parks and for additional information, please visit: http://www.parkingdayphila.org/interactivemap.

Parade of Asses

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Once again Philadelphia has survived the annual Parade of Asses or as it is better known, the Philadelphia Naked Bike Ride, part of the World Naked Bike Ride. Don't worry if you missed it, the Philadelphia Inquirer will be flogging the pictures on the main page of their website for the next 364 days, just like they did with the 2010 ride.

Like Critical Mass the PNBR accomplishes nothing other than creating a parade and while this ride has grown exponentially around the world, in my opinion it has jumped the shark. The best example of this is when G4TV's Attack of the Show sent out one of their on air hosts to cover the ride in Portland, OR. Sarah Underwood, a Playboy centerfold, who reported on the ride by participating in it. It's this kind of investigative journalism that shows how seriously the WNBR is taken.

WARNING: Video is not office friendly.


As much as the PNBR has stated goals, the average person has a completely different reaction.

Why We Ride:

1.     We ride to PROMOTE CYCLING ADVOCACY.
2.     We ride to RAISE AWARENESS about FUEL CONSUMPTION and the environmental impact of car culture.
3.     We ride to PROMOTE POSITIVE BODY IMAGE.
4.     We ride to PROMOTE ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY as a way of life and a corporate responsibility.

Man on the street

1.     Look at all of the naked people riding bicycles!
2.     This is going up on YouTube.
3.     Most of these people need to put their clothes back on.
4.     What was that all about?

Participating in the PNBR is the same as clicking “Like” on the Facebook page of a non-for profit, you’re not doing anything to help that organization. The PNBR does not raise any money to help an advocacy group that meets the goals of the PNBR. Nor do the hundreds of riders that they attract actually do anything that benefits the community they live in. However unlike the recent column in Philebrity I would not call the people who participate in this “bad citizens”, not everyone can or wants to spend $50 to ride through Philadelphia to participate in the Bike Philly ride. Instead I would view them as a group of children in need of guidance, to harness the potential that exists.

So what would I do?
By all means since the PNBR is part of the core value of this group then the ride should remain intact. What about a voluntary donation of $1 per rider, at the start or the end of the ride, with the proceeds going to an advocacy group so the end of the ride something more than just an excuse for a party.

I would also recommend that the PNBR participate in the Philly Spring Cleanup, in past estimates the PNBR has had close to 2000 participants. Can you imagine what would be possible if 25% of the participants met at a central location and then bicycled out to local parks in need of help to pick up trash and clear brush?








Monday, September 5, 2011

Chinatown and Bicycle Lanes



There has been an outbreak of NIMBYism in Chinatown. It appears no matter what is done to make Chinatown more accessible and create positive change there is a vocal minority seeking to maintain a status-quo. Instead of making an effort to benefit from these changes for the community and business they would rather impede and obfuscate.

A temporary bicycle lane from North 13th Street and South 10th Street between Market and Vine Streets has been created for a period of 3 to 6 months. A test to see if this is a viable location. It didn't take long for the standard list of excuses to surface, supported by the usual list of players from the private and public sectors.

First is 1st District City Council candidate Mark Squilla who suggested to Wilson Wan to organize a petition against the bike lane. This isn't the first time someone who is on the city council or running for city council has tried to go after bicycle lanes. Instead of doing their own dirty work, like DiCiccio and Greenlee, the ploy is to make this look like it is motivated by local citizens.

Next was Chinatown Watch Chairman Joe Eastman who feels that this is about city government dictating policy without taking any input from the community. When in reality his true concern was about; "This is a commercial area. If we lose any of these parking spaces, people will go somewhere else.” A sentiment also stated by Wilson Wan.

Last up is Jong Chin, who has owned a restaurant on Race Street since 1965 and Executive Director of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp. He is concerned that the bike lanes will make the streets too narrow for fire trucks as well as buses that pass frequently en-route to New York City.

What everything boils down to is three motivations; politics, safety, and commerce.

