Friday, December 21, 2012

2012 Bilenky Junkyard Cross - Its a wrap

What started a company party has transformed into one of the première and unique regional cyclocross races. No longer a local Philadelphia event; there were cars, vans, and SUV's with license plates from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Indiana parked at Bilenky Cycle Works. This race attracts everyone from competitive racers to people who come out to try their luck; as one racer put it, “I just want to finish”. While not everyone can win their were some crowd favorites; the guy who rode all of his heats in a unicorn mask and the young lady in the women’s division wearing black Uggs.
The Mighty Unicorn

Nothing about the Bilenky Junkyard Cyclocross can be described as standard or regulation. The barriers include cars as hurdles, a mini van as a tunnel, and the narrow pathways where parts are stored become a maze. The surface of the course includes dirt, concrete, and gravel with a mix of oil, transmission fluid, metal fragments, and pebbles of safety glass. 
A tight squeeze  
What Hurdle?

The spectators often have as much fun as the riders and in some small ways influence the race. In two incidents at the car hurdles riders experienced major mechanical failures, spontaneous pit crews from the spectators got them back into the race. They also redesign the course by adding ramps at the car hurdles in time for the bmx/alternate bikes and men’s finals. In one instance when a racer squeezed between the edge of the course and a car hurdle, only to find on the next lap that tires barricaded the hole.

Spontaneous Pit Crew

Catching big air
They don't look like soccer mom's.

There were plenty of cyclocross and mountain bikes and every year there is a growing mount of BMX and single speed bikes. Along with tandems, and modified beach cruisers. This year one rider brought a Pugsley, with tires close to 4 inches wide tires this bicycle was like a steamroller on the course. Some of the fastest and most aggressive riding came in the BMX/alternate bike heats, were the two car hurdles were bunny hopped instead of being hurdled. One BMX racer was a big crowd pleaser as he did wheelies through the start/finish zone during each lap. 
Pugsley in the pit 

King of the Wheelies

Another factor that makes the Bilenky Junkyard Cyclocross are the prizes for the winner each category. This year crowns for the men and tiaras for the women were designed by Bilenky Cycle Works employee Isis Shiffer. With their unique design and Steam Punk esthetic these are the type awards that will make this memorable to the winners more so than any trophy. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

2012 Philly Cranksgiving - The results

Cranksgiving was back in 2012 bigger and better than ever. More riders, improved routing, and plenty of donations. This year Tattooed Mom's stepped up by matching the total amount of money spent by riders purchasing donated food. What makes Philly Cranksgiving unique is not the event itself; it’s the people who organize it. This ride is not planned by a for-profit or a non for-profit which have the resources and funding to make this type of event run smoothly. But by two individuals who commit their own time and energy outside of their normal schedules. CJ and Gary took some time to answer some questions about this years ride.

1. With 46 riders, how many pounds of food were collected. (not including the amount Tattooed Mom's added)?
CJ: We actually had 62/63 starters, so I am hoping that most of those people finished and added their donations, and just didn't hand in a manifest. But when the day was over, we had 798lbs!

Gary: CJ is correct, we had 62 riders sign up and most of them were recorded as finished and I'm pretty sure the rest trickled in after the time limit.  We ended up collecting just shy of 800lbs of food.  In addition to the food, we had $1250 in donations ($1,000 of which came from Tattooed Moms in place of their food matching).  The cash donations were just as significant of a help, and according to Philabundance, were able to assist in feeding well over 2,000 people!

2. What was the time for the 1st place rider?
CJ: The first and second place riders (a couple) had actually gotten to Tattooed Mom a second or two before I did, around 1:30. Gary and I were trying to decide when to leave Whole Foods at 10th and South for the finish....he decided to stay for stragglers while I headed down to Tattooed Mom. Glad I left when I did! We started at maybe 12:05 or 12:10, so their time was around 1:20 or so?

Gary: I totally forgot to keep track of time, but around an hour and a half finishing time seemed about right.  We tried to mix things up by adding a mandatory 3rd stop on the manifest, where we introduced a mystery stop to keep riders on their toes.

3. This year you moved the starting point out of Center City; did this help avoid any issues with the Philadelphia Marathon?
CJ: I don't know explicitly if it helped or not, but since the riders were starting further from the Marathon course, I suppose it gave us more of a time 'buffer' between the Marathon and our event. I know last year we had some people not being able to take the Spring Garden bridge; not sure if it was the same case this year or not. The scene at the finish was too hectic to mingle and get race reports, hah. In any case, I did like our Penn Treaty start more because it gave us a bit more room to have everyone hang around and chat while waiting for manifests, and not be in anyone's way or raise any suspicion. I couldn't imagine 60+ people standing around LOVE right across from City Hall, where we started last year.

Gary: The marathon was certainly a part of the decision to move the starting point, however the minimal interference we had last year also played into the decision.  Mostly, it was that we were expecting a significantly larger crowd this year with the increased promotion and awareness, and having the extra room for people to hang out before the race certainly helped.

4. When are you are not working non-stop on Cranksgiving, what do you do for fun and work?

CJ: Fun: road rides in the suburbs, DIY basement shows, poker with high school friends, and drinking bottomless coffee at Grindcore House.
Not Fun: I'm a second-year Master's student at Towson University, in Towson, MD. Experimental Psychology. Graduating in May, hoping to be able to get into bicycle transportation research. Until then, it's a lot of driving back and forth just so I can ride my bike and see my girlfriend/friends/family.

