It was hard to spot a cyclist riding from City Hall to East Fairmount Park, and back, on Saturday without a smile on their face—except, possibly, for Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky, who insists he did not have fun.
Either way, the Byko Safe Bike Ride, organized by Alexandria Schneider, and assisted by Ron Ashworth, Stu Bykofsky, and me, was a resounding success this past weekend. Riders came from near and far to ride (very, very slowly) alongside a newspaper columnist who spills lots of ink chastising cyclists for being so-called scofflaws.
The ride’s intention, as thought up by Alexandria Schneider, was to raise money by getting Stu on a bike. It worked. We helped bring in nearly $2,000 for the People’s Emergency Center — which is a pretty great thing.
But onto the controversy. I am well aware of the problems some had with me helping out with this ride, and partnering with someone many consider an enemy of the bicycle community. Here are my reasons for doing it.
- Sometimes, you need a gimmick to raise money for charity. And sometimes bike rides are done for charity. The Bicycle Coalition is in favor of bike rides for charity. Along with Alexandria Schneider, Ron Ashworth and Stu Bykofsky, we raised nearly $2,000 for the People’s Emergency Center, a social service agency for homeless women, teenagers, and children.
- Bykofsky wrote numerous columns about this in Philadelphia’s only print tabloid newspaper. Doing this ride with Stu allowed the Bicycle Coalition’s safety message (better enforcement, blocked bike lanes, the need for better infrastructure, etc.) to get out to a vast number of people – even if the context in which the writer put it down was in disagreement with said safety message.
- I got a chance to debate Bykofsky on the radio. Communication, in my opinion, is key on these issues because there is so much misinformation out there. Byko and I appeared on WHYY’s Newsworks Tonight the day before the ride, where we were able to debate many of the common points Bykofsky says he believes about both Philadelphia bicyclists, and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. That link is here. Please listen to it if you haven’t yet.
- The point was not to change him. The point was to raise money, have a conversation, and do something fun for a good cause.
- The ride was fun. We rode a very, very slow 11 miles. There were avid cyclists, families, young children, politicians, journalists, and riders from both the city and suburbs. Mike McGettigan, owner of Trophy Bikes, wrote about his experience on the ride here.
As with anything, there were going to be people against this, simply because of a dislike of the people involved. That’s OK. My first inclination was to say yes, because there was going to be a charity involved. And because I like and wanted to help out Alexandria.
When someone comes to me and asks if I can help facilitate a bike ride — whether or not said ride goes outside my comfort zone — and specifically be the one who explains the rules of the road to the 60-plus riders in attendance, and how to better be safe, I am there. That I got to spread the Bicycle Coalition’s message to a greater number of Philadelphians and those in the 9-county region definitely made it worth the effort.