Politics – Mark Squilla is exploiting local residents on an issue that will have little impact on community and has become a tactic used by current city council members to get their names in the paper. At the same time they avoid dealing with any of the real quality of life issues their constituents face like unsafe schools, crime and the no snitching mentality. Bike lanes are just low hanging fruit that require no real commitment or effort and gets their names in the paper.

Safety – A very common tactic is to claim that bicycle lanes will impede the ability for emergency vehicles to navigate through the street. As if somehow cyclists will not get out of the way of an emergency vehicle with it's lights and sirens running. If anything cyclist can get out of the way faster and leave more room than a car. This was the same excuse made when a bicycle lane was installed in front of Thomas Jefferson Hospital and yet no emergency vehicles have been delayed from accessing the hospital.

Commerce – This is what it really boils down to. Fear that a bicycle lane will lower the revenue of area businesses by reducing parking. In a city like Philadelphia where the majority of its residents get around using public transportation and an increasing number of cyclists. I seriously doubt that the loss of a small number of parking spaces is going to have any effect on a restaurant, more likely is a lack of imagination.

So what would I do?
If I were a restaurant I would have weekly cyclist special, it is much easier for a cyclist to pull over and lock their bike easier than a car. As a cyclist I would hold an organized ride to Chinatown where every rider would go into a restaurant in Chinatown along the bike lane and have lunch. Calling ahead and making reservations if possible.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Twits

In a day and age of instant gratification it never ceases to amaze me how quickly individuals will Tweet or post something to Facebook without thinking first. Worse yet is when an organization or business engages in reacting without thinking. They often fail to understand that by doing this they are giving their approval of the author of anything they repost.

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia made a very egregious mistake on Wednesday, August 17, when they re-tweeted a post by Philebrity in which Philebrity posted a column about the recent objections of community leaders in Chinatown regarding the installation of bicycle lanes. They were referred to as Chu Bykofsky's. The membership of the BCGP held the the BCGP management team to task over a post that clearly had racial overtone's, that only inflamed the issue.

While the BCGP did put up a follow up post that apologized for tweeting without thinking, there was one sentence in it that still leaves me wondering if they still don't get it. “Again, we don't imply wholehearted agreement with everything we retweet.” If you don't agree with something you are re-tweeting than why do it? I can only hope that the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia takes a hard look at what they re-tweet to make sure that as an bicycling advocacy organization it represents what they are working towards. But some how I doubt it.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

HONK!!!!




If there is one thing I can't is listening to someone complaining about how they honked their horn at a cyclist and the cyclist gave them the finger. Imagine you are walking around your neighborhood and a rock concert starts, 10 feet away from you, with no warning. A rock concert is 120 decibels; a car horn is 110 decibels.

Getting honked at by a car when your driving does not have the same effect, your car, especially with the windows up muffles a lot of the sound. For a cyclist there is no barrier, you get the full impact. You don’t know its coming and since horns are a warning device you can easily startle any cyclist and leave them thinking an accident is going to happen. Inevitability it turns out that you are trying to get us out of your way, which makes it even more frustrating in Philadelphia when we are riding at the same speed as the rest of the traffic.

So why do you inevitably end up getting the finger? Because we can’t honk back and you have scared and/or annoyed us.

So what can you do, especially when you are driving around Philadelphia?

DON'T HONK!

If a cyclist is completely in a traffic lane its because they are moving faster than cars in the slower lanes or changing lanes to make a turn. Also bicycles can legally ride in any traffic lane, not just a bicycle lane. You are not going to get where your going any faster, especially during rush hour. Be patient will be out of your way in a minute.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Philadelphia Bike Culture – A Glimmer in the Dark



There has been another step forward in creating a bicycle culture in Philadelphia, something beyond century rides. On June 25th Volpe Cycles held a “Mac the Bike” ride, a tour of some of Philadelphia's eateries to sample some unique macaroni and cheese recipes.