Gary: Outside of the wonderful world of Cranksgiving, I lead a fairly busy life (at least I think so...).  During the week, I work a 9-5 as a web designer/developer for a company just outside of Philadelphia.  I'm also an avid cyclist, racing cyclocross on the weekends, riding (as much as possible) otherwise, and riding around the city!  

More info (results/summary/photos) are/will be available on our website (   

Sunday, December 9, 2012

2012 Bilenky Junkyard Cross

On Sunday, December 16, 2012 the Bilenky Cycle Works Junkyard Cross will start at 10:00am.

Before I go into details about this race there are some very important questions to be answered.

Will there be beer?  $1 beers to help pay for renting the junkyard.
Will there be food? Sold by Chewy's Food Truck.

This annual event first started as company open house it has evolved into one of the most competitive unofficial cyclocross races in the region. Held in a junkyard the course is a classic example of a cyclocross held in an urban setting.  The course features a wealth of man made and unforgiving barriers and obstacles. Add Stephen Bilenky and his crew of ingenious bicycle gremlins and you never know from one year to the next what to expect from the course.

In the past the course has included steep flyovers (bridges) hurdles from wheel rims, a pit filled with sofa cushions, tunnels using a van and a semi trailer, narrow alleys turned into a leaf filled tunnel, and a seesaw.  The surface of the course is dirt, gravel, and pavement covered with debris and various oily fluids. This year there may even be explosions, according to a recent Facebook post on the Bilenky Cycle Works page. 

The easiest way to get to this event is to bicycle there, as parking is very limited. A group ride is departing from Bicycle Revolutions. The Junkyard Cross opens at 10:00am with the first heats by 11:00am and should conclude by 3:00pm

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Olley, olley, oxen free

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has finally revealed the details of the Safe Streets bill they were negotiating just in time to have it summarily rushed through committee and city council to make sure there was the illusion of public discourse and approval.

There are some aspects of the bill that in small ways will provide protection for bicyclists; two existing laws have been amended. The first now allows cyclists to ride two abreast instead of single file and the second does not require cyclists to ride in a bicycle lane if one is available. While these may seem minor, almost petty changes it does protect the bicycling community from potential retaliatory ticketing by the police. Which a cyclist in New York City was subjected to when he asked a police officer to stop blocking a bicycle lane with his squad car.

It also raises the fines for cyclists who run red lights, stop signs, and riding on the sidewalk. Holds drivers responsible for dooring and most importantly parking in bicycle lanes. This will not resolve the problems of church parking on Spruce and Pine St. as this is a long standing deal with the city and it is not going to change.

Councilman Mark Squilla has made statements that lead me to wonder if this bill is the tip of the iceberg. That may lead to more restrictive actions to come, since he has described it as “a good start”. He has concerns that “the bill doesn't specifically address enforcement, a bone of contention” The problem is that you can not mandate the Philadelphia Police Department enforce these new traffic laws any more than any other.

While this bill does address some of the long standing issues regarding bicycle infrastructure in Philadelphia it has come at great cost. The Philadelphia City Council passed a bill this spring that gives them the final decision about bicycle lane placement. Leaving infrastructure in the hands of a group of people whose decisions will be swayed by populist opinion instead of experienced professionals like traffic engineers. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia signed off on that bill as “A Bill We Could Live With”. Lets hope that this doesn’t become something that comes back to haunt us.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Philadelphia Bicycle Weekend - 2012

Here in the hallowed halls of the Philadelphia Bicycle Journal we are pleased to announce that Saturday, November 17 and Sunday, November 18 will officially be the 2012 Philadelphia Bicycle Weekend. Why, because we said so. This weekend will have something for everyone.

For those of you who are looking for a social ride and with the opportunity to dress up there is the Philadelphia Tweed Ride on Saturday, November 17. A leisurely ride through Philadelphia with over 100 bicyclists all them dressed in clothing dating from the 1890's to the 1920's.  Not sure if you have the proper clothing, look through some of the pictures found here you may already have items in your closet that will work. If not a quick trip to a thrift shop or consignment store will have you properly outfitted.

For those of you who want to challenge yourself at a competitive level on Sunday, November 18 there is the Philly Cranksgiving Ride. Departing from Penn Treaty Park you will be navigating to a series of predetermined supermarkets. At each market you will purchase an item of food from a list supplied and then bring everything to a final destination, Tattooed Mom's on South St. The proceeds are donated to Philabundance and this year Tattooed Mom's will match all donations.

With the weather predicted to be in the 50's it should be perfect bicycling weather.

Monday, November 12, 2012

How to write a bicycle column like Stu Bykofsky

Many people who regularly read Stu Bykofsky's columns sometimes wonder how they could write such riveting articles about bicycles without the years of experience that Mr. Bykofsky has acquired. Fortunately if you follow this basic formula you to can write with the same level expertise.

Masquerade opinion as fact – Mr. Bykofsky is a columnist and a professional grumpy old man; his articles are commentary based on opinion, his opinion. Unlike a reporter who has to investigate, conduct interviews, and may even witness actual events. Anything Mr. Bykofsky writes is not subject to any type of verification and short of libel he is free to imply anything he wants as long as it his opinion. Such as all cyclists are lawbreakers because they run red lights do not come to full stops at stop signs, or ride on the sidewalk.

