Bike Philly is the wheel deal

Riders line up for a previous Bike Philly event (photo courtesy of Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia)

On the morning of September 11th, you can observe the date in silent contemplation, or declare your independence from foreign oil, or get some exercise, or see some of the best sights Philly has to offer, or make a statement about green commuting, or support the completion of the Schuylkill River Trail.

And you can do all of the above at the same time by joining in Bike Philly 2011. The ride is not a "9/11"-themed event, but happens to fall on the date because it's a Sunday morning. The Inquirer has a nice write-up with these specs:

Bike Philly offers cyclists a chance to glide through city streets unperturbed by cars - and the honking horns and profanity-laced death threats that often accompany them.

For two hours starting at 8 a.m., many streets will be closed to automobiles while Bike Philly cyclists rule the road.

The event, which costs $50 for adults, $20 for students, and $10 for children under 12, raises money to complete the Schuylkill River Trail Network, 67 miles of recreational trails in Montgomery and Delaware Counties.

On Sunday's jaunt, riders can choose a ride of 10, 20, or 35 miles. Parts of the 35-mile route are in Montgomery and Delaware Counties on roads shared with cars. (Route info here.)

As this comes a week after another bike ride that always garners a lot of attention (and page views!), I asked Alex Doty, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, whether a good spin for this might be "The Naked Bike Ride - With Clothes!"

While he declined to redo the campaign's promotional materials to accomodate my great idea, Doty did allow that there are correspondences: "They're both about celebrating the joys of bicycling," he noted, before adding: "In this case, though, you're going around a citywide course guarded by 100 marshals, with cars kept at bay," an attraction that may make up for the lack of nudity involved.

"What I love," Doty continued,"is seeing the five-year-olds riding, the 85-year-olds riding next to them." This could be read as a veiled jab at the other ride, notably light on participation by those two demographics.

But in all seriousness, the ride is a chance to express two-wheeled solidarity while helping to fund the Schuylkill River Trail, and anyone with a bike and a few bucks should see it as an opportunity to commemorate something positive about Philly, and something more positive than what the date itself calls to mind.

"Look," Doty said, "Philadelphia has shown up on a lot of lists that we're not proud to be on. But we're number one in bicycle commuting among cities of this size. That's worth celebrating."

Ride on, Alex. Ride on!