PHILADELPHIA —Thousands of cyclists pedaled through Center City and Fairmont Park under overcast skies and occasional rain in the 2023 Philly Bike Ride.
The second-ever event provided 20 miles of car free streets early on Saturday, October 14.
DISCLOSURE: I won my registration at the DC Bike Ride. I was already planning to go, so this just sealed the deal.
Starting at Eakins Oval, riders pedaled eastward down Benjamin Franklin Parkway and around City Hall onto Market Street. Cutting north at 5th Street and then back east Race Street through Old City. Near the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, the course headed south onto Columbus Blvd., parallel to the Delaware River. At Christian Street, the course turned west for about 2 miles passing the Philadelphia Museum of Art and entering Fairmont Park.
The majority of the ride would take place through the park up Kelly Drive all the way to the Falls Bridge. Crossing there, the route followed Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. for two miles before doubling back, crossing the Falls Bridge and returning to Kelly Drive. Scenery included Boathouse Row, the Schuylkill River, Promontory Rock Tunnel and very beginning of the Piedmont Upland Section. The final mile was an incline past the Museum of Art back to Eakins Oval.
Overall, it was mostly flat and exclusively along surface streets, not freeways like parts DC Bike Ride.
Philly Bike Ride is run by the same organization that has been running DC Bike Ride. It’s the same concept and very similar branding. Just two years in, Philly Bike Ride is smaller is scope and ridership. So far.
flickr photos: #phillybikeride2023
Packett pickup was outdoors at Eakins Oval on Friday afternoon and evening. It was well-run under tents and the weather cooperated. Oh, if we could have had that weather on ride day! There were a few vendors giving out swag, though not to the scale of DC. Naturally, there was a tent selling Philly Bike Ride merchandise.
The race began early – corals opened at 5:30 and closed at 7:15 with overcast skies and temperatures just about 50° F. Following the Star Spangled Banner by a brass quintet a recording of Fly Eagles Fly because, Philly.
The finish line was a little anti-climatic, no overhead sign like other races. I wasn’t quite sure where it was until I got to the Finish Festival in Eakins Oval. That’s an area of improvement for 2024. There were some tents with information and swag, plus a Dunkin truck giving out free sample beverages.
Indego, the city’s bike share operator, gave way flashing rear reflectors. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia offered “PORK ROLL POWERED” bumper stickers . I spoke with a volunteer and noted that the Center City Bike Lane network was pretty good.
I think I only heard Gonna Fly Now once which is notable in its restraint. Well done, Philly Bike Ride. Your alright, Philly
Overall, the vibes were good. I estimate that there were between 1,500 and 2,000 participants. I don’t know if the weather kept some people from coming out. Fewer people meant that there was less congestion, which was sometimes a problem at DC Bike Ride this year. I was really happy I went, even with the rain. It would have been worth the cost of registration too. I plan to return.
Thankfully, it was a pretty flat ride on account of the city streets and lack of highway ramps. The rain began for me around the halfway point which was about Hunting Park Avenue. That slowed me down a little, but not too much.
My time was about the same as my DC rides – 80ish minutes. I suppose under any circumstance, I can ride about 15 MPH non-stop. I’d like to get that higher, but probably need to switch to clipped pedals.
I’m thinking about it.
The overriding reason I go to group rides like this is because I’m surrounded by happy people. The joy of riding on city streets without dealing with cars, cross traffic and all of that is palpable. It’s so refreshing to just be able to enjoy the ride without all those externalities. I’m hoping family and friends will join me in the future.
While DC Bike Ride and Philly Bike Ride won’t be back there are other group rides throughout the year. I’m hoping to go back to the DC Bike Party, which I enjoyed back in July, next month. The most recent ride was the night before Philly Bike Ride. DC Bike Party is not specifically closed streets, but riding en masse brings in lots of happy people and safety in numbers. I have also attended a Handy Bikes group ride in Alexandria and even Critical Mass DC.
Even if you don’t live in or near the District, there may be group rides near you. Go out and find one! It’s a wonderful way to get out and go somewhere you may not have before and meet some people.