Manipulate the data – The one thing Mr. Bykofsky is unable to contend with is actual data and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia's Annual Bicycle count is a key example. Stu's only claims to debunk the data is:

That the BCGP is partisan because they are a bicycle advocacy group, so I challenge Stu to provide his own verifiable count. I have no doubt that there are plenty of interns available at the newspaper.

Stu loves to talk about how bicycle lanes are only used by 2.1%, of Philadelphia’s population in reality that is 32,046 residents. Who are not using parking spaces, clogging the roads with cars or putting more pressure on SEPTA, which is underfunded and overstressed. For all you sports fans the list below should help put that 2.1%, 32,046 cyclists, into perspective.

Lincoln Financial Field (Eagles) – seats 67,954
Citizens Bank Park (Phillies) – seats 43,647

Be a bully – One of the key elements in the profile of a bully is to dehumanize your subject through name-calling. Mr. Bykofsky has this down to a science by referring to cyclists as gearheads, cyclopaths, and my personal favorite, pedalphiles. So if you can come up with a catchy yet demeaning play on words you have mastered yet another step in this process.

Find a patsy – Mr. Bykofsky is at his best when has a patsy. Someone he can use as a clown or a fool to make it appear as if he is better informed or gives him the illusion of street cred.

Get a gimmick – Writing columns on the evils of cyclists get old very fast, you can only repackage the same opinions a limited number of ways before your columns become predictable. So Stu came up with a gimmick, Stu goes for a bike ride in the summer. It lasts about 30 minutes and is along a protected path, which means he never comes close to a car let alone sees one.

Follow all of these steps and soon you will have a high paid career like Mr. Bykofsky. Without having to waste all that money on a journalism degree and spend years learning your craft.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Blink and you missed it

Recently on the Philadelphia Daily News website, part of, they had an article/press release on a recent survey of the numbers of bicycle commuters in Philadelphia. But in the blink of an eye it was gone. What made this survey unique was that it was not performed by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia; rather it was the Center City District. The Center City District and Central Philadelphia Development Corporation are business-led organizations that work together to enhance the competitiveness and attractiveness of Philadelphia's downtown.

With this survey counts were made from 8:00am to 9:00am during the first two weeks of October of bicyclists entering into Philadelphia northbound, rain or shine. The CCD found their was a 10.5% increase in cyclists from 2010; from an average number of cyclists of 790 per hour to 2012 to 873 per hour. You can see the survey for yourself here.

Over the last few years Philadelphia Daily News opinion writer and professional grumpy old man Stu Bykofsky has claimed that the BCGP's bicycle survey is biased due to the partisan nature of the organization. As well as nit picky issues like they don't count bicycles when it rains, which is like counting people working on their tan when it rains at the Jersey Shore.

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission has recommended the installation of an additional 117 miles of bicycle lanes. Since the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia can no longer be trusted when it comes to its relationship with Philadelphia City Council and bicycle infrastructure. It will be surveys like this one that make sure the interests of all cyclists are represented.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Who Watches the Watchers?

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia's Annual Membership meeting happened on Sunday, October 14 and they are still very reticent in revealing any details on the Safe Streets bill they are negotiating with the Philadelphia City Council. Which makes me ask, what are they trying to hide?

I went to the Philadelphia City Council website and found Bill 120532 complete with a PDF file of the 4 page bill. The bill is designed to raise the fine for cyclists running red lights from $3 to $100.00, which is in line with current state mandates Along with dooring, and cars parking in bicycle lanes. It includes some well-intentioned statements asking city agencies to take the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists into consideration when planning city infrastructure. While this is all very well and good, there are no indications as to what, if any, fines will be applied to people who park in bicycle lanes.

The concern is the current state of negotiations and the final bill when it is presented. Based on this statement made by Sarah Clarke Stuart, Campaign Director for the BCGP, made to the Philadelphia Weekly;  “We have been having productive meetings with the administration about [the bill],” We’re still waiting for what they come back with, then we have to meet with Councilman Squilla and we’ll know [what the final version will look like].” The BCGP has absolutely no leverage over the Philadelphia City Council; the bill that gave council members final authority over the installation of bicycle lanes in Philadelphia has been passed. All we can hope for is that they will honor whatever deal they made with the BCGP to get it passed. Worse yet the final results could be so watered down that cyclists will continue to face bicycle lanes used as parking spaces with no repercussions.

At a recent volunteer meeting the BCGP gave an update to its volunteers on the status of the bill, but on its blog they only said “there would be pizza” and how the bill “may have a large impact on bicycling in Philadelphia”. It's time that the BCGP updates all of the cyclists that will be impacted by this bill, not just their urban volunteers and wealthy suburban donors.

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is acting on behalf of all of the cyclists in Philadelphia it's time they provide an update before the bill is finalized to make sure this is what everyone finds acceptable. As opposed to what the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia can live with.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Philadelphia Tweed Ride 2012

Thanks to a recent Facebook post the 5th Annual Philadelphia Tweed Ride is back on for Saturday, November 17 at 12:00pm. Follow their Facebook or webpage for updates including the route as they develop.

