It seems not that long ago in 2011 when I first started writing this journal. All to often people have wondered why I do this.
The respect of my peers?
Adulation of the masses?
Free stuff from bicycle companies?
Dating Victoria's Secret models?
I only wish it had been as simple as one of those items on the list. The main reason was that I felt there was a lack of an independent voice for the Philadelphia cycling scene. In 2009 there were two voices for cycling; opinion writer Stu Bykofsky and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.
On the one hand you had Stu Bykofsky a local opinion writer and grumpy old man. Who on regular basis writes anti-bike columns based on half truths and masquerading his personal opinion as facts. On the other there was the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia whose focus on long term visions and insider negotiating practices often left Philadelphia cyclists hold the short end of the stick. When bad deals were negotiated with the city of Philadelphia government or Mr. Bykofsky. With no one questioning the actions of either or party or any expectation of accountability.
Along the way I have seen the Philadelphia cycling scene change and evolve. Bicycle lanes have become part of Philadelphia in a unique way. In the past people used to yell at me to get off the road, now they yell at me to get into the bicycle lane. Even when there is none.
Group rides have increased and evolved from the Pretzel Ride, to several different rides a month, all year round. Annual rides like Cranksgivng and the Tweed Ride have become the highlight of the year. There have even been large scale rides like the 2015 PopeRide and the 2016 RideDNC that have have had attracted over 1000 riders.
Philadelphia still has a lot of work to do, there are things that need to change and be improved. One of the most pressing issues is to undo the deal the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia made with Philadelphia City Council. In which for return for a Safe Streets bill the BCGP allowed the City Council passed a bill giving them final control of the installation of all new bike lanes in Philadelphia. Decisions like this should be left in the hands of city engineers, not a group of politicians who are only interested in getting reelected.
I also feel that it is time to expand the bike lane infrastructure with actual bike lanes, not sharrows. As well as maintain the existing system. If you take the time to ride many of the bike lanes outside of Center City you will see that they have faded away to the point where you can’t tell there was ever a bike lane.
One of the things that I am intrigued by is Mayor Kenney and his actual commitment to Vision Zero and Open Streets. For those of us who did not flee Philadelphia during the 2015 Papal visit, Popen Streets and the PopeRide was an experience to remember. It created an unofficial opportunity to see how Philadelphia and its residents would react to future events, led to a petition asking for Open Streets events, and on September 24 the first Open Streets event will be held in Philadelphia.
While I sense there is some growing change in the cycling scene now that City of Philadelphia government seems more receptive to listening concerns of residents who walk and bike. I am still skeptical about how major issues will be addressed.