Columnist Carlene Majorino offers up her own coffee-fueled tips for being safe and smart when taking your pedaled two-wheeler to the streets.
Courtesy of Bike Temple, an attempt to encourage city biking with the help of the Office of Sustainability, the Fugi Company and Breakaway Bikes of Center City, students have a new, cool and convenient way to get bikes, parts and maintenance at an affordable price.
The trailer is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., so there’s plenty of time to accommodate those who need assistance.
Most of you, given that you live in an almost-bike-friendly city, have seen it time and time again – articles endorsing, or even almost forcing upon you, the riding of bikes instead of driving a car or taking public transportation.
But let’s get real. Not everyone can ride a bike all the time, all year round. We have needs, which sometimes involve comfort, convenience and warmth.
I ride a bike very often. I believe it’s undoubtedly the quickest, cheapest and most fun way to get around if you live in a city. But I’m here to explain whether biking is sensible, appropriate and safe on certain occasions.
Ride if the weather’s nice, but not if it’s freezing cold or snowing. To me, there’s no better way to enjoy a warm, breezy day than to take a bike ride and not have a care in the world. I try to use those days to learn new streets and routes I’ve never ridden before because you just never know when they will come in handy.
We’ve all seen those hardcore bikers that ride in all kinds of weather, and maybe they’ve grown accustomed to it over the years. But it gives me the kind of sore throat that’ll last all winter.
Ride if you’re going far – but not too far. Taking the subway one stop will cost about $2, while biking the same distance would take less time and no money. I’ve noticed many students who think each SEPTA stop is farther from the next than it really is. The average distance is about seven blocks, or about a third of a mile. Frequent bikers could surpass that distance by three or four times in the time it takes to buy tokens and wait for the subway.
But every two-wheeled traveler should learn their limits quickly. At first, they’ll change often, but after some time, your limitations become clear. If you know it’s going to be uncomfortable or painful, don’t bike. One thing that becomes difficult to forget once biking becomes customary: you don’t have anything to prove.
Ride if you’re going to be out late but not if you’ll be drinking. If you think there’s a chance you’ll be out past midnight, you should plan to bike if there’s no place to stay. That way, in the case of an emergency – or awkward date – there’s always the possibility of escape. You can never be too safe.
But be smart. We’ve all heard about people getting into drunken bike accidents, some serious and some not, and we don’t think we’ll be one of those people until we are. So plan ahead: before leaving the house, think about the night that lies before you. If your senses tell you that margaritas at La Cantina or craft beer at Triumph Brewery are in your future, take the subway.
Ride if all your friends are doing it but only if you’re used to it. There’s nothing worse than being that friend everyone has to wait for when you get on the subway and they hop on their bikes, knowing they’ll have to wait at Second and Market streets while you switch trains. It’s also safer to bike with friends, and when it’s convenience at stake, you can’t deny it.
However, I have many friends who, upon getting a brand-new bike or apartment, crashed because of unfamiliarity with the streets or their new vehicle. Take time on your non-commuting days to get to know your new neighborhood or bike until you feel comfortable enough to ride long distances on busy streets. It always looks easier than it is.
Ride if you’re venturing far off Broad or Market streets but not if you don’t know where you’re going. What bikes have that SEPTA lacks is the freedom to go where you want, theoretically, without limits. SEPTA is an exceptionally poor source of city public transit, but there’s no denying that getting right to the door of where you’re going is ideal anywhere. If you’re heading to, say, the North Star Bar at 26th and Poplar streets or the Fire at Fourth Street and Girard Avenue, there’s no easy or completely safe means of getting there via subway that doesn’t additionally require walking for blocks on end.
Of course, Philadelphia can be a very dangerous place sometimes, and it’s just not worth the risk of setting out on a bike when you know you may end up in unfamiliar territory. Once you know you’re lost, dark streets and abandoned buildings can look 10 times more threatening than they do in the daylight.
Carlene Majorino can be reached at email@example.com.