So what is a Tweed Ride? It is a bicycle ride that incorporates a period theme for the way participants dress and accessories they bring. For a Tweed ride the theme is England from the 1890's to 1920 so the riders do wear a great deal of tweed. Along with accessories such as hats, compacts, pipes, hip flasks, pocket watches, and bow ties. Many of the participants have vintage bicycles or bicycles that look vintage; including three speeds, Dutch bikes, and the odd Penny Farthing. The Philadelphia Tweed Ride webpage is full of photo galleries from previous rides, many of the men and women look as if they have stepped off the fashion runways of that era.

This is a a bicycle ride that attracts over 100 riders and all cyclists is welcome. The ride wends its way through Center City with a one rest stop where you can converse and play croquet. The final stop is held at a local nightspot and includes the judging for: Most Magnificent Millinery, Most Marvelous Mustache, Most Stylish Steed, Most Snappy Lass,and Most Dapper Chap.

The Philadelphia Tweed Ride is everything that a social ride can and should be, part parade and part time machine this is a ride for all ages.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Philly Cranksgiving 2012

The Second Annual Philly Cranksgiving Ride is coming to Philadelphia Sunday, November 18. Part bike race, part charity food drive Cranksgiving requires riders to navigate to a series of predetermined supermarkets and buying an item of food from a list. With all of the proceeds donated to Philabundance. This year Gary and CJ took sometime out from their hectic planning schedule to answer a few questions about this years plans.

Last year with temperatures in the 60's, what secret ritual do you have planned to ensure similar weather?
    CJ: Maybe if we get everything done super last-minute like last year, everything will work out! Of course, we'll try to get everything done earlier, and it'll be 40 degrees out. Just our luck. Short answer: we're rollin' the dice.

    Gary: Last minute planning seemed to be the trick.  We're doing a lot more work ahead of schedule this year, but I'm sure we'll be rushing to do something last minute.  Hopefully we'll be lucky again this year!

    For people who want to ride instead of race is there a time limit to complete the route?
    CJ: We'll probably cap it at 2-3 hours, or have some sort of "If you want to be considered for prizes, your manifest must be in by...". It's kinda tough because a slower rider may end up being Most Charitable, so that's something we kinda have to figure out. But, we definitely don't want to discourage anyone from riding and having fun, especially because food is food and every item helps out Philabundance.

    Gary: Last year we had a prize for most charitable and it was very well received (With the winner donating 10 Additional Items!).  This year, we're trying to place more emphasis on prizes for charitability.  2-3 hours seems about right for time limit, but if you show up a few minutes after the limit with an entire thanksgiving feast, we might be able to work something out.

    How many miles can participants expect to ride?
    CJ: We're shooting for 15-20 miles total. We definitely want a laid-back vibe with a ride that most people should be able to do in a couple of hours, but still give the option for a short, fast 'race' should people choose to ride hard.

    What are you doing this year to promote Cranksgiving Philadelphia?
    CJ: For starters, Gary set us up with a spiffy new website! In addition, we already have a Facebook event up with more people "Attending" than last year's event. We've got a couple of sponsors already and I'm trying to bug Gary into drafting flyers and other promo stuff that we can put in bike shops as well as on the web. We are hoping that earlier (and better) promotion will get us many more riders than last year. In addition, word-of-mouth from last year's participants should help us get Cranksgiving Philly bigger and better each year.

    Gary: Word of mouth is playing a pretty big role again this year.  We made sure to set up promotional material (with the website and FaceBook event page) early to make sure we get the word out there.  That, in combination with people who were excited about it last year, has already given us a good idea that about the potential increase in participants.  We'll be amping up promotion the closer it gets to the event, so expect flyers, Facebook updates, tweets, highway billboards, skywriting... ok maybe not the last two...   All in all, after last year, we're really excited to see what this year's event holds.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dancing with the Devil

In May 2011 the Philadelphia City Council tried to force a bill through that would have allowed the Philadelphia City Council to have final decision on new bicycle lanes on a case-by-case basis. Taking it out of the hands traffic engineers who have the experience and training and leaving it the hands of a group of people who will base their decision on what will get them reelected.

The Philadelphia City Council introduced this bill just before the Labor Day weekend and the hearing was held the day the Labor Day weekend. In an effort to get the bill passed while avoiding any input from the public. It didn't work. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia mobilized its supporters though the use of Twitter and Facebook. So the City Council changed the hearing time from late afternoon to early afternoon. When that didn't work the City Council prevented people from speaking by claiming they were supporters of the BCGP and therefore not part of the general public. And yet in spite of all of this the bill was stopped in its tracks.

This May the Philadelphia City Council presented the same bill, using the same methods. But something changed, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia caved in. Proclaiming it “a bill we can live with”. Sure Alex Doty, the BCGP's Executive Director, will claim he negotiated a complete streets bill, which would finally address cars parking in bicycle lanes.  Initially scheduled for a hearing on June 14, it was placed on hold due to problems with the city budget, with the BCGP's fervent hope that the bill would be passed by September or October of this year.

So here we are in the beginning October with no sign of any further news on this groundbreaking safe streets bill. Well the BCGP in a recent blog post plans to update their volunteers  pending City Council legislation which may have a large impact on bicycling in Philadelphia.”. I would have been more comfortable with “a positive change” or “significant improvement”. The question that should be asked is, by allowing the Philadelphia City Council's bill to pass uncontested the BCGP have no guarantee that the safe streets bill is not watered down or more conditions favorable to the Philadelphia City Council are attached to it.

