Tis the season for biking in Philly

Josh and Philly Bike Tour Co. are joining the #whyilovephilly Summer Party team, and have created a special bike tour just for the occasion. This 2.5 mile, one-hour BYOB(bike) tour highlights over 300 years of Philly’s history and culture, starting in Rittenhouse Square Park and ending at Spruce Street Harbor Park, just in time for the #whyilovephilly party! For full details, and to sign up, visit the Philly Bike Tour Co. website.

Josh Rothstein
Favorite Spot: Biking in Philly
Neighborhood: All over

I am: A teacher. A cyclist. A tour guide for Philly Bike Tours. A lover of all things Philly. A soon-to-be husband (now husband). A dog owner.
Years in Philly: 29 years in and around Philly; 12 years proper.
Current Home: Fairmount

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My Love Note

Tis the season to get back in the saddle, Philadelphians. Your bicycle has missed you, and it’s time that we serenade our city with the humming of our collective drive-trains. With the arrival of spring, we say au revoir to winter and bonjour to shorts, t-shirts, and warm-weather bike rides. And, truthfully, there’s never been a better time for us all to love pedaling Philly . . .

To Philly and our blossoming bicycle infrastructure,

You might catch flack for not being perfect, but I still love you. Sure, you could be doing better: you could stop cars from parking in your bike lanes, scold motorists who obnoxiously honk at me and won’t “share the road,” and patch up the potholes that this winter has left as a cruel reminder like a bad tattoo after a drunken stupor.

But don’t let anyone tell you that you haven’t come a long way – don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t providing me and plenty of other Philadelphians with painted pathways to bicycle bliss.

Last week, I was riding down Spring Garden Street during rush hour as speeding motorists whizzed by. Your pathways comforted me some, but I still felt alone as cars turned quickly in front of me and others came dangerously close to crossing into the bike lane. When I approached the intersection at 12th street, two cyclists came up behind me—one a road-warrior in a full cycling kit; another, a commuter in a shirt and tie. We said hello, acknowledged our diverse grouping, and we continued as a pack until one turned off and headed down 10th and the other 8th, and I finally turned off on 6th noticing a few more cyclists up ahead. Somehow I felt safer. Protected. Moments like that make me realize how many of us there actually are biking through your city streets—we are not alone.

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia (BCGP) estimated that cyclists ride 260,000 miles everyday on your streets on over 75,000 bike trips. According to the BCGP and Philadelphia Streets Dept., you open your arms to us with over 240 miles of bike lanes. Oh, and that doesn’t include the 215 miles of recreational and mountain-bike trails through your beautiful Fairmount Park, the largest urban park system in the country. Among the largest urban cities in America, you currently rank 4th overall in bikeability. Out of the 10 largest cities, you have the most bicycle commuters per capita, plus one of the highest percentages of female cyclists nationwide.

We can ride from Penn’s Landing to Valley Forge, never having to leave the protection of a bike lane. Biking is, statistically, the fastest way to get across your bustling Center City, and regardless of the narrow-minded luddites out there, we know that you really want us to be biking, not driving. Your sustainability depends on it. Just last year, you were ranked the 11th most polluted city in the country with 60% of your air pollution coming from motor vehicles.

Chalk it up to rising gas prices (owning a car will cost you about $8k/year) or fitness crazes, or the fact that Philadelphians are ready to make this city a greener and more breathable place, but your bicycle commuters have risen over 150% in the past 15 years—and that’s because you’re making it easier for us, baby. Almost 2% of the population now commutes by bike. And with seasonal riders coming out in droves, I welcome them: the more bikers I see, the less cars should feel like they own the road—and the less I feel like they do.

Next spring, you will join other leading cities in deploying a Bike Share program, encouraging more folks to ditch their Dodge and find themselves on a Fuji (or whatever they’re providing – Velo V’s?).

Sure, you still have a long way to go to rival European models and implement barrier protected bike lanes, but you’ve come a long way, baby. Hell, you’ve even encouraged the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) to help with bicycle safety, and they started a twitter campaign to help unblock bike lanes. And if you’ve made the PPA do something good, then either hell has frozen over or things really are on the up-and-up for cyclists.

When John F. Kennedy said, “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride,” he was right – but I bet he didn’t know the real joy of riding through your historic streets. In the city that is considered the Birthplace of America, you recognize our civil liberty and protect our right to happiness, and so here’s my love note to you and our collective right to the road.

Xoxo,
Josh

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