You may have heard that Pope Francis will be in town in a few weeks. All the media attention has been around the frustrations of limited car access to Center City Philadelphia. Our City’s Commerce Department has even opened a help desk for businesses to continue to flourish during the Pope’s visit. All understandable.
I’ve noticed, however, that many fellow cyclists have a different perspective, feeling this is a great opportunity to highlight the Pope’s message of the moral urgency to act on climate, and to care for the poor. Many of us already choose to get around by bike or transit, whether we leave the car parked at home or simply can’t afford one. For the rest of you, I invite you to try a few days of car-free living. It’s quite catching, I hear!
So when the City begins closing down much of Center City to car traffic, let’s claim the streets for people-powered mobility! I’ve read about the Critical Mass movement, where cyclists spontaneously claim the streets, and the more planned Open Streets project, which temporarily closes streets to automobile traffic so people can use the streets for walking, bicycling, dancing, playing and socializing. Just what the Pope ordered!
Open Streets isn’t new to Philly. The MLK drive is closed down each week, since 1980, I discovered. For years, there was annual BikePhilly every September, which invited cyclists to pedal through Center City with a rolling police escort, savoring the streets and the fine old architecture.
Like me, if you’ve never pedaled over the Ben Franklin Bridge, I hear there’s a bike & pedestrian lane. On Friday September 25th, when the whole Bridge is shut down to car traffic, join us for the Ben Franklin Bridge Ride, which begins at Washington Square Park at 9pm. Make sure your bike is well-lit & visible.
On Saturday September 26th, there’s the PopeRide, starting at The Porch at 30th Street Station at 10:00am. See coverage by NBC.
If you don’t own a bike, I highly recommend you explore our City’s bike-share system: RideIndego.
If you’re unable to ride a bike, I hear there will be pedicabs for hire. There’s Velo-Ride and others.
Our own Bicycle Coalition is building a map listing routes to enter and exit the City via bike. It’s called the PopeMap, and also lists the handful of places that’ll remain open and rent you a bike for that weekend, PHEW! being one of them.
PHEW! encourages everyone’s efforts toward a car-free Philly for this one weekend in September and more.