The vast majority of the cyclists in Philadelphia that the BCGP claims to speak and act on their behalf. The ones who are not local volunteers or generous suburban donors will just have to wait until they deign us with the information. The members Philadelphia City Council have made repeated attempts to politicize bicycling and infrastructure in Philadelphia and now the BCGP has enabled this behavior. The BCGP thinks they may be managing the situation however if you dance with the devil, the devil doesn't change, the devil changes you.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Parking Day 2012

On Friday, September 21 I spent part of my day roaming through Philadelphia checking out many of the Park(ing) Day creations. Park(ing) Day was first created in San Francisco where parking spaces were converted into temporary one-day parks. It has since spread to many major cities around the world. As I travelled around Philadelphia I had a chance to stop at many of the parks. Most of them fell into a standard format; hay bales or trees used to form a barricade to separate traffic from the park long with shrubs and/or shrubs. In some cases grass, gravel or wood chips was used to cover the pavement.

There was one stand out park created by Groundswell Design Group; they repurposed a parking space using an ordinary item to create an extraordinary experience. They took a standard steel shipping container cleaned it, repainted the interior and the exterior, planted a green roof on top of it using wild flowers, and hung works of art by a local artist. Creating a mini portable art gallery; complete with interior lighting and two benches so you could sit and enjoy them.

The Groundswell Design Group unique design made it visible from a distance, but left you asking yourself what it was so you needed to see it. With both ends open it allowed for plenty of natural light and air circulation. And at the same time the container blocked out the noise and exhaust from the street.
I would like to put forward a challenge to the planners and the 2013 participants. Plan something that is more than a park. How about the Temple or University of Pennsylvania theatre departments doing 5 minute abridged performances of great plays, area dance companies could create multiple short performance pieces to be choreographed to fit into a parking space. Or how about the local Burning Man group, Videogasm, creating a truly unique structure.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cranksgiving Philadelphia 2012 is coming

Back again for another year its the 2nd Annual Cranksgiving Ride, a mix of a bicycle racing, a trip to the supermaket, and street navigation. First held in New York City in 1999 by a group of bicycle messengers it has spread throughout America as other people have planned their own.

Cranksgiving requires participants to navigate from a starting point at Love Park to a series of designated supermarkets, you buy a food item from a shopping list and bring them to a final checkpoint at Tattooed Moms. All of the food collected is donated to a local food bank, in Philadelphia all of the food collected goes to Philabundace.

All you need is a bicycle, a lock, a backpack or messenger bag, and $15.00 to buy groceries with. You may need a map if you're not to familiar with Philadelphia or bring a a partner who is. There is no entry fee. In 2011 with 13 riders Cranksgiving Philadelphiag collected close to 200 pounds of food, from the look of their Facebook page they should easily double the amount collected.

Last year the organizers answered some questions about what inspired them to create the Cranksgiving Philadelphia and what they learned. Use this link to find out more about them and Cranksgiving.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Circus of Fools

Once again it's time for the annual Circus of Fools or as its commonly known the Philadelphia Naked Bike Ride (PBNR), part of the World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR). Normally held on Labor Day weekend, but due to the Jay Z concert was pushed back to Saturday, August 25.

There are many mysteries surrounding the PBNR and since they have been historically reticent about talking to anyone, except for the limited information their website. Its time to insert some thoughts of my own since PBNR does not speak for itself.

In July they held a bikini bike wash and sold PBNR blinkies raise funds. The question that needs to be asked is, why? PBNR does not explain why they need this money; permits, security, port-a-potties, body paint?? If your going to raise funds to cover expenses you need to be clear about what your spending it on. Since the organizers have yet to be up front about any of the costs associated one has to ask, how much do they really need and how are they spending it?

The WNBR website states that the rides in this part of the world are normally held around June 9, but for some reason the Philadelphia organizers are focused on Labor Day weekend. I do get it; if you plan the ride you should have control over the date. But I believe that the Philadelphia organizers have a simpler motive. In the early 1970's streaking had a brief moment of popularity, it was a way to rebel against current culture. Holding the ride close to Labor Day ensures that the there are plenty of college students available to inflate the numbers on the ride. For college students this is just one big dare, riding naked through Philadelphia, without risk of arrest or public harassment. If the ride was held in June the number of riders would be smaller as the majority of the college students have gone home for the summer.

The last question that has to be asked is, why no fundraising to benefit Philadelphia residents? Every year organizers provide an overly generous, undocumented, and unverifiable count of the participants; this year they put the count at 2000. Yet the only organization that seems to benefit are the local bars that surround the Piazza at Schmidt’s, one in particular is PYT. It's really tragic at the very least the organizers could pass a helmet for donations, $1 per person. Give the money to a local organization that does something to help the residents of Philadelphia under the nebulous goals of the PNBR.

