Monday, July 17, 2017

An interview with Alexandria Schneider; Queen of Philly's Mass Rides

On September 26 & 27, 2015 Pope Francis came to Philadelphia as part of the World Meeting of Families, which included an outdoor mass on September 27. In order to facilitate an estimated 1 million pedestrians ability to move freely, a 4.7 square mile area of Philadelphia was closed to motor vehicles. It was announced months in advance so everyone could prepare.

About two months before that weekend an event appeared on Facebook, the PopeRide on Saturday, September 26.  The PopeRide was going to follow a route through the the closed section of Philadelphia to celebrate car free streets. Organized by Alexandria Schneider, she thought that this ride was going to be her and a few dozen friends.

On the day of the ride 1500 people had signed up on Facebook and the belief was a third to half would show up. However on Saturday morning more and more people started showing up, far more than anticipated. The final count was 3000 participants. Since then, not a summer has gone by where Ms. Schneider has not held a large scale ride through the streets of Philadelphia. This year is no different.

Ms Schneider took a few moments out of her schedule to give an interview for the Philadelphia Bicycle Journal.

Prior to the PopeRide had you ever done anything like this before?
Nope!  I'd biked with friends, but that was it.  

What was your reaction at the PopeRide when you found out 3000 people showed up?
Honestly, I was exhausted from the ride the night before, but when I got the call saying that 3000 people were at the start line, I went straight to a MASSIVE adrenaline high and didn't come down until about 8PM that night!  

What was your inspiration for this ride (Cycle en Couleur)?
For this ride?  Maria and I had been talking about good-naturedly teasing Diner en Blanc for a while, but I was stuck on single-color rides.  Roulante en Rouge came and went, Bike in Blue was a flop, but then Maria brought up Cycle en Colour, and it stuck!  

How much time does it take to put together a ride like this?
It depends on a few factors, but generally a week or so to kick around and firm up the ride concept with co-organizers, maybe an hour or two to draw up the route, and then a few hours a week in the lead-up weeks for prep, like pulling materials together, and promoting.

What are some of the key things you have to plan for when creating large scale rides?
The biggest thing is "location, location, location".  You need to find a starting location that's big enough for a potentially huge group, make a route that's fun and has nice views but has enough safe street space for a bike mass, and find an ending location that gives people space to stay if they want to, but can leave easily.  

When you're not planning a ride what else do you do?
My day job is in IT, and when I'm not doing that or riding, I love baking, shooting sports, cooking, gaming, and listening to music.  

Every time you hold a ride you have perfect weather and a massive turn out. What is your secret? Do you make an offering to Taranis, God of the wheel and if you do, what is it? (
Well, I've had one ride that didn't have those, Byko's Safe Bike Ride, but that wasn't supposed to be massive.  But either way, I legitimately have no clue.  I DO obsessively refresh Weather Underground and yell at the sky beforehand though.  I also don't say the word for that thing that falls from the sky during a storm before a ride.  For theatre folks, I treat it like you treat the name of The Scottish Play :P

Cycle en Couleur - Thursday, August 17, 2017

Didn’t win the lottery for Diner en Blanc?

Don’t feel like buying white clothes just for a meal, but want an excuse to get dressed up?

Don’t have a spare table and chairs to eat outdoors, but still want to enjoy a picnic with friends?

Then get ready for Cycle en Couleur.

A summer in Philadelphia would not be complete without the Queen of the mass rides, Alexandra Schneider, and her partner in social enhancement, Maria Serrahima (organizer of the Philly Naked Bike Ride) are holding another summer ride to remember. This summer it will be Cycle en Couleur. A celebration of Philadelphia’s spirit of openness and showcasing the city at dusk, highlighting community and inclusiveness with style.  

Styled after Diner en Blanc, but without the exclusivity and fussiness that comes with it. Cycle en Couleur (CeC) is envisioned as a 'spring fling' in late summer and encourages all kinds of colorful clothing. Attendees should feel free to wear whatever color they like and if the spirit moves them, to dress up.That purple suit? The banana-yellow dress? The powder-blue tux (with obligatory ruffles)? The red blouse with green tights? That outfit that you bought once, and haven’t worn again? Now you have a reason to wear them.

Departing the steps of the Art Museum on Thursday, August 17, 2017 at 7pm, Cycle en Couleur will wind its way through Philadelphia. In the spirit of the evening, the ending location is being kept a secret. Bikes, skates, skate boards, scooters, sneakers, all are welcome. If it's human-powered and you can keep up, you're welcome! Just like the PopeRide and RideDNC this will be a leisurely paced ride. Music will be provided courtesy of bike-towed speakers, and flashing lights, glow sticks, and decorations are officially encouraged!  

I have been fortunate enough to ride in the 2015 PopeRide which had 3000 cyclists and the 2016 RideDNC with 1500 cyclists. For those of you who have never done either of these rides this one not to be missed. For those of you have, bring your friends. This is the type of ride you will be telling your friends and family about long after summer has passed.

If you need more information or would like to share fashion tips on how to dress for the Cycle en Couleur, go to the event’s Facebook page,