Alexandria Schneider came to me in December with a pretty crazy idea: She wanted to put Stu Bykofsky on a bike. And she wanted my help.
Bykofsky is the Philadelphia Daily News columnist who has been a bit, well, negative toward bicyclists and bike lanes in the past, and currently. And perhaps in the future. He devotes many columns to his problems with the cycling community. For example, according to a column from May 2014, he believes cyclists want things, but do not want to take responsibility for themselves. “It is all about their rights. They are not interested in their responsibility,” he’s written.
The columnist also regularly used the words “bike-heads” and “pedalphile” when describing Philly’s cyclists in the past.
So Bykofsky and the Bicycle Coalition working together? It seemed unlikely.
But I looked at all that as an opportunity. I’d had something of an existing relationship with the writer, having interviewed him for a bicycling feature while I worked at Philadelphia Weekly (the result of which was him calling me an “unpaid spokesperson” for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia…well, look at me now!). This was also an opportunity to work with Byko in a positive manner, and I thought maybe we’d both learn something.
I was also told the ride would be for charity, we’d intentionally be following all the laws, and Bykofsky was all in. Schneider (who had set up the Pope Ride in September 2015), Ron Ashworth and I met at the Philadelphia Daily News offices on a Saturday to discuss the event. Bykofsky said he was interested in all proceeds being donated to the People’s Emergency Center, a charity we all agreed was worthwhile of our working together. The rules of the road will all be followed to a T (something every group ride I’ve ever been on already does, but still), and I’ll be there to make sure everyone who’s unaware of some of the laws understands them before we take off.
As a side deal, Byko has agreed to stop using the truly vile term “pedalphile” so long as I stop calling him “anti-bike.”
And here we are. The ride is May 7 at 11am. It’s called “Byko’s Safe Bike Ride.” We’re meeting at Dilworth Plaza, will go 11 miles around the city, and end at McGillin’s Olde Ale House for an after-party with drink specials.
If you’re interested in attending, you can RSVP here. The suggested donation is $20. No one other than PEC is receiving any money for this, whatsoever.
Bykofsky is taking this seriously. He’s been practicing his urban riding, and writing about it in a series of blog posts he’s calling the “Bicycle Chronicles.” And he’s been riding with those of us who are helping organize the ride.
Late last week, Bykofsky and I went on an educational bike tour in which I intentionally showed off some of the city’s infrastructure, and told him all about what it means (sharrows, green lanes, bike boxes, etc.).
We took the full travel lane on Lombard, took it again on 20th Street, he utilized the bike box at the corner of 20th and the Parkway on the north side, we rode the green lanes up the Ben Franklin Parkway, again utilized a bike box at the five-way stop at Spring Garden, then rode through Fairmount before heading back to the Kimmel Center, where he dropped off his Indego bike.
Never thought I’d see the day.
We’re hoping to make this ride as fun, inclusive, and safe as possible – plus it’s for a good cause, and there’s an after party.
If you want to RSVP for the event, check out the Facebook page.
Let’s clear up a couple of issues: I first rode my first two-wheeler at age 5 — my father taught me how to ride in the street — but I pretty much stopped riding in my teenage years. In recent years I have ridden (as I have reported) on Kelly Drive with colleague Jenice Armstrong and in Massachusetts with my daughter. Getting me on a bike was no big deal.
The “problems” I have with the “cycling community” is one problem: Illegal behavior. That’s what the “many columns” dealt with. Randy dredged back two years for a quote, but, yes, I stand by those words: The feedback I get from bikers is almost entirely about their rights, but not their responsibility. The vast majority engage in illegal behavior and excuse it with various alibis. The purpose of Byko’s Safe Bike Ride is to demonstrate biking can be fun, safe and legal.
Randy notes group rides follow the rules. Excellent. Once we get individuals to follow the same rules, I’ll STFU.
Oh! Today’s column: http://www.philly.com/philly/columnists/stu_bykofsky/20160429_Byko__Want_a_piece_of_me_.html