“Anyone can express themselves however they want when they’re on the bike and that’s where passion comes from,” the rapper from North Philadelphia said in a Supercross.com interview.
Bike Life groups have received attention for their loud presence and antics, claiming that they are not hurting anyone, but the groups are more than a nuisance – they are a danger to drivers, pedestrians and Temple students alike.
Bike Life has become an integral part of Philadelphia’s culture. This lifestyle is heavily popularized by groups like the Philly Hang Gang, famous for its members’ YouTube presence, disregard for traffic laws and support by celebrities like Meek Mill. Dozens of videos can be found online of groups of riders weaving in and out of traffic, performing tricks and avoiding the police.
Members of the group, like “Pupo, King of 95,” named for a contest that he won by holding a wheelie for nearly 12 miles on I-95 against a rival rider, claim that their group is not a gang in the typical sense. Members of the Philly Hang Gang are not violent; in fact, members claim that the rides with their friends are what keep them out of trouble.
The Philadelphia Police Department sees these riders in a very different sense. Because its No. 1 concern must be for the safety of the citizens of Philadelphia, it sees the groups of riders as dangerous to civilians.
The PPD is often at a loss when dealing with the riders. Bikers’ fearless riding techniques, coupled with the police department’s policy against chasing perpetrators unless there is an immediate threat, creates a tough position for the police involved in confrontations.
When groups see police approaching, they will generally flee. They claim that police will “bump” them with their vehicles and that they are not safe if they are pulled over. New laws allow bikes and ATVs to be confiscated and destroyed if the riders are caught, but riders often evade police successfully.
Riders claim they do not negatively impact Philadelphia, but there are incidents that suggest otherwise. On March 13, 2012, a 14-year-old boy died in a bike accident in Frankford, when he collided with a wall attempting to flee from police. Many others have told the Daily News and AroundPhilly.com of knowing someone who died or received severe injuries after crashing due to unsafe or reckless driving.
There are many claims that bikers’ vehicles cause damage to the properties they ride on. Because of the illegality of riding dirt bikes and ATVs on Philadelphia streets, there is often a lack of proper registration and insurance. This creates an issue to people who have had their property damaged. If a rider is uninsured, payment for damages may be slow to come.
Despite the bikers’ claims of being a group that helps its participants lead a better life, the groups associated with Bike Life in Philadelphia are not helping to enhance the city.
At best, these groups can be considered a nuisance, getting in the way of drivers and interrupting pedestrians. At worst, these groups are a dangerous pack, ignorant of the safety of both bystanders and its own members.
Temple’s Campus Safety Services also sees the bikers as a negative presence. Charlie Leone, the executive director of CSS, said no Temple students are a part of these groups and the bikers generally avoid Main Campus. However, their presence near such a large student population is a huge liability.
“They may disregard traffic signals or go on sidewalks,” Leone said.
Leone also cited the PPD’s “live stop” program as what he believes to be one of the most useful tools for controlling the bikers. Live stop is a program that allows a vehicle to be towed and impounded if the driver has an expired license or does not have insurance.
The groups of bikers that can often be heard and seen tearing down Broad Street are a nuisance and a danger to everyone near Main Campus. They are an inconvenience to day-to-day activities and no one should have to worry about the potential danger of reckless drivers and their illegal vehicles on the way to class.
Vince Bellino firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @VinceTNF