Thursday, April 7, 2016

"Status quo, you know, is Latin for 'the mess we're in'"

Normally I am not a big fan of petitions so I thought nothing of a recent petition (http://chn.ge/1TF7HbQ) calling on the City of Philadelphia to enforce the parking regulations regarding bicycle lanes. Because, let's face it, the PPA has no interest in ticketing cars parked in bicycle lanes.


That changed when the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia wrote a blog post (http://bit.ly/1Xkzr4J) justifying the current status quo the petition is trying to address. First the BCGP explained that the parking laws along Spruce and Pine St.’s are subject to asterisks. Signs that read “No Parking” were actually 20 minute loading zones. Only those locations that are posted as “No Stopping” mean no parking. But those are few and far apart, at best 25% of Spruce and Pine.


To make matters worse the BCGP tried to justify the current regulations.  With the excuse of “These parking regulations were decided years before the bike lanes were installed and these did not change when the bike lanes were installed in 2009.” They made a similar statement regarding churches using bike lanes as parking on Sunday.


The BCGP tried to rationalize it away by saying; “For someone unfamiliar with these long-standing agreements between the city and religious folks, this agreement may seem bizarre. Simply acknowledging these rules and the long-standing agreement can make a cyclist’s head explode.” 

The only thing making my head explode is how the BCGP tires to rationalize what has been going on since 2009, eight years. With the addition of bike lanes along Spruce & Pine has changed the way traffic flows along these streets. Which means all past agreements should change to reflect the new street conditions. The excuses that the BCGP has given to justify the chronic problems with Spruce & Pine St leaves one asking, whose side are they really on?


The BCGP has a growing number of public issues where their lack of advocacy and being too much of an insider has become obvious. With its increasing number of vanity projects and one sided deals that don’t benefit cyclists. The BCGP has become a bureaucracy and a “bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status”. (Laurence J. Peter, creator of the Peter Principle)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Bogus Bike Racks - Ikea, Conshohocken

As bike racks become more commonplace at businesses and other institutions the placement and quality of those racks sometimes comes into question.


While Ikea products are distributed worldwide and its origin can be traced back to a single bike. Their questionable bike racks and placement looks as if they have forgotten their origins.




Whenever I go out to do some distance riding I prefer the Schuylkill River Trail, however my options for getting something relatively healthy, tasty, and within my budget are limited. Ikea’s restaurant, conveniently located off the SRT and easily accessible by bike Ikea in Conshohocken often fits the bill. The challenge is locking up my bike securely and safely.


Of the two bike racks they offer both of the wheel bender variety, an outdated style that makes locking a bike difficult and can place a cyclist at the risk of bending the rim of their bike. Neither rack is bolted to the ground  which means they can be moved around with ease.




Recently two cyclists taking a break from riding the SRT found their own creative place to lock their bikes.




This poor selection in bike racks and placement also carries over to their North American headquarters, next door to the Conshohocken Ikea. The entrance is located on the back of the building and while there are plenty of parking spaces for employees who are carpool to work. Bicycles are given short shrift, with something that barely qualifies as a bike rack.



Given their close proximity to the trail one would think that Ikea would do more to encourage their employees to bike to work by giving them decent facilities to lock their bikes. As well as for cyclists riding the trail looking to take a break, who may also be potential customers.

Do you know of a badly placed bike rack in Philadelphia? Write a comment and I will highlight it in a future post.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Vanity is the quicksand of reason

On March 2015 Phillypedals.com published a bombshell editorial from Michael McGettigan, owner of Trophy Bikes and former Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia board member. In it he took the BCGP to task about how they “might need to be a little less “insidey” and work on their advocacy chops a bit” (http://phillypedals.com/bicycle-coalition-needs-shift-higher-gear/).


Once again the BCGP has catered to its wealthy donors with a vanity project that does little to help the average Philly cyclist. This time it is artistically designed bike racks or art racks. A standard bike rack, pictured below, is what every cyclist prefers.



Unfortunately racks like this are not sexy if the BCGP asks you to donate money. So instead they have installed and are raising funds for additional art racks, known as “Gilded Gates” (http://bit.ly/1WRkQNU). At an estimated cost of $3215.00 per Gilded Gate, based on the cost at this site for a double gate (http://bit.ly/1RtdwEE).


In addition art racks have the inherent problem of not being recognized as a bicycle rack. So much so that a sign has to be placed near it so people will know.



When designing anything, especially something that serves both a practical and artistic purpose. There is a guideline that should always be applied, form follows function. In other words when you design something at the end of the day it should be easily recognizable as to whats its purpose is.


There are alternate solutions like having local artists paint unsexy racks to make them sexy. Similar to a recent project by having local artists turn parking meters on 52nd St. in Philadelphia into mini murals. Just think how many more existing bike racks could be turned into works of art










Just imagine how many existing bike racks could be transformed for the cost of one Gilded Gate.



Monday, March 7, 2016

Philadelphia Social Rides - 2016

With warm weather approaching people will be turning to thoughts of love. The love of bicycling. For those of you who are looking for way to socialize and ride your bikes there many options available in Philadelphia.
Social rides last 5 to 20 miles depending on the ride, at a pace that allows for a wide range of bikes and fitness levels. Social rides usually have a “no drop” policy, that ensures that everyone who is in the ride makes it to the finish. Ensuring that no one gets lost or left behind to a flat tire or mechanical breakdown. These rides provide a final destination where you can socialize and have something to drink and eat.
The list below breaks down the Social Rides currently available in Philadelphia by daytime and nighttime rides.

