Happy Bike to Work Day, Philadelphia!
One of the simplest joys of my adult life has been rediscovering the exhilarating bliss of riding a bike. When I was 10 years old, I was in an accident that scared me (and scarred me) enough to keep me from two-wheeled vehicles for a decade. But in my twenties, I was tempted to try again, not because I missed the activity but because of a vintage green Schwinn cruiser with two flat tires that was languishing in the foyer of a friend’s apartment building. It had shimmery, green-plastic handle grips, a wire basket on the front, and a round metal bell with the purest chime; it was the most beautiful bike I had ever seen. After months of eyeing it, I finally left a note in the basket, offering to buy it for $25. A few days later, it was mine.
That bike is long gone, but the thrill remains; I still catch my breath every time that breeze hits my cheeks as my wheels start gliding down the street. It’s a wonderful way to begin and end the working day—something many of my Free Library colleagues can confirm! Today, on Bike to Work Day, we’re sharing notes on the pleasures of riding to work, as well as tips on where, why, and how to do it here in Philadelphia. (A special contributor from the School District of Philadelphia has also chimed in.)
What’s the best thing about biking to work?
"Depending on your route, the commute can be destressing! In general, it’s quick and easy for me to get around the city after work and sometimes during lunch. I love not spending money on my commute, too." —Alexa, Development
"I love getting a little exercise on my way to work. It wakes me up and releases some endorphins before eight hours of sitting." —Jason, School District of Philadelphia
What’s your favorite Philadelphia street to ride down?
"I really like biking the Schuylkill River Trail to and from work—between Race and South Streets, in the spring, when it’s newly busy. People are either on wheels or falling in love, it’s great. And there’s a real understanding of shared space. Everyone stays very calm, maybe due to the proximity to water. It’s like commuting in a gondola." —Brittanie, One Book, One Philadelphia
Could you share any tips that might help a new biker ease into their commute?
"Consider an electric bike if it’s a long or hilly commute. They are more expensive, but you will make it back and then some by not paying for parking or a SEPTA pass. Also, if you need to wear pressed clothes, a company called Two Wheel Gear makes a garment bag that fits on a bike rack." —Josh, Development
"Wear a helmet, bring a change of clothes, and please talk to other bikers on the road—especially when you’re passing! Also, you can put your bike on the front of the SEPTA bus, which is nice if you don’t want to ride in the rain." —Alexa
"I have my best commuting experiences when I leave the house early. The roads are less busy, and I’m in less of a rush. Plus, I always change my shirt when I get to work!" —Jason
"Try using the Indego bike-share program to test-pilot whether you’d like to purchase a bike of your own. For all of May, Indego is offering half-price monthly passes: $8.50 will buy you thirty days of unlimited one-hour trips. ACCESS cardholders always receive a rate of $5/month." —Clare, Communications
Are there any tools or safety items that you find indispensable?
"Flashing lights on your bike really help you stand out to cars; otherwise, you’re nearly invisible. I love mine, which is magnetic and sticks to my helmet, so it’s always easy to remember to bring along. It’s also rechargeable, and I can charge it at my desk at work! Additionally, having thick tires (mine are RiBMo, by Panaracer) have paid for themselves probably three times over. It’s been more than . . . four years since I’ve had a flat (knock on wood!)." —Alexa
What’s your favorite Philadelphia resource for bikes and biking equipment?
"Most neighborhood bike shops have passionate bikers who are willing to help out. My new spot is Philadelphia Bikesmith on Spring Garden. There are low/no-cost bike workshops throughout the city, too!" —Alexa
"The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia offers a fantastic compilation of useful information for cyclists, as well as news about their advocacy work to make our city’s streets safer for everyone. In particular, check out their bike maps, which will help you plan an efficient and enjoyable route between any two locations in the city. Also, Neighborhood Bike Works offers weekly DIY shop hours (also known as Bike Church), a donation-based program where you can bring in your bike and fix it yourself, with help from volunteers and using the shop’s tools. Women and trans folk: the Wednesday Bike Church, from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m., is exclusively for you." —Clare
Any commonly held misconceptions about biking to work that you’d like to dispel?
"There are a lot of ways in Philadelphia to do some or most of your commute on trails and out of traffic. My commute from Mt. Airy is probably 90 percent on trails." —Josh
"Some people think bicyclists are dirty hippies who don’t work and cruise around for fun. We have jobs, too!" —Jason
Do you have recommendations for fellow and aspiring commuter cyclists here in the City of Brotherly Love? Share in the comments below!