By SJ Punderson
For Philadelphia city official Jeannette Brugger, the toughest part of her day isn’t always the sort of city planning her job requires; it’s the hauling of her young daughter uphill on the back of her commuter bicycle on the way to daycare.
Rich Laverty wasn’t sure how he could find time for a long workout while working as an engineer. Then he started commuting by bike 25 miles each way, once or twice a week.
Working in the restaurant industry, Philly bartender Kevin Walsh found that the fastest way for him to get home after last call was on his trusty, old Peugeot.
Philadelphia has the highest percentage of bicycle commuters of any large city in the United States. And Jeannette, Rich, and Kevin are just a few of the thousands of Philadelphians who’ve made bicycling a way of life here.
For cyclists in Philadelphia and nationwide, getting to work isn’t the rage-inducing, rushing-to-make-it-in-on time ordeal that many drivers experience in their cars. What motivates these runners of the road? Why do people choose to ride outdoors in the pouring rain, on top of ice, or on the hottest day of the year?
Some go through forests to get to work, racking up triple digit mileage per week. Others simply cruise down 13th street, cocooned inside an urban bike lane for a mile or two.
The Bicycle Coalition recently reached out to bicycle commuters all over Philadelphia in an effort to create a new series, Routes, that will be published on our blog bi-weekly this fall.
During the process of researching and writing Routes, we accepted new social media friends, met strangers in coffee shops, and joined rides with people who were simply happy to share their story.
No matter which neighborhood Philadelphia’s pedal pushing commuters start from, they experience an entire range of specific sensory delights, and dislikes.
While drivers often find themselves cooped up, twirling the radio dial while sitting in traffic, cyclists are often attuned, especially when it comes to smells and sounds. City summers are perfumed by hot trash. Trains whistle through the Wissahickon. Oars slap against the Schuylkill River. Bald eagles eat seafood breakfasts. Sugar and flour wafts along Passyunk Avenue. Pedestrians rinse and repeat their daily shuffle.
So who are these people, the 2.2 percent of city residents that commute by bicycle? We dug deep to chat with them in a quest to find out more about where they live and why they ride. We tagged along on their morning commutes and did our best not to get in the way. Now, we’ll share their stories.
Introducing Routes, a series that will feature Philadelphians who are clipped in, holding on and riding to work.