Daytime Rides
Philadelphia Open Ride - https://www.facebook.com/phillyopenride/
On of two new fledging social rides in Philadelphia, Philadelphia Open Ride is the creation of Pope Ride organizer Alexandria Schneider. She lead off her first ride with a fall leaf tour of Philadelphia complete with a picnic with the best view of Philadelphia, the Belmont Plateau. In December there was a Toys for Tots ride that I hope will become an annual tradition. Ms. Schneider appears to have some new rides lined up for the spring and we look forward to seeing what they are.


Norman’s Irregular Bike Rides - https://www.facebook.com/groups/517736488374969/
Norman’s Irregular Bike Rides is the other addition to the Philadelphia Social Ride scene. In the fall it held the Day of the Donut, a tour of Philadelphia’s best donut shops. With warm spring weather on the way we are sure there will be more rides to come.


Founded by Katie Monroe of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Women Bike PHL is a private Facebook page for women cyclists with over 2100 members. It is a forum to ask for advice about all things cycling and to promote the rides they host. The goal of Women Bike PHL is to inspire more women to ride a bike and support and encourage them along the way


Take Your Time Bike Ride - http://tinyurl.com/pnlu3tj
Departing from Rittenhouse Square on the second Tuesday of every month around 6pm. These rides always finish a different destination each ride. Starting in April and ending in October these rides alternate between coed and women only.


Philly Kidical Mass http://tinyurl.com/oan2vp3
Kidical Mass Philadelphia is part of nationwide movement seeking to promote family friendly bike rides and bring awareness in our cities that kids are traffic too. Riding as a group Philly Kidical Mass provides safety in numbers by using routes that incorporate bike lanes and low traffic streets that are 1 to 4 miles long. Kidical Mass rides often end at local playgrounds giving you the opportunity to socialize while your children play with new friends.


Cranksgiving Philadelphia http://tinyurl.com/pf2hgvc
Held in November close to Thanksgiving. Each rider has to purchase food from a shopping list at predesignated supermarkets and then arrive at a final destination. All of the food is donated to Philabundance. For those of you who want to race there are prizes for top finishers in several categories and a special award for the individual who brings the most food. In 2014 Cranksgiving Philadelphia had 100 participants who brought 1200 pounds of food and $700 in cash. The final destination is Tattooed Mom’s on South St and they double the amount of food brought in.


Held in the fall around November, the Philadelphia Tweed Ride is the dressiest social ride in town. Attracting 100 riders on average the Philadelphia Tweed Ride dress code asks its participants to dress in clothing from 1900 to 1920 England. The attire ranges from vintage clothing to vintage inspired, with bikes to match. Winding its way through Philadelphia this ride becomes a parade of its own. Complete with a stop for a picnic, post ride drinks and awards, the Philadelphia Tweed Ride is the ride of the social season.


Nighttime Rides
Philly Full Moon Bike Ride http://tinyurl.com/n9vfype
Come howl at the moon with the Philly Full Moon Bike Ride. Held on the full moon of every month this ride departs from the Philadelphia Art Museum in the evening. Well attended, the Full Moon ride makes sure that no one gets lost or is left behind, and finishes at a local bar for drinks. Rides are held year round so dress for the weather and bring lights.


Philadelphia Bike Ride - https://www.facebook.com/phillybikeride/
With rides falling on either the third Friday or Saturday of the month. Philadelphia Bike Ride tours through different sections of Philadelphia.


Philly Bike Party http://tinyurl.com/ot2l67t
Come dance the night away with the Philly Bike Party. The Philly Bike Party rides are usually on the third Saturday of the month and is 6 to 8 miles long. Along the way the ride makes several stops to socialize and dance.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Take a Vacation in Philadelphia

Recently 5th Square, an urbanist political action committee based in Philadelphia, tweeted about the 2016 City Builders Symposium in Copenhagen, Denmark. Where city leaders and planners from around the world gather to see what happens when you take 50 years to design a city for people and not for cars. They suggested that City Council Members Helen Gym, Derek Green, and Allan Domb all attend this. The conferences sessions involve meetings with local experts and peers on how to bring the best ideas on bicycle infrastructure back to their cities. Including bicycle rides to various sites throughout Copenhagen. At $5000.00 per person not including airfare, this seven day vacation is quite the deal.

Rather than travel 10 hours and 3923 miles, perhaps our city leadership would be better off spending a few days doing bicycle tours of Philadelphia instead and talking to area residents. So they can see how the infrastructure has changed Philadelphia, where it has failed, and and how it can be improved. All I would ask for that they be willing to commit an hour or two per per day for a few days.

One tour would be on Sunday along Spruce and Pine St. to see what happens when the churches and synagogues use the bike lanes for parking. For both religious services and weddings. Also so they can get a feel for what happens when a cyclist rides down a one lane street with cars behind them.

Another tour would be to some of the bike lanes in Philadelphia that have faded away due to a complete lack of maintenance. Along with rides along the crosstown connectors like Christopher Columbus Ave and 22nd St. To show just how far you can travel if you want to by bike.

We’d also visit places like the Philly Pumptrack where advocacy and community need created a solution that benefits many. Or spend time with the youth and adults who participate in the wide range of programs run by Neighborhood Bike Works in West Philly.

So save your money and avoid jet lag by exploring Philadelphia’s current bicycle infrastructure. Because before you build the city of the future, first you need to see what Philadelphia is like.