Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Bikes and the Architecture of Cities

The automobile has changed the way cities look and function. So why can't the bicycle? That's one of the subjects that will be explored starting Friday at a three-day conference called Round-Up USA, devoted to the latest bicycle niche, the folder.
Because of its narrow, colonial grid and small blocks, Philadelphia has had a hard time accommodating itself to the driving life. Its strength has always been its walkable, intimate rowhouse streets, but walking isn't much fun when you have to scurry past rows of blank garage doors and dodge active driveways. In the past decade, City Hall's laissez-faire approach to the automobile has only reduced the comfort level for pedestrians. As drug stores and fast-food chains have discovered cities, great urban boulevards like Broad Street and Washington Avenue have been evolving into suburban-style, car-oriented commercial strips. Meanwhile, parking garages are growing ever more hulking and numerous in Center City.But more people on bikes could change the equation and restore some urban civility. Philadelphia is a natural bike town. It's flat. It doesn't have the sidewalk-to-sidewalk traffic that afflicts New York. True, our glide-through-on-red culture is a menace to cyclists, but you can avoid a lot of the traffic if you seek out the narrow streets and bike paths. What kind of place would Philly be if it became a city dominated by bike commuters? Folding bikes, which weigh only a few pounds and can be carried onto trains and into offices, hugely expand the possibilities for bicycle commuting.The conference starts at noon Friday at Trophy Bikes, 3131 Walnut Street, and proceeds to Manayunk at 5 pm for a Folder Ride. The folders take on the infamous Manayunk Wall. (That's one part of Philadelphia that is definitely not flat.) Don't miss Saturday's lecture by Bob Thomas, an urban planner and serious cyclist, 9:30 am to noon at Weiss Tech House, 3340 Walnut Street. The workshop also features author Jeff Potter, Pacific Cycle's Michael Linn, and folder designer Peter Reich.

Saturday: 1 pm. Folder Bike Rail Excursion. Meets at Trophy Bikes.
Sunday: 8:30 am. Folder Rally and Commerce Bank Triple Crown Race. 8:30 am, starting at Logan Circle.
Noon: Fast Folder Showdown. Schuylkill River Park at Market Street
3- 5 pm. Musical Folders variety ride. Test ride a folder.
All Day: Folder Demos and informal talks. At Trophy Bikes


Anonymous jim said...

philly only cares about cyclists one weekend a year, the other rest you could be laying in the middle of the street bleeding and you would still get honked at and flipped off...

2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What weekend would that be?

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since about 98% of cyclists break every rule of the road or sidewalk.. get less pity.

"We want bike lanes" and then we'll still ride in the traffic and blow lights and you'll have one less lane to drive on thus increasing traffic which in turn makes it bad for everyone.

4:21 PM  
Anonymous mcget said...

1) I think our first poster might be referring to this weekend, as it's the big bike race (now known as the Commerce Bank Cycle Race) on Sunday. It's a beautiful spectacle--the first rush of riders at the start actually makes a breeze.

2) While Philly has a long way to go to match the Netherlands or Germany or London... the addition of bike lanes and other bike (and ped!) friendly elements is making this a more humane city.

3) while cyclists (some, but no all--please ignore anon's 98% figure which he invented) break rules... they face the consequences very directly--and they are doing it on a 20-30 pound machine that doesn't depend on middle east oil to function, doesn't dump fumes into kids' lungs, doesn't take half our downtown for ugly parking lots.

Conversely, private car drivers burn gasoline subsidized with American and Iraqi blood, leave their carcinogenic fumes everywhere, kill kids freely (the auto is the primary killer of kids under 16), and make their users fat... that might qualify as something that "makes it bad for everyone."

The bike is a simple machine that makes people portable with very little fuss.

But the truth is in the tasting.

So dear Jim, and your two "anons" -- stop by your local bike shop (Via, or Keswick or Therapy, or Trophy, or Breakaway or the new Bicycle Revolutions) get on a bike and experience Philadelphia as you move along "By your own glad effort"... you and the city will both be better for it.

Michael McGettigan/trophy bikes

7:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- riding on the sidewalk constitutes breaking the rules
- running red lights constitutes breaking the rules
- riding against traffic constitutes breaking the ruls

- riding in traffic does NOT constitute breaking the rules

Many cyclists oppose bike lanes because it limits a cyclist's options as far as where to ride and makes left turns difficult. Many people advocate for drivers to just get used to having cyclists on the road with them (which is what the law requires anyway) and, of course, for cyclists to obey the rules.

We need cycling rules to become part of all drivers' ed. classes and for Americans in general to view bicycles as a mode of transportation rather than merely a toy. Perception counts for a lot. Why do you think all those kids in North Philly ride those little scooter bike things against traffic and on the sidewalk? (they view them as toys rather than modes of transportation).

Having the cops actually enforce traffic laws for a change (on both cyclists _and_ drivers) would also help a lot.

1:07 PM  

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