Our organization has its hands in a little bit of everything when it comes to Greater Philadelphia cycling. We can look back on our many programs and campaigns of 2015 and call them a success. We are now looking for 2016 to be another significant growing year. Here are some updates from our program coordinators on what they hope to accomplish in the upcoming year.
Better Bike Share
Since launching in Philadelphia in April 2015, the city’s bike share program Indego saw its fleet grew to 700 bicycles by August and spread to numerous stations across the city.
“As part of the Better Bike Share Partnership effort funded by the JPB Foundation, the Bicycle Coalition’s Better Bike Share team will continue doing outreach and education work to support equity and inclusion in the City’s Indego bike share program as it expands in 2016,” the program’s coordinator Katie Monroe said.
This year, the program will continue to manage and promote deeper engagement with the Indego Ambassador Program to help the upcoming expansion of the bike share program. These ambassadors not only teach city cycling, they inform the neighborhoods in which Indego’s bike stations have been installed. Also, this program will continue holding its Indego Community rides and organize urban riding classes and learn to ride classes.
Women Bike PHL
This year, the Women Bike PHL program will be turning three and will continue to do it’s great work at inspiring more women to ride the streets and join their positive community. Its Facebook group recently passed the 2,000 member mark and those who are women-identified are free to join. In 2016, they will continue to host rides, classes, social events. Read about the Women Bike PHL report here.
Cadence Youth Cycling
In August 2015, eight Cadence members got the opportunity to meet with Mayor Michael Nutter and members of City Council to inform them on the things they wanted to see improved. These included advocating for safer roads, filling in pot holes, and basic street cleaning. Its most exemplary members were hosted by the Eagles at their training camp in August and their Gala event in November was the group’s biggest fundraiser to date.
“We have a really busy year coming up [in 2016],” the program’s coordinator, Cy Maramangalam said.
February will see a large Bike Build event in which Fuji will be donating bikes for the program. Local partners include Gearing Up, Neighborhood Bike Works, Philly Pumptrack, and a number of local bike shops. Fuji will be generously donating unassembled bikes that will be used to teach youth about bike mechanics and bike assembly.
“It’s an event to engage the community and get them involved with the organizations that are continuing to help the community through the love of the bike,” said Maramangalam.
This year will also see a new Youth Advisory Committee for Cadence. These four members will be committing to a full year of service to the organization and will act as the voice and leaders of the group’s approximately 100-members. They will be working closely with Cy to act as advisors and to give feedback on ideas for Cadence. They will also be in charge of planning the group’s four major projects they do every year. Two of last year’s projects were the organization of a movie showing of “Premium Rush” on top of Whole Foods and the planning of the first Cadence bike tour.
These four members will be attending the National Bike Summit Summit in Washington D.C. in March. There they will be given the important job of lobbying U.S. Senators on behalf of the the city’s cycling youth.
“They’ll be able to voice what they want to see from the youth perspective on better bicycling,” Maramangalam said.
These same four youth will also be attending the Youth Bike Summit in St. Paul, Minnesota. This will be an educational to trip at which youth from all over the country can bounce ideas around and bring some back to Philly that can improve Cadence for everyone involved.
The upcoming year will also see a lot of activity for their Race Team and their Triathlon Team. The competitive riding season begins in March, which brings together the eight sight-based teams around the city. This year, the core team will be attending five competitive events and get a chance to ride the whole course of the Manayunk Bike Race the morning before it begins.
Safe Routes Philly
“Safe Routes Philly has plans to improve safety and transportation conditions around many local elementary schools. I will be continuing the work that it did through May for Bike to School Day,” says Safe Routes Philly Coordinator Waffiyyah Murray.
Sometimes schools can be reluctant to have year-round biking activities but Murray says this is a good event to show these schools the potential of this mode of transportation.
“Often times that leads to more biking activities because they’re surprised by how many students actually come out on bike to school day and have bikes and want to continue biking,” Murray said.
