Friday, June 24, 2011

Minor Misadventure - Let me tell you about biking in Philadelphia

An excellent variety of bike-locking poles all through the city makes it easy to keep your bike safe!

So.....cycling in Philadelphia, like all things in Philadelphia, is an adventure. There are soooo many more cyclists here than in my previous town of Austin that it is both impressive and amazing that they manage to skirt and circulate through these tiny streets with very little incident. For the most part, cyclists are conscientious and mind the traffic laws as if they are car-drivers. However, there are many people who seem to blatantly flaunt those traffic laws: they bust through the wrong direction on a one-way street, blow through red lights, and refuse to stop at stop signs. (OK. That last one is me, too. Although, it is easy to see if cars are coming when all the streets are one-ways.)


The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is doing a great job in addressing these issues, but unlike Austin, where bike tickets are handed out in very high frequency, I believe the Philadelphia police have greater issues to deal with than cyclists. This is good in some ways, in that we have very little risk of getting tickets for not stopping at stop signs, or riding on the left instead of the right, but it is bad in the sense that there is no enforcement of traffic laws that have two purposes: one is the obvious, safety, but the other is driver respect.

It is very difficult to advocate for more bike lanes and more respect for cyclists from drivers when there is a mass effort to disregard the rules of the road. How can we, as cyclists, expect to be considered respectable commuters and citizens of transport when we refuse to live by the rules we are more than happy to yell and scream about when violated by drivers? As a driver and a cyclist, I try my best to pretend to be a car when I am on my bike. I only wish that all those folks I saw out tonight would just do the same....

 Illustration of the buffered bike lanes through Chinatown

Despite the controversy, Philadelphia has made great strides to accomodate its cycling citizens: namely, buffered bike lanes on two streets going east-west, and two streets going north-south. The east-west routes are complete, while the north-south lanes are in progress. These bike lanes are AMAZING as they effectively convert one car lane into a bikes-only lane on a road. This means that no matter how many cars may be driving, if there is a  bike present, then it has the right of way in the lane. This helps with safety because bikes are visible, and helps minimizing incidents of doors opening and cyclists flying out into the road. (Hopefully while wearing their helmets!)

 I bought the red one!!!

Today I bought a new bike, a Globe Daily 1 in ruby red, from Bicycle Therapy. My old bike was stolen about 2 days before I moved to Philly (some jerk sawed through the lock as it sat in my carport). I rode my new bike all over Center City and South Philly tonight with great success. It is a single-speed which is excellent for Philadelphia's totally flat terrain: a welcome change from the hilly paradise that was Austin. I installed a front light that nicely shines in the eyes of passing pedestrians, and a rear blinking light for safety. I also installed a rear rack for hauling important things from home to work. 

Overall, my impressions of my new bike are that it is easy and fun to ride, maybe a little bit light duty but I think it will work great. I really wanted a Dutch bike, an Azor Oma, but the $1500 price tag made me a tad nervous. The Globe will work for a few years till I am rich and famous and can buy a Dutch bike to cherish and haul up stairs. 

It is late and the weather outside is nice. I know it will eventually get hot here, but I must say that 80 degrees in almost-July is nothing short of heaven for a girl used to dealing with 110+ this time of the year. Hooray temperate deciduous forest living! I know I will feel the lack of sun come November, but right now.....amazing!!!

Hey! Check out this misadventure that I will not be participating in, being that I am a government employee and teach the youth of America....Philadelphia Naked Bike Ride!!!!

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