Bottom line; if you want go out and have party with your friends participate in one of the Philly Bike Party's rides. If you want to make change go out and volunteer your time or donate money. The Philadelphia Naked Bike Ride is the equivalent of clicking “like” on Facebook, it may give you a warm fuzzy feeling but in reality you have done nothing to facilitate positive change.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I'm ready for my close up Mr. DeMille

Cyclists who are using helmet video cameras to document their rides and to provide documentation in the event that they are hit are becoming more common. Recently the New York Times published an article about how cyclists are using video cameras as a way to document their rides as well as act as a black box. So in the event that they are hit by a car it is possible to retrieve information that may allow the police to arrest and prosecute a hit and run driver. The article gives several examples of incidents that happened in a blink of an eye, but with the ability to view a video frame by frame its easier to identify the vehicle and the driver.

This subject has been heavily covered in many bicycling blogs throughout the country and I saw no real need to add my voice. Until I saw this video, shot by an ordinary person, not in law enforcement, who has a dashboard camera in his car.

With the price and size of cameras coming down a simple Google search under “helmet camera” will provide many options. Some smaller than the bulky Gopro camera featured in the New York Times.

Whether its a cyclist or or a third party video is one of the best witnesses you can have in a hit and run; it can't be intimidated, lie, or forget. No matter how quickly something may happen, even in the blink of an eye like the videos in the New York Times, a video can be viewed frame by frame to get details you may have never have seen. Something that will make the difference between the police declaring something an accident and pursuing the driver of a hit and run. Making you a witness, not a victim.

Monday, August 6, 2012

At least they got quotes

In 2011 the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia annual Ride to Work day featured a group ride to City Hall with such elected luminaries as Mayor Michael Nutter, Congressmen Chaka Fattah and Bob Brady. Regrettably the BCGP memorialized this glorious event with an inspiring quote from Congressman Bob Brady; “he could get used to this whole bicycling thing, provided it always came with a bottle of water and a police escort”. It comments like this that make commuting by bicycle sound as safe walking through Philadelphia at night with $100 bills in each hand.

After taking the BCGP to task for this in this blog post it appears that they read it and did better this year. This year the BCGP blog post was filled with quotes from Mayor Michael Nutter. This time they had all sorts of wonderful quotes that included media friendly comments about cars parking bicycle lanes, Philadelphia as a city for cyclists, and bike lanes. This is a good beginning for the BCGP.

So what would I do?
I would like to see the BCGP raise the bar in 2013 for Bike to Work Day. Making bicycle commuting more friendly to the average person, something beyond a one day public relations stunt. How about the occasional profile of Philadelphia area bicycle commuters? New York City's Transportation Alternatives has been doing this for years in their quarterly magazine. Many of the people have commuted long before it was fashionable or even considered normal, and have unique jobs that are within the mainstream. They all manage to do quite well even though they don't have tattoos or wear spandex.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Where have all the good times gone?

Recently the organizers of the Philadelphia Tweed Ride posted to Facebook that they are unable to plan this years ride and are looking of volunteers to take over. The Philadelphia Tweed ride brings out a collection of the dressiest cyclists in Philadelphia dressed in vintage looking clothing and bicycles. How often can you find a social ride where at the rest stop activities include playing croquet and badminton. As one of the few rides in Philadelphia that does not make a political statement, raise funds, sell anything, or involves a cycling club. I can only hope that the Philadelphia Tweed Ride does not fade away.

In the summer of 2011 the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia held two Bike-In movies on the rooftop of Whole Foods. They showed bicycle film classics “Breaking Away” and “Quicksilver”, each time drawing over 100 people who came and went by bicycle. But this year, nothing. This year they could have done a retrospective, comparing and contrasting “The Bicycle Thief” and Pee Wee Herman's Big Adventure”. Instead the BCGP dropped the ball on yet another innovative idea that could have been used to build a community amongst Philadelphia based cyclists, as opposed to focusing on wealthy donors in the suburbs.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Yabba Dabba Do

A. 1) n. A man who spends a lot of money on his bike and clothing, but still can't ride. "What a fred -- too much Lycra and titanium and not enough skill." Female version is a “Wilma”.

I got into bicycling not for recreation, rather for transportation. By the time I entered middle school and through high school my bike liberated me, Instead of depending on a school bus, my bicycle allowed me to come and go when I was ready. To this day I still use a bicycle to run errands, travel around Philadelphia and commute. I rode in what ever was available; shorts, sneakers, white socks, and yes cotton t-shirts. This was the pre-spandex era, before clipless pedals, power taps (what ever those are) and I had the first commercially produced helmet for the consumer; a Bell Biker.

It wasn't until I moved to the Philadelphia did I discover bicycling clubs and century rides. It was also when I started encountering “serious” bicyclists. Clad head to toe in spandex with logos on it so they can pretend to be professional racers, high end bicycles with carbon or titanium frames, the trendiest components, and sucking on the latest performance enhancing gel. But there is the elite 1% within this group that gives the rest of us a bad name. And they are known as Fred's.

The problem is the their sense of ownership of the Schuylkill River Trail and how anyone who is in their path is an interloper. You see them all time riding two abreast in sections that don't allow for it and creating mini-pelotons that engage in high speed passing with no warning. Worse yet is the verbal abuse. I've heard from cyclists, joggers, and Rollerbladers about being told to get off the trail, called assholes and menaces or passes so close you could touch them as they went by.

Ladies and gentlemen, you are not training for the Tour de France, you won't receive a yellow jersey when you finish, and if you think you are then go out and do “A” rides with the hammerheads from one of the cycling clubs. Otherwise your not impressing anyone. The Schuylkill River Trail is multi-user path, not your personal race course.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Change I can believe in?

