Monday, December 28, 2015

The Year in Cycling - 2015

Pope Francis
When the plans were released for Pope Francis’s visit to Philadelphia, they included closing five square miles of Center City to automotive traffic for three days. While many residents of Philadelphia left the area to avoid the crowds and the challenges of not having access to their vehicles.

For those of us who stayed we were rewarded with a unique experience. The chance to travel around Center City on foot, bicycle, skateboard or any other human powered vehicle. Other people had barbecues, parties, played games, or just hung out with their friends and neighbors. A day that was recognized as #PopenStreets.

The highlight of that weekend was the Pope Ride. Organized by Alexandria Schneider, she initially thought this would be her and a dozen friends riding around Center City. But as the numbers grew it the ride soon blossomed into a full scale event. With 3000 people participating the day of the ride.

Many people were heard to comment that this should happen every year. Including Mayor-Elect Jim Kenney. While some were very vocal that this would be a bad thing for the future of Philadelphia, the city of Philadelphia used to hold an annual Open Streets event. Once known as Super Sunday (, in 1989 it had been held for 19 consecutive years. Presented as the “Biggest Block Party in the World”, Super Sunday had something for everyone. Live entertainment, animal rides, a job fair, sports demonstrations, movies, and enough food to feed all of Philadelphia. It would not be that difficult to recreate this again.

The City of Philadelphia shuts down ten miles of Broad St. for the Broad St. Marathon. As well as one mile of Broad St for the annual Mummers Parade. Why can’t we do the same thing for the benefit of every resident of Philadelphia?

Stu Bykofsky
Of course all of this positive energy was not without its naysayers and none was more vehement that Philly’s own Stu “old man yells at clouds” Bykofsky. As Stu went completely off the deep end in a column titled “Cyclists are never satisfied” ( When he engaged in a personal attack on the Pope Ride’s organizer, Alexandra Schneider. One could almost see the spittle flying out of Stu’s mouth and hitting the screen of his computer. As he said the words he was typing out loud.

Stu Bykofsky’s attitude was summed up very succinctly by one person who posted a comment. “The amazing thing about Stu is that he only relates events in the world to his own experience, not to the greater world at large.”

That’s not to say that Stu does not have his moments. Every so often Stu tries to prove that riding a bike, for any reason, does nothing more than exercise his futility. This year Stu took a spin on Indego bike share to see if he could get to work faster on a bike (

According to Stu it takes him 16 minutes to walk 1 mile from his home to work. Which means he walks at 3.75 miles per hour, an astounding speed as the average walking speed is 3.1 mph. At 3.75 miles per hour he is practically jogging to work, especially when you consider that Stu is 74 years old and a lifelong smoker.

But on a Indego bike it was a whole different matter. Instead of riding one mile to work, Stu rode a two mile roundabout route. One that utilized bike lanes, the very same bike lanes that Mr. Bykofsky feels are unnecessary. It took him 21 minutes and 22 seconds to ride two miles at an average speed of 5.71 mph.

One person even replicated Stu’s route, including stopping at all red lights and stop signs, they got very different results. After riding the route 3 times it took an average of 13 minutes and 42 seconds. with an average speed of 10.63mph. Considering most cyclists ride at 10 to 15 miles per hour this, Mr. Bykofsky’s speed was baffling compared to his ability to jog to work.

2015 was the year we could safely say that the #unblockbikelanes concept was finished and done. No amount of data is going to change unwillingness to ticket cars parked in bike lanes. As well as the causal lack of respect that prevails in Philadelphia when this sign was placed in a contra flow bike lane. Giving cyclists the choice of riding into oncoming traffic or on the sidewalk.

In response, I proposed the concept of placing safety cones along bicycle lanes to create temporary barriers ( Regrettably no one was inspired to do that. However in New York City the Transformation Department ( has instituted this concept with great success.

Spoke Magazine started publication this year and has turned out to be a welcome addition to the cycling media. A print magazine, publishing on a quarterly basis, Spoke Magazine has consistently published well written articles on a diverse selection of topics. Normally most cycling media tends to bog down on articles about the technical minutiae of bicycles and components. Spoke Magazine has written about people, places, and infrastructure. Now that they have added a website you can access previous articles online.

On March 23rd Philly Pedals published an op-ed written by Michael McGettigan ( castigating the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia for being too much of an insider in local politics  and how they needed to “work on their advocacy a bit.As a former two term board member of the BCGP Mr McGettigan called out the BCGP for  recent failures and poor judgment.

Sadly this bombshell seemed to be the end of any consistent publication of articles. An unfortunate state of affairs that I hope will be rectified.

The Manayunk Bridge
The Manayunk Bridge or as it is better known as The Bridge to Nowhere, was supposed to be the shining new jewel of the regional trail system. Connecting Manayunk and the Schuylkill River Trail to Lower Merion and the Cynwyd Heritage Trail. And it did, except for one slight problem.

Instead of categorizing the bridge as trail, it was classified as park. Limiting it only being open from sunrise to sunset. Which in reality is 8am to 6pm fall and winter and 8am to 9pm in the spring and summer. This of course assumes that the Lower Merion Parks Department opens the gates on time. Which has not always been the case.

The problem is that no lighting for the park or the bridge was part of the budget. While I understand the liability and safety issues of having people on the bridge and in the park at night. The reality is that the bridge will benefit people from Lower Merion on the weekend. Provided they don’t want a cup of coffee in the morning or enjoy an evening dinner. If you are a bike commuter or heading out for an early morning workout on the Schuylkill River Trail you are out of luck.

With a new Mayor in office who has made some degree of commitment towards pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure. Along with an interest in holding Open Streets events, we will see what happens in 2016.

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