Monday, November 24, 2014
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Bike race doesn't need rowdies

On Sunday, cyclists, race fans, and revelers from around the world will once again converge on the city for the TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championship, the grueling 156-mile road race that includes 10 trips up Lyceum Avenue, the legendary “Manayunk Wall” that rises 285 feet on a steep grade in just a few blocks.

Bike race doesn't need rowdies

Two men duke it out in the middle of Manayunk Avenue at the end of the bike race in 2008. A police officer prepares to break up the fight. (Vance Lehmkuhl / Philly.com)
Two men duke it out in the middle of Manayunk Avenue at the end of the bike race in 2008. A police officer prepares to break up the fight. (Vance Lehmkuhl / Philly.com)

On Sunday, cyclists, race fans, and revelers from around the world will once again converge on the city for the TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championship, the grueling 156-mile road race that includes 10 trips up Lyceum Avenue, the legendary “Manayunk Wall” that rises 285 feet on a steep grade in just a few blocks.

But like Manayunk, once a far-flung neighborhood of blue-collar families who passed rowhouses down from each generation, the bike race has become a victim of its own success and excess.

In an effort to curb the annual four-day orgy of drinking and carousing, the city will hold a “Night Bike Court” on Friday at the Fifth District police station — within staggering distance of the race route. Good idea, but it misses the rowdiness sure to occur on Race Day. City police do promise extra officers and lower tolerance for public drunkenness and quality-of-life crimes all weekend.

Without question, the race has brought acclaim, tourist dollars, and notoriety to the neighborhood. Unfortunately, the race festivities also attract an ever-growing swarm of folks more interested in beers than bikes.

There’s something to be said for having fun, especially in a neighborhood whose name is loosely translated from a Lenape Indian word meaning “place we go to drink.” But when even businesses along Main Street close up shop for the day rather than deal with drunken fools, things are getting out of hand.

The ’Yunkers are not amused. Civic groups are threatening to withdraw their support of the race if conditions don’t improve. It’s possible to have a good time — even have a few drinks — without disrespecting the good people who live in Manayunk and Roxborough. Let’s see that happen.

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