The Schuylkill River Trail Attacks: Can We Keep the Trail Safe?

Photo | M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia

Photo | M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia

The scene on the Schuylkill River Trail looked like something out of a tourism director’s Kodachrome dream: pockets of people of different ages and races dotted the path’s elegant curves, all happily doing their thing in perfect harmony under a cloudless sky.

There’s a serenity to this place that can make you forget you’re in the city for a minute, much like Spruce Street Harbor Park and some of the other unquestionably New Philadelphia attractions that have taken root in recent years. Yeah, you know that giant sandcastle looming on the horizon is really the Art Museum, and the skyscrapers are just a stone’s throw away, yet the trail feels isolated from it all, a refuge for runners and bikers and lovers of a good, lazy stroll.

But the discussion among some of the happy people on the trail on a recent morning focused on whether they still feel safe out there — women especially — after a spate of sexual assaults and robberies were reported last summer and fall, and then again during the dead of winter. On Thursday afternoon, a man followed a woman, then inexplicably slashed her forehead with a sharp object on a stairway leading up to Walnut Street from the trail.  That conversation is decidedly Old Philadelphia, one that city officials and tourism people don’t want associated with the trail, a sprawling 60-mile gem that USA Today named the best urban trail in the country just a year ago.

The bad headlines could have given way to frustration and apathy, the usual ingredients in what-can-you-do sandwiches that have long been a Philly staple. But not this time. At least, that’s what Jon Lyons said to himself when he decided to mobilize a group of citizens to take ownership of the trail.  Read more »

Police: Woman Slashed in Face on Schuylkill River Trail

Photo by M. Edlow for VISIT PHILADELPHIA™

Photo by M. Edlow for VISIT PHILADELPHIA™

Police say a 24-year-old woman was attacked on the Schuylkill River Trail around 3 o’clock Thursday afternoon, according to multiple news reports.

The woman was walking up the stairs from the trail to the Walnut Street Bridge when she was slashed in the forehead with a sharp object by an unknown attacker, authorities say. The attacker, who was described by police as a six-foot African-American man in his early 20s with a beard and a dark hoodie, allegedly shouted, “You don’t know anything!” before attacking the woman. Read more »

5 Cool Homes Near Circuit Trails

The Schuylkill River Trail in Montgomery County, part of the Circuit trail network. | Photo by Flickr user Montgomery County Planning Association

The Schuylkill River Trail in Montgomery County, part of the Circuit trail network. | Photo by Flickr user Montgomery County Planning Association

As we reported last week, developers and homeowners are finding that having a bike/hike trail near their property is a bankable amenity.

That’s because, as a recent Urban Land Institute report documented, “active transportation” facilities increase the value of properties adjacent to them.

One of the most extensive such active transportation networks is The Circuit, an evolving 750-mile network of dedicated bike and hiking trails spanning the nine-county Greater Philadelphia region. The ULI report featured it as an example of transformative transportation facilities.

If you are in the market for a new home, you might want to consider one of these homes currently on the market if you’d like to have the option of commuting by bike or just want to have better recreation options nearby: Read more »

Sly Fox Launching This Year’s SRT Ale with Awesome New Race Along the Schuylkill River Trail

Remember last year, Sly Fox Brewing Company launched their first-ever seasonal SRT Ale, which benefits the Schuylkill River Heritage Area, with a five-day clean-up spree along the trail? Well, this year, they will be hosting clean-ups along the trail, but — drumroll, please! — they’re also adding an AWESOME new 50K relay race to the mix. And get this: The entire race will be run on the Schuylkill River Trail. And, to make it even better, it will end at Sly Fox’s Schuylkill River SPREEKEND Party, celebrating the launch of the SRT Ale, where every runner will get their hands on a free can of the ale to crack open for themselves.
Read more »

Update: The Latest Community Effort to Make the Schuylkill River Trail Safer

Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk | Photo by M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia™

Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk | Photo by M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia™

Back in December, after stories of cyclists and runners being harassed by teenagers on the Schuylkill River Trail began to circulate, Jon Lyons, founder of Run215 and a stakeholder on the Schuylkill River Trail Steering Committee, wrote a piece for us breaking down how, exactly, the committee, with the help of Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and the city, was working to make the SRT safer.

The efforts he talked about then included increased patrol, repairs to lighting along the trail, and the improvement of mile markers and trail signage, among other pushes to make sure people feel safe using the trail. Now, after three new incidents of people being harassed on the trail were reported this week, the steering committee, along with Johnson, has added another effort, this one community-based, to the mix in order to make the trail safer for all users: Meet the Schuylkill River Trail Community Watch, a volunteer program consisting of trained members of the community who will be tasked with patrolling the trail and promoting a positive, safe environment for all users. Read more »

Morning Headlines: Attackers Back on Schuylkill Trail

Good morning, Philadelphia. The snow is beginