There were two annual bicycle rides this week both designed to make a statement and both in need of major adjustment as to how to deliver the message and to make the message remembered by the non-bicycling public.
On Friday May 20 the city of Philadelphia its annual Bike to Work day ride. During which 50 cyclists, Mayor Nutter, Congressman Bob Brady, and Congressman Chaka Fattah rode from the Philadelphia Art Museum to City Hall. The ride was on a cool spring day, with light drizzle and the entire ride couldn't have been more than a few miles, hardly a strain for anyone.
Unfortunately the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia picked the worst possible quote to promote the success of the event, from Congressman Brady; “he could get used to this whole bicycling thing, provided it always came with a bottle of water and a police escort.” This really doesn't sound like someone who sees the possibilities of commuting by bicycle. Anyone reading it is not going to think that bicycle commuting is safe.
So what could be done differently? City officials should make a real commitment to cycling to work, one day at week for the month of May as part of Bike to Work month. But its got to be the same people the entire time so the public connects names and faces. Also so the public officials connect with what cyclists experience, good and bad, when cycling in Philadelphia. The BCGP needs to be a lot more careful about the quotes it selects and understanding the message they send.
The other is the Ride of Silence that occurred on Wednesday, May 17 . An 8 mile, 60 minute, full escorted ride through the streets of Philadelphia to commemorate cyclists who have been killed in traffic. While it may be very impressive to have 250 cyclists riding silently through the streets of Philadelphia, the lack of uniformity fails to deliver a message to the people who watch them role by. As they have no idea what is going on and won't care or remember an hour later other than they saw a large group of cyclists.
So what could be done differently? The ride is led by a white Ghost Bike on a trailer, ask that every cyclist who participates in the ride to wear a white shirt. 250 cyclists riding through the streets of Philadelphia all wearing a white shirt would make a much more memorable statement.