I can only hope that this is not a one time only ride. Philadelphia is home to a wide range of food trucks and restaurants of all sizes that serve some very unique recipes. Volpe Cycles is also looking for ideas for other rides and I hope they find them. Because fun, social rides build a community.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Philadelphia Smug Alert

 

In a recent article in the Daily Inquirer about how the Philadelphia Police Department was stepping up the enforcement side of the “Give Respect, Get Respect”. It stated that 590 cyclists had been issued warnings for violating traffic laws. This has brought on a severe case of smugness from two cycling advocacy groups.

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia; in a recent post on their blog took issue that the Philadelphia police had a disproportionate response of cars to bicyclists:
  • Bicyclists - 590 warnings issued, 3 moving violations and 7 Code Violation Notices (CVNs) for riding on the sidewalk
  • Motorists - 116 warning issued, 37 moving violations and 50 CVS for distracted driving
If the BCGP had actually taken the time to read the brochures that were part of the campaign, they would have noticed that the Driver Guide is designed to teach drivers about being alert for bicyclists and pedestrians. Automobile drivers already know what will happen if they run red lights and stop signs. The Bicycle Guide teaches cyclists that they have to follow the same traffic laws as cars and riding on sidewalks or against traffic is illegal.
 
The other case of smugness comes from the soon to be former Executive Director of Neighborhood Bike Works Catherine "Kitty" Heite. Who posted on Monday, July 18 on their Facebook page a response of: “interesting... Glad to know NBW already focuses on teaching the youth what their responsibilities as cyclists are”, to the article in the Daily Inquirer. While ignoring a fundraiser held for NBW, The Works Volume 1, on May 14, 2011. An Alley Cat with prizes based on speed and how many points you accrue on the course. How do you complete an Alley Cat race quickly? By running red lights, stops signs, and breaking any traffic law that comes to mind. This is an oxymoron, raising money by breaking traffic laws to teach children to ride safely. Its moments like this when you understand why Neighborhood Bike Works is looking for a new Executive Director.
 
The Philadelphia Police Department has shown admirable restraint in educating cyclists about traffic laws and how it applies to them. 590 warnings is more than ample and if some cyclists still don’t understand then I am sure a $120.00 ticket will.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Safety first, unless it costs to much - Lights




Over the years as a cyclist I have seen a lot of change, one of the most visible changes has been in lights for riding at night. Gone are the days when you needed bulky battery packs or generators, thanks to LED technology lights can be run on watch batteries for months. You can even get solar powered lights. My personal favorites are Monkey Electric which can create effects as seen in the picture above

Back in the early 90's I was bike commuting in a city that was not used to cyclists on the roads, especially at night. Reflectors and a reflective vest were simply not enough, especially when it came to city buses that would practically blow me off the road. A local bicycle shop had a new product on the market a rear strobing taillight that had three LED lights, ran on two double AA batteries, could clip on to my back pack and could be seen from a half a mile. Immediately after I started using it cars and busses gave me plenty of clearance when they passed and I could ride safer than ever at night.

Today these lights, often referred to as “blinkies” come in a wide range of sizes and prices, you can pick up basic lights on the internet for as a little as $5.00 and for about $20 you can outfit yourself with front and rear lights. On a recent night ride through Philadelphia I found that having front strobe was a big benefit when dealing with cars that were turning into traffic head of me.

Yet when I drive through Philadelphia at night I have to exercise a lot more caution in the areas of the Temple University and Penn. State Campuses. The number of college students who don't use night lights combined with the propensity many of them have for running red lights without even slowing down is staggering. Worse yet is the “I can't afford one” mentality, one student that I spoke told me how they ride day and night but they couldn't afford to by a rear blinky. You can easily one if you’re willing to brown bag your lunch or get coffee instead of cappuccino for a few days.

The twenty dollars you may spend on lights is going to cost you far less money than a trip to an emergency room if a car hits you. Also it’s a lot harder for a driver to claim they couldn't see you with a couple few strobes on your bikes.