What We Know About the Papal Visit and Bikes

by | July 24, 2015 | Bike Share, Biking in Philly, Uncategorized | 7 comments

50ee1ad1faa12673c343be43e794fa0aLike us, you’ve probably been hearing a lot about transportation issues during the Papal Visit in late September. From the two mile walks to SEPTA’s special regional rail ticket meltdown. But until very recently, there was no word as to how bicycles would fit into the transportation picture. Will Indego stations be added? Or will the service shut down? Will the Schuylkill River Trail remain open? Will bike corrals be added at the perimeter of the event areas?

We’ve received a lot of questions and suggestions. As of now, officials are tight-lipped about the details. So, we’ve created a Google Map that, as details become available will show where you can and cannot ride and park your bike. Our current version shows the area’s bike lanes, bike parking and Circuit trails.

What we do know is that mass transit will not be operating within the gray area of the map. Bikes will be permitted outside any fenced off areas. You won’t be able to take your bike on any train so SEPTA/NJT buses with bike racks are your best bet (no special tickets required). The Ben Franklin Bridge will be closed to motor vehicle traffic, the walkways will be open and there is a chance that DRPA will open all or part of the roadway to bicycles and pedestrians.

Papal Visit Map

Papal Visit Map. Click for a larger version.

The defensive posture that Philadelphia is taking towards the Pope’s visit is in sharp contrast to Rome’s response to the Vatican’s Jubilee of 2016.  According to the website Cityscope Rome is considering opening an unused rail line, increasing bus service and most interesting to us, a 27-mile ringed bikeway around the City known as GRAB (Grande Raccordo Anulare Della Bici – Great Ring Road of the Bicycle) that will take bicycle users right to St. Peter’s Square.

But the near total motor vehicle shutdown provides an amazing, once in decade opportunity for Philadelphia to host its first open streets event.  Essentially the question is whether the City can get out of the doomsday funk and plan to show off the best of our town.

As we learn more, we’ll continue updating this blog and our website with information about the Papal weekend.

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  1. Michael McGettigan

    There are three reasons for the Bicycle Coalition to take a leadership position on this issue, rather than saying, “we will give you info as it is dribbled out to us.”

    1) The current take on this event is going to make it a failure. The combination of the transit planner’s defeatism, and the self-important paranoia of the Secret Service and Homeland Security are being broadcast everywhere. This will cut audiences to a fraction of what is being “planned” for.

    2) The Coalition is supposed to be an advocacy organization, not a stenographer to the powerful, or a junior marketing firm.

    3) Bicycles can and should play a powerful role in making the day go smoothly for one and all. Policing, marshaling, medical and resupply of water and etc. can be handled by bicycle better than any other vehicle, due to the auto restrictions and Philadelphia’s tight grid. The BCGP should be at the planning table now.

    4) There should be a facebook page/and twitter to hook up cargo/trailer cyclists with groups needing help in transporting goods and even people. WashCycle, in particular, should be involved, as they have the skills and the equipment–they could ferry some extra trailers and staff up from DC and etc.!

    — mcget / trophy bikes

    • Robert Monk

      Right on, Michael; and thanks, Frank, for directing our hopeful anxiety correctly to the federal agencies bent on putting Phila in lock-down mode.

      Leigh, Robert Monk Electric (myself and some employees) is trying to find partners to help us get another #pedicab service going or a fun and adaptive expansion of offerings by Velo-park.com, which I think is the only commercial pedicab service operating in Phila right now (primarily, it appears, as a platform for corporate ‘outdoor advertising’). I’m hoping to get two or three Pope-mobile-inspired two-seater trailers going, and give free rides for requested donation of tweets @EDGE_philly and #Renewable2020PHL, cash, and especially 100% renewable energy power switching, which nets the sales person $50. Meanwhile, I expect moving supplies in and out of the no-auto security zone will be at a premium, and I hope to get as much as $100 per delivery, plus marked-up cost of delivered goods. I’m still looking for financial and operations partners, and feedback from Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Infrastructure on whether I could get a pedicab license in time, and if I can, would it help me move people, or goods, in and out of the security zone. Operating as a people-mover for donation only, I don’t really need the license, I suppose, and I already have a tax ID and worker’s comp and liability insurance.

    • John

      Once again two time former board of BCGP Michael McGettigan has hit the nail on the head. The BCGP continues to be Philadelphia governments hand maiden. This post by the BCGP can be easily summed as; “learned nothing, communicated the same”.

  2. Frank

    I agree that bicycles make sense in this kind of event. But please remember that the enemy here is not “the city” but the Feds. Railing at the Nutter administration is misdirected, because what they can do is being severely circumscribed by the Secret Service and Homeland Security. Advocacy should be directed to those agencies, otherwise it’s a self-defeating waste of energy.

  3. Leigh

    Wash Cycle is indeed trying to figure out how bikes, especially those transporting freight, play into all of these restrictions. We’ve been discussing internally whether we will be able to operate during this time – will our staff be able to get to work? Will our customers be operating then to require our services? Can our bikes move in and out of the perimeter? And as Michael says, how can our team and equipment support the needs of our community.

    Please do loop us in on conversations!
    Wash Cycle Laundry

  4. Robert Monk

    Schuylkill River Trail / Boating Connections
    Will SRTrail be open during ‪#‎popeinphilly‬? In particular, will shuttle boats both commercial and recreational/non-commercial, be permitted to operate between Bartram’s Garden Community Boathouse and the Walnut Street dock below Walnut St. bridge? Robert Monk Electric wants to operate ‪#‎pedicabs‬from ‪#‎PHL‬ airport, via Bartram’s Garden and Tidal Schuylkill River ferry boats service and/or kayak/canoe lending. ‪#‎pedicabsPHL‬. As commenters on Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia’s excellent article noted, Philly and US Government have responded to #popeinphilly in a defensive lockdown mode, while Rome has embraced the opportunity, creating a grand bicyclist ring around the no-autos zone in that city’s core. Philadelphia —visitphilly.com needs to get creative about using bicycles, bicycling enthusiasts and other human-powered conveyance, to move people and goods during the event. Let’s have fun! And @POTUS, please help us do so by enhancing security with bicycle (and river boat) mobility!

    Philly’s bike loop could run SRT on the west side, between South Street and W Girard Ave; Girard Ave (or another e-w corridor slightly north) along the north side. Maybe even as far up as York St. or Lehigh Ave., bringing good tourist traffic to bodegas and other businesses in Strawberry Mansion, Northwest Philadelphia, West Kensington); Aramingo to Girard to Frankford to Delaware Ave, on the east side; and back via South St (or Washington Ave.) on the south side.

    Washington Ave. Traffic Taming Opportunity
    For @Bicycle Coalition members concerned to reboot traffic patterns on Washington Ave, this could be a great opportunity to make that happen with #popeinphilly funds (even though I kind of like the construction and Italian Market chaos). Italian Market could become the new food hub for everyone inside the velo-ring (and probably people outside, whose cars/traffic will be parked-in and immobile).

  5. Michael Gross

    Septa should be increasing trains and buses not decreasing. But bikes can save the day.


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