With the arrival warm weather you see a rapid explosion of century rides, rides that are 100 miles. The most prevalent are century rides designed to raise funds for a non-for profit. They all require a great deal of planning and logistics to execute these rides. But none more than the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia Bike Philly ride. Which includes 20 miles of car free streets in Philadelphia and thousands of riders. Over the years there have been growing problems the expense of permits and police to control traffic and deal with street closures. The added problem was the entry of $50.00 per person, made this event impossible to participate for the majority of Philadelphia residents.

So the BCGP is working on a new solution, a Ciclovia or as it is more commonly none in the United States, Summer Streets. Having attended Summer Streets in New York City on several occasions this is a much better solution than yet another century ride. Summer Streets are not a bicycle ride, they are street fair that stretches over miles full of activities. Its open to the public, is draw for tourists, and by leaving key cross streets open has a limited impact on traffic. If they start early in the morning there may be a chance to ride through the empty streets like I did at 7am at New York City's Summer Streets, but by 10am the streets were packed with wall to wall for the entire 7 mile length. An amazing sight that you have to see to believe.

I wish the BCGP good luck and hope that they are able to find the sponsorship to make this Ciclovia a success. As well as a new Philadelphia tradition.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Stu Bykofksy Rides Again

It's official a bill on bicycle lanes that a minority of the city council tried to sneak past last year is back again in all its glory. Philadelphia City Council Bill 12037, a bill which will require all new bicycle lanes to get City Council approval first.  

This time the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia chose to negotiate with the City Council. The committee got what it wanted a requirement that all bicycle lanes be approved by an ordinance by the City Council. The caveat being that this would only apply if the bicycle took a way a lane of traffic or parking. Which describes every bicycle lane installed in Philadelphia. In addition if the City Council fails to pass an ordinance approving than the bicycle lane has to be removed, within 8 months of the lane being installed.

All in all the terms of this bill way very heavily in the favor of the Philadelphia City Council and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia seemed rather quiet about this. Until the BCGP announced that had made a deal in which Councilman Squilla agreed to introduce a safe streets bill. That would make Philadelphia's traffic code conform to PA traffic code in several ways:
  • Makes the penalty for a bike running a red light $100;
  • Allows two bikes to ride abreast & repeals the mandatory side path rule;
  • Prohibits opening a car door in a travel lane unless it is safe to do so;
  • Prohibits parking in bike lanes.

A convenient fact that Stu Bykofsky has left out of his tale of biking Philadelphia, on a protected bicycle lane. So gloat all you want Stu, but this time the bikeheads and pedalphiles got a better deal out of the Philadelphia City Council that far exceeds what you think is a win.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Philadelphia City Council's Three Blind Mice

 It seems that three blind mice from the Philadelphia City Council are causing mischief. Philadelphia is a city rife with serious issues in need of the city councils urgent attention. A murder rate from guns at an average of one per day, a school district that is facing a financial short fall of 200 million dollar due to mismanagement, and 40,000 abandoned properties with millions of dollars in taxes uncollected. These properties have blighted neighborhoods and recently caused the death of two Philadelphia fire fighters.

Instead the three blind mice of the city council, MarkSquilla, Bill Greenlee, and, Ciy Council President Darrel Clarke are intent on revisiting the past. Trying to enact a policy requiring all bicycle lanes within Philadelphia to get city council approval. In May 2011 the city council tried to enact a similar policy, in an underhanded, but expected manner for Philadelphia politics. The bill was announced just days before the Memorial Day weekend and fast tracked to be voted on just after the holiday weekend. When the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia mobilized its membership to speak at the meeting the time for the public to speak was moved up and when that didn’t work one council member tried to disqualify everyone who spoke against the bill by claiming they were members of the Bicycle Coalition were not part of the public.

A recent post on the BCGP website these council members are taking the same approach, with hearings to occur in late May, most likely using the identical bill from last year. This also means that we can expect more of the same hearing delays as last year. An aspect of this bill claims that it is trying to incorporate input from the local community. That is until the community disagrees with the politics and  lack of vision of city council members.

It's truly pathetic that the Philadelphia City Council continues to use bicycle infrastructure as way to distract from real issues that need to be addressed. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Challenge to Stu Bykofsky

The true face of he who must not be named.

Finally spring has arrived in Philadelphia with a clear signal to all. It's not the first red robin or flower, nor is it the crack of the bat as the Phillies warm up for their first home game at Citizens Bank Park. No its a column from Stu Bykofsky columnist and professional grumpy old man for the Philadelphia Daily News about bicycles and bicycle lanes in Philadelphia.

While the specific nature of Mr. Bykofsky's column about the 10th St. bicycle lane in Chinatown and the upcoming bill City Council members are trying to sneak through again is a separate blog post to be addressed at a later date. It's the vehemence and unsubstantiated opinion that he masquerades as fact Specifically his statement of;

I do have a problem with bicyclists who ignore the rules of the road to which they are subject as vehicles under Pennsylvania law. That means stay off the sidewalks, ride in the direction of traffic, full stops at stop signs and no blowing through red lights, the last two being things that nearly every pedalphile does.

