For Adam Mullen, the first time he tried driving from Center City to West Philadelphia for work was also the last time. He’d recently moved to Philadelphia from Chicago, and says the motor vehicle gridlock was too much for such a short commute. He immediately began utilizing the trolley system, then switched to a bike, and never looked back.
“For the past three years, I’ve been commuting exclusively by bike and I get there faster, better prepared to deal with the day,” says the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia member. Now, Mullen says, he doesn’t have a car and uses his extra cash on hand (not paying for things like parking and insurance) to frequent the local businesses he passes to and from work.
We recently spoke to Mullen about his riding habits as part of our “Member Drive” week, where we’re highlighting some new Bicycle Coalition members and why they chose to join.
How long have you been a bicyclist?
Like most of us, I started riding bikes as a kid. I never really stopped, although there may have been a year or two out of the 34 where I wasn’t cycling very much. That said, since moving to Philadelphia from the Chicago area four years ago it’s been an every day thing for me.
What got you into riding?
As a teenager, I used to go for a lot of solo rides just to have some time alone to think and work through all that weirdness that happens around that age. I still use cycling as a form of therapy.
For me, there’s something about being totally immersed in what it is that you’re doing whether it be going fast, pushing yourself to go a long distance, keeping the rubber side down on the trails, or simply avoiding collisions with runners on the Schuylkill River Trail. It’s like moving meditation, being focused on the moment. When you’re on the bike there’s not a whole lot of extra room for life’s challenges and many times when you get off and come back to them they’re not as intimidating as they were before you headed out.
What about the Bicycle Coalition’s message resonates with you?
Supporting bicycling in cities like Philadelphia makes so much sense on so many levels. The city has been criticized for its obesity rates, parking and traffic are a nightmare, and the hustle and bustle of a large city fray people’s nerves. Providing support for cycling at the municipal and community levels is a positive step with regards all of those problems, and the investments of time, effort, and money we make towards making cycling an appealing transportation and recreation option are almost guaranteed to benefit the city as a whole and individuals both physically and mentally.
What’s your favorite thing about riding in the Greater Philadelphia region?
When I first moved here, I brought a car with me. The first time I tried driving from Center City to West Philadelphia for work was also the last time – I think I could have walked faster. I started taking advantage of the trolleys instead of the car but they have their own issues.
For the past three years, I’ve been commuting exclusively by bike and I get there faster, better prepared to deal with the day, and … sexier than if I would have driven. It’s gotten to the point where I got rid of the car and used the extra cash recouped from not paying to have it sit someplace 90% of the time to do things that are actually fun and enjoyable: I ride past lots of great businesses, actually have the time to consider them in my head, and have the money to spend to enjoy myself throughout the city and suburbs. The Philadelphia region is perfectly set up for someone who wants to have a great time by bike.
What sort of goals do you have for bike riding over the next 5-10 years?
I would love to get better at mountain biking – I’ve recently moved from Center City to over by the Wissahickon and I’ve been hitting the trails whenever I can. I enjoy racing and Philadelphia has a fantastic competitive bicycle culture. I’m working with my team CS Velo, Sherwin-Williams Paint, La Colombe Coffee, and Ferrilli Higher Education Consulting to encourage younger cyclists to develop an appreciation for the sport and support them in doing well. I would love to see the efforts of the team help put a Philadelphian in the pro tour some day.