As you’ve heard by now, when Pope Francis arrives in Philadelphia on Saturday, he’ll be handed his very own Breezer bicycle, courtesy of Advanced Sports International, a Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia sponsor. The bike, presented in a ceremony from Mayor Michael Nutter and the Philadelphia Bicycle Advocacy Board to Archbishop Chaput (which we’re assured will make its way to the Pope), was something of a symbol of the Pope’s “green” stances.
“A simple bicycle offers not just healthful exercise but access to employment, education, and health care,” said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. “The bicycle is a true champion for all, regardless of socioeconomic or cultural background, gender, age, or any perceived limitations. Getting places under their own power gives people an enhanced sense of their individual potential and greater hope about their lives.”
Well, half the work is done: The pope has a bike! Now, we’re presenting five reasons why Pope Francis should actually ride his new bike around Philadelphia:
…Because of Climate Change
Addressing a crowd of about 15,000 on the White House Lawn on Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke of what may perhaps be the most pressing issue of our time: Climate change.
“Climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation,” he said, invoking the American Civil Rights struggle in his argument.
This was not a surprise. Earlier this year, Pope Francis released a 192-page paper, laying out the argument for a new partnership between science and religion to combat human-made climate change. In the text, Francis says Catholics should act, and act quickly, on climate change, calling such an act a moral obligation to care for the Earth and the world’s poor, who are expected to suffer most of the consequences of a warmer world before the rest of us.
His stance has been met with mixed reactions in the United States. Conservative media has been lashing out at Francis during his visit here, and Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona actually boycotted Francis’ address to Congress. “This climate change talk has adopted all of the socialist talking points, wrapped false science and ideology into “climate justice” and is being presented to guilt people into leftist policies,” Gosar wrote for Town Hall Magazine.
Well, if, like the Pope, you believe something needs to be done about climate change, what better way to think globally than putting out far fewer emissions on your commute? According to a study by the European Cyclists’ Federation, emissions from cycling are about ten times lower than those coming from a car, “even taking into account the additional dietary intake of a cyclists compared with that of a motorized transport user.”
That means you could travel 17,398 miles by bicycle and release the same amount of emissions as someone going just 1,348 miles by car. If you were prone to bicycling 17,398 miles, that is.
…Because Pope Francis Has Always Rejected Luxury
Let’s face it: Despite some media bike backlash, cycling is one of the most humble ways of getting around. So it would make sense that Pope Francis get around by bicycle while here.
There have been a number of articles written about the Pope’s humility, and new anecdotes seem to appear everyday. Among them: As a priest, then bishop, and finally Cardinal, Francis was well known for taking the subway and then bus, cook his own meals, and, according to Biography.com, “live in more modest accommodations than the official residences reserved for him.”
As Pope, Francis has left the Vatican to speak with Rome’s poor and homeless from a spare apartment—where he has chosen to live, rather than the much nicer papal residence that’s been used by popes for more than a century. He’s been called, not surprisingly, the “People’s Pope”—most recently in the Advanced Sports International press release about the donated bicycle.
According to information released by the American Community Survey, between 2008 and 2012, bicycling to work is most popular with those who earn less than $10,000 per year. The more people earn, for the most part, the less likely they are to ride a bicycle to work.
As noted by a Vox.com article on the subject,
…cycling is much more popular among households with incomes below $25,000 a year than it is among affluent people. It is interesting that there is a small uptick in both cycling and walking once you get into the over $200,000 range but you see that both forms of non-motorized transportation are much more popular with the poor than with the rich or the middle class. And when you think about it, this makes perfect sense — cars are more expensive than bikes, car parking is more expensive than bike parking, and gasoline is more expensive than pedaling.
…Because There’s a Ride in His Honor
…Sort of. Many Philadelphia cyclists are super-psyched to have far fewer cars on the road this weekend. Cars are being towed if inside the so-called “traffic box,” and, already, cycling through Philly has become a bit less stressful (subjectively speaking.)
On Friday night and Saturday afternoon, there are two rides to commemorate the “almost” open streets of the Pope’s visit to Philly. Organized by Alexandria Schneider, more than 2,000 people have RSVP’d to the “Pope Ride” taking place on Saturday. If half of them show up, it will still be huge.
…Because He gets MLK Drive All To Himself
I’m using this one as a reminder to anyone who doesn’t know yet: Martin Luther King Drive will be closed to all road users, beginning Friday at 6pm. It will not re-open until Monday. This information, and all information regarding where you can and can’t go while the Pope is here, is available on our Pope Map.
That means you—bicyclist, walker, motor vehicle user, person who maybe walks on stilts for some reason—will not be allowed on MLK. But Pope Francis will. He and his entourage will likely be using Martin Luther King Drive to get from St. Charles Boromeo Seminary on City Avenue, where he’s staying, to the Parkway, where he’ll hold the World Meeting of Families Mass on Sunday at 4pm.
But think about the message Pope Francis would be sending—on climate change, on equity, on solidarity with the poor—if he rode his bicycle down MLK to speak to Philly and our many, many visitors.
…Because People Listen to Him
Sure, a single Republican Congressman boycotted the Pope’s speech after having read early media reports of “leftist politics,” but for the most part, the Pope is radically influential and well-liked! He’s got an approval rating of 70 percent among all Americans, and 90 percent among American Catholics.
As noted by the New York Times,
The breadth of his appeal can be traced, in part, to the role he has carved out as a champion of causes beyond the scope of church doctrine. A New York Times/CBS News poll conducted in early September found that 45 percent of respondents saw Francis more as a leader and humanitarian spokesman for all people, regardless of their religion, than as simply the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
A Pew Research Center poll in February found that his approval rating among white mainline Protestants was 74 percent. Among those with no religious affiliation, it was 68 percent.
That’s the sort of approval U.S. officials in our government could only dream about. And with great approval comes great influence. We’d love to see the Pope lead by example here, ride his new bike, and show the rest of the world what you and I already know: Cycling is the best, most efficient, most fun, healthiest way to get around.