It's not just the play on words of pedalphile, that's childish. It's his unproven and inflammatory statement how almost every cyclists does not stop at stop signs and run red lights. To which one can only say; ok Stu prove it. Provide a statically valid study which the results can be replicated. Or simply set a video camera on a tripod at a Philadelphia street corner that shows a high percentage of cyclists actively running red lights and stop signs within a given period of time. No editing and it must be stamped with a time code.

I'm sure Stu can convince some intern to do this, otherwise he should stick to yelling at clouds and telling small children to stay off his lawn.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

An interview with the Philly Bike Party

Recently I wrote a post about the Philly Bike Party. Modeled after the San Jose Bike Party this a social ride about bikes and boom boxes. A night ride through Philadelphia with stops for dancing. Recently the creators of the Philly Bike Party, Steph and Karenina, were kind enough to answer some questions.

What inspired you to start holding Bike Parties in Philadelphia?
Steph and I met while working to organize Philly Naked Bike Ride 2011. We were both deeply impressed by the fact such a huge-seeming venture was really just a hand full of people who created a movement by simply putting up a website and using their own money to design and print some posters. It did, of course, take more than that to make it as well-oiled and fantastic as it is, but we saw first hand that it was possible.  During the Naked Bike Ride I could not get over how much fun I was having. I remarked out loud to no one in particular, "Wouldn't it be awesome if we could do this all the time?" and a girl on her bike responded, "Check out Bike Party!". I went home, read about San Jose's movement, , and fell instantly in love. At the PNBR wrap-up meeting I proposed the idea to Steph, and Philly Bike Party was officially born.

Did you work with the San Jose Bike Party to help create the Philly Bike Party and if yes what were some of the most important things you learned?
I emailed them to ask them for tips and the funniest part was how excited they were about it! It was this group of people who had been putting so much hard work and love into something they cared about for so long and suddenly someone 3,000 miles a way wanted to replicate it. They were bowled over by the possibility of making Bike Party coast to coast. Ultimately what we learned was:
a) Bike Party is very much an organic project - it's all about how much people want to do
b) it's totally place specific
c) you can't really teach someone how to do something until they try it out on their own.

At first they gave us all these details about how they organize their volunteers - and so far Steph and I are really the only regular ones! We have a few great people who have been able to chip in here and there, but so far it's mostly just the two of us handling the load. Since this is only the 2nd ride we're hoping that as popularity grows, so will support, but hey, if people don't want to help then they probably have more important things to do with their time, and most things in life should only happen if people want them to.

Do you have any themes you plan to incorporate into future rides?
For now we're sticking to more general themes. There are already so many rides that involve extra-special creativity (Tweed, Kinetic Sculpture Derby, even PNBR is starting to feature a lot of artistic expression) that we wanted to pare it down so that people didn't feel like they had to anything more than show up to have a good time. So, the first ride's theme was "Bike Party" because it was the first. This time it's Winter Edition/Feel the Love - it's cold out, so wear a jacket and come show Philly some love! But none of these require costumes. Personally, we like being able to dance in a our jeans and sneaks without being concerned about having enough paper mache or glitter.

What have you learned about planning Bike Parties since you first started?
1. Setting up a website is harder than we thought it would be, but Karenina has had a lot of fun learning how to do it!
2. We need a better speaker system and it needs to be well prepared in advance. We're still working on that so if anyone knows anything about hooking up a PA speaker to a car battery, we would love you forever!
3. Stay longer at each dancing spot - we were kind of anxious the first time and would only stay for a song or 2 at each spot so we finished in less than 2 hours. This time we'll have about 8 dancing spots and we'll be staying for 4 or 5 songs at each spot. :)
4. People who love bike and dancing will be there and they will love it, and it will be great.

How do you handle crowd control and littering?
Well, the only issue we had at the first ride was a drunk guy on roller-blades who thought it was fun to annoy cars by getting in front of them. That is NOT what we're about, so we're working on having "corrallers", to keep people in the corral aka the bike lanes. Littering hasn't been a problem yet!

If someone wants to get involved in planning rides how can they do that?
Please contact us!!, We could use help with: encouraging riders to stay in the bike lanes by riding on the outside of the column, hooking up speaker systems,

What do you do when you are not planning Bike Parties?
Haha I'm blushing - you're making me feel like a celebrity!
Steph is in her 3rd year of undergrad at Temple doing a double major in criminal justice and film/media arts. She also works 3 jobs: Dean's Office at Tyler School of Art, CVS, and the Print studio at Tyler. She also does a lot of work with the Temple section of Occupied Philly, volunteers for Alley Cats, helps with Philly Naked Bike Ride, helped organize the reprise of Critical Mass Philadelphia, and helps out with various projects at Neighborhood Bike Works.

Karenina is a law student at Temple, which eats most of her life. She also does all sorts of volunteering around the city for disadvantaged people including: case management and Spanish translation for Volunteers for the Indigent Program - a pro-bono legal org, fund raising for the Student Public Interest Program at Temple, volunteer recruitment for the local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program run by the Campaign for Working Families, and is currently doing an internship at the City Law Department of Philadelphia. She is also a principal organizer for the Philly Naked Bike Ride and is involved with the Safe Streets Philadelphia efforts through the Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition.
Oh for fun? Hmm for fun....when we can we each sleep, we each ride bikes, we each try to see our friends when we can, and Karenina plays a lot of video games to calm her tired brain.

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