Monday, January 28, 2013

2012 Philadelphia Social Rides

With much of the major riding season over until the spring its time to take a look back at some of the highlights and lowlights of the past year. While there are plenty of alley cats, charity rides, races there are some that stand out more than others.

The most questionable ride that happens is the Philadelphia Naked Bike Ride, PNBR. While the ride has grown since its inception whether it achieves any of it broad based and nebulous goals remains highly questionable. The only people who benefit from the PNBR are the owners of the nearby bars at the Piazza at Schmiddts where the ride ends and after parties are held.

There are rides that are building a sense of community through good deeds and others through good fun.  Examples of rides built through good fun include the Bilenky Junk Yard Cross is an unsanctioned cyclocross where nothing about the course or the participants are regulation. It draws a very eclectic group of participants and spectators for a day of friendly competition.

The Philly Tweed ride is also a great example of good fun builds a community. The Philadelphia Tweed Ride is a vintage themed bicycle ride where the participants dress in early 1900's style clothing and take a leisurely ride through Philadelphia with a stop for a picnic lunch and dinner. Attracting over 100 participants per year of all ages this ride gives participants a chance to exercise their creative abilities as well as create the opportunity to dress up for a unique social setting.

While Philadelphia has its share of charity bicycle rides most of them are century rides run by a non for-profit that have the resources and the staff to execute such an undertaking. There are two rides that I am aware of, that have been created through the hard work of individuals who make time outside of work, school, and other commitments to plan these rides.

Philly Cranksgiving is an alley cat race where participants navigate to a series of grocery stores to purchase items from a list that are brought to a final destination. Organized by two local residents, Gary and CJ,  all of the proceeds go to Philabundance a food bank that helps Philadelphians in need. The 2012 ride raised 800 pounds of food and $1200.00, $1000.00 of which was donated by Tattooed Mom's matching the amount spent by the riders who donated food. This helped feed 2000 residents of Philadelphia.

There was a new addition this year, Gears for Gifts. An organized bicycle ride with the proceeds going to Toys for Tots. Traditionally motorcycle and car clubs holds rides of this nature so it’s always refreshing to see a new twist on an existing concept. I can only hope that this ride becomes an annual event and may some day rival the Midnight Ridazz All City Ride.

I'm looking forward to 2013 to see how many of these rides will cotinue to grow and evolve. As well as what new rides will develop.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Lock your Bicycle - Keystone Cops Edition

Bike theft in Philadelphia is a problem, but to the police this is a “quality of life” problem, viewed in the same light as graffiti and broken windows. In light of the more serious crimes the Philadelphia police have to deal with quality of life crimes have a very low and understandable priority. Short of catching someone in the act the police do not have the time and manpower.

But on Saturday night, January 12, a bike thief made an attempt to steal two bicycles that would have been straight out of a Keystone cops movie. Had it not been for the fact that the two bicycles he stole were property of the Philadelphia Police department and he tried to escape the scene by loading the bicycles onto a SEPTA bus. The police had locked their bicycles to a signpost while making a security check.

The question that needs to be asked is; what did the police officers lock their bicycles with, shoe laces? Clearly whatever the Philadelphia Police Department use could not stop someone with a bolt cutter purchased at a hardware store. I'm sure the police never thought someone would steal a police bicycle; then again people tend to underestimate just how ingenious or stupid criminals can be.

If you're going to take the time to lock your bicycle do it right, invest in a Kryptonite chain or u-lock. You should review the two videos in this post by Hal Ruzel which provide real world examples of what to aovid and what to do when locking your bicycle.

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Friday, January 4, 2013

Doomsday is Coming

Doomsday is coming. Not in the time that Harold Camping predicted or due to the misinterpretation of the Mayan Long Count calendar. Rather its the failing infrastructure that SEPTA has and the inaction of legislators at the state and federal level to provide the needed additional funding. Over the years I have lived in several cities, some with extensive rapid transit systems others with nominal or none what so ever.

Its been long known that SEPTA is operating many of its power substations and tracks that its trains and trolleys run on are substandard. Unfortunately due to severe underfunding SEPTA is no longer able to use temporary fixes and has to resort to more drastic measures. Repair is not an option, shutting things down is. The first sign of the oncoming apocalypse is the 101-year-old Bridgeport Viaduct, which allows the Norristown High Speed Line to cross into Philadelphia.

Time and 2400 passengers per day has taken a toll on the bridge; the ties are so rotted that the spikes that hold the rails in place have been glued down to prevent them from pulling loose. This summer the bridge will be permanently closed as the glue will not hold the spikes in place and the corrosion of the steel framework and concrete foundations will be to much. In order to repair the bridge SEPTA will need 30 million dollars that they don't have.

Regrettably this is the tip of the iceberg. This needed repair is just one of 5 billion dollars in repairs that includes power substations, failing bridges, and other systems. Worse yet the funds that are needed to make these repairs come from state and federal transportation bills and since much of the country uses highway as a primary mode of transportation. What most of these legislators cannot grasp is that there is a greater concentration of population in major cities that rely primarily on public transportation. The fact that SEPTA has to allow system failures to occur and reduce services is appalling. Short of another bridge failure like the Minneapolis bridge collapse in 2007, this will only get worse.