This year, Safe Routes is reaching out to 25 local schools that fall into “high crash zones”: areas which surround a quarter mile around any school that have had at least nine children involved in crashes.
To combat this, Safe Routes, a program supported by the City of Philadelphia Department of Public Health and a National Highway Safety Administration grant awarded to the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities, is planning to team up with engineers from Philly’s Streets Department to do “walkability audits” on highly trafficked routes that students take to and from the school. These will assess safety issues on these routes and provide recommended changes to the school as well as the city.
May will also see the third Ride for Reading event. For this, volunteers will jump on their bikes and bring donated books to local schools. This event is designed to teach students about the importance of both reading and physical activity.
The big push in May for National Bike Month will be to have at least one bike-related event at many schools. Right now Sullivan Elementary and Meredith Elementary have committed to holding some events this year. Murray is hoping to add at least two more.
“We have schools do Bike to School the first week and then a learn to ride class, Bike Rodeo, maybe a group ride… and then hopefully carry it on through the end of the year,” said Murray .
Bike Rodeo is a fun learning event for kids to navigate an obstacle course and learn about important riding techniques. These including navigating road cones, learning hand signals, and a “turtle race” where the kids have to ride a slow as possible.
These will all be taking place during this school year, but the bike education does not end school ends. There will be another large Learn-to-Ride event at Eakins Oval over the summer.
In 2016, the Coalition’s Policy Coordinator, Bob Previdi, is going to be making the rounds inside City Hall, making sure our policy makers are well-informed of what needs to happen.
We had big success in December when City Council passed the first Vision Zero legislation. This bill, which added $5 to the city’s motor vehicle registrations, will help fund much-needed roadway improvements. We’re looking to have 2016 be the year Vision Zero becomes reality in Philadelphia.
“To start the year off, we’re going to be looking for the new mayor to issue an executive order calling for the formation of a Vision Zero task force,” Previdi said.
After this task force is organized and all of its principal members are in place, the Coalition is looking for the all-important action plan to be ready within six months. Another area that Previdi stresses is the need for more support is the Philadelphia Streets Department’s budget.
“We’re going to be pushing for more money for the Street’s Department. Not just more money but more staff because we want to see more miles of streets rehabilitated. Their conditions are horrible. We also want to see the Streets Department have more line striping equipment … You can’t beat [the Streets Department] up over stuff they don’t have,” Previdi said.
With this necessary equipment, we could see the addition of 15 or more miles of bike lanes added to the streets each year. Statistics show that bike lanes calm traffic and lead to safer conditions for all commuters.
Right now, one obstacle to more bike lanes is the long process their approval has to go through. This involves the consensus of City Council, but Previdi feels that another city agency should have more significant input.
“We need to let the Streets Department engineers be the arbiter of what’s appropriate for safety,” Previdi said.
Another avenue for improved street safety the Coalition is exploring for 2016 is safety cameras. Expanding red light cameras and adding speed cameras, which the city currently has none of, to certain streets is another strategy that could bring in more funds that would be funneled right back into funding for safety programs.
“We’re going to be working with Jefferson Hospital and AAA to try and approach Harrisburg to expand this program,” Previdi said.
The last and possibly the most simple things that can be done is to have the Philadelphia Police step up enforcement of traffic laws. These include basic adhering to the rules of the road, stopping at stop signs, not running red lights, and not exceeding the posted speed limit.
This year looks to be promising. Mayor Jim Kenney has already shown his support for the Coalition’s Vision Zero initiative and spoke at the city’s first Vision Zero Conference on December 3rd.
He told attendants that he stands behind promoting cycling as a positive force in the city and emphasized that our streets and sidewalks need to looked at as shared spaces where cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians can co-exist.
“I will commit to you that we will work very arduously and closely with all the departments involved in bringing Vision Zero to a reality and investing in resources necessary to do that,” Kenney said at the Bicycle Coalition’s 2015 Vision Zero Conference.