Aw, man. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia announced earlier today that it will not host Bike Philly this year, the 20-mile car-free bike ride through Philly that the group has organized annually since 2007. For urban cyclists who dream of zipping around city streets unimpeded by motorists, it was a pretty awesome event, and one that I’m bummed to see go.
BCGP made the announcement on its blog, citing rising costs—and too-little payoff—as the motivators:
Unfortunately, Bike Philly has not grown in the way we needed in order to offset its rising costs. Bike Philly took everyone and everything we had to put on every year, and we loved doing it. But as an event it has grown harder, not easier, to pull off. After intense deliberation, we have determined that we cannot sustain the event.
Nicholas Mirra, BCGP’s communications coordinator, emailed me to explain the decision further:
Although we had over 2,000 riders last year, ridership entrance fees and sponsorship was not enough to offset the rising costs of the event (staff time and police being the two big expenses). Also, we’re not a huge organization (we had 13 full-time staff last September), and Bike Philly was an all-hands-on-deck event which really prevented us from doing much of anything else in the lead up to it.
The ride meant a lot to us and to bicyclists in the region. It brought in cyclists from around the region, many riding it with their families. As much as Philadelphia and the region are becoming safer and more accessible for bicyclists, we still have a long way to go. We often hear from people who love Bike Philly because it is one of the few times when they feel safe biking on city roads. That’s a shame, but we understand it. So as an organization we looked at Bike Philly and forced ourselves to face the fact that it isn’t getting us closer to our goal – of making those families feel safe biking in streets the other 364 days of the year.
The group is planning to host a different car-free ride beginning next year called a ciclovia, which it describes as “a block party in motion, stretching over several miles.” This new event, which would shut down some roads but keep cross streets open to cars, will be less disruptive to traffic than Bike Philly. And, unlike Bike Philly, which fetched $50 for each adult participant and $10 for kids, this event will be a free. Ciclovias have been successful in other U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Austin and New York.