Byko: Want a piece of me?

Schneider1
Stu Bykofsky and Alexandria Schneider, on a test run of the course for the Safe Bike Ride event, wait at a red light on the Spring Garden Bridge.

FOR THE CHARITY event, I was going to liken myself to the best-known American bicyclist ever.

Unhappily, that's doper Lance Armstrong, not the kind of person I want to be associated with.

That's how some bicyclists feel about me. Mostly just those who ignore the rules of the road, plus some who are afraid to ride without bicycle lanes.

A little more than a month ago, I had a summit at my office with three hard-core (but rational) bicyclists - Alexandria Schneider, Ron Ashworth, and Randy LoBasso. Just like Hillary and Bernie (insert smiley face), more united us than divided us, and the summit gave birth to Byko's Safe Bike Ride, set for Saturday, May 7.

The 11-mile ride through various neighborhoods leaves Dilworth Park at 11 a.m. and benefits the People's Emergency Center, which provides shelter to women and their children.

"The connection between PEC and Byko's Safe Bike Ride is Stu, one of our most obstinate - I mean long-standing - supporters," says PEC president Kathy Desmond. The ride, she says, like PEC's work with homeless families, "requires a keen sense of direction, a knowledge of laws and regulations, knowing when to brake, to pump harder, and to change gears."

Tied into the fund-raising are points that each side wants to make: Bicycling can be a fun (and pollution-free) activity, but riders must obey the law. I insist that the two are not contradictory.

I am criticized (to put it mildly) by some bikeheads for my insistence on obeying the law, but that is the position of my frenemy, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

Coalition executive director Sarah Clark Stuart calls Byko's Safe Bike Ride "a message to everyone who walks or drives or rides their bikes on city streets and sidewalks."

So this is not, in the words of a biker friend, "the Ride to Cure Byko."

In the month I've been in training, I've noticed - in addition to bad bike behavior - boorish behavior by drivers who don't know that bicyclists have an unquestioned right to city streets. A few motorists jeered at me, but the vast majority gave my companions and me our space, and we gave cars a "go ahead" wave when we were (meaning I was) slowing traffic.

In the words of a 2011-12 city campaign, you have to give respect to get respect.

The ride's message, says Stuart, is that "convenience should not trump safety, which is everyone's primary concern and priority."

See, we all can get along.

I am talking to two types of people and they have two ways to talk back.

First are bicyclists who have problems with me as the only local journalist with the gall to call them out for bad behavior and to oppose some bike lanes. The lanes are OK on wide streets like Market, JFK, Spring Garden, and Delaware Avenue, but not Spruce and Pine, where they usurp one of two lanes 24 hours a day but get almost no use except during the rush hours.

The other people are those (including a few bikeheads) who support lawful behavior and police enforcement, which is almost nonexistent.

Yo, cyclists: You want a piece of me? Sign up for Byko's Safe Bike Ride on its Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/events/1698123177126174/) or just make a donation.

It's $20 and you can talk to me while you ride with me. (I'm leaving my security detail at home.) Although I am Grand Marshal of the ride, for safety I will not be in the lead position. I'll be in the middle of the pack and you probably won't get much back talk because it's hard to talk wearing an oxygen mask.

You also can send a check in any amount to Byko's Safe Bike Ride, c/o People's Emergency Center, 325 N. 39th St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19104. Write "Bike Ride" in the memo field.

Some people say this is a gimmick. They are right. In some online bike forums, I have been blistered because of my positions, but this ride doesn't support me - it supports proper bike behavior and the PEC.

Bicycle Czarina Stuart says, "I've read comments from people who have been trying to get you on a bike to ride with them for years."

OK. They've got their wish. Let's see them put their money where their Spandex shorts are.

stubyko@phillynews.com

215-854-5977 @StuBykofsky

Blog: ph.ly/Byko

Columns: ph.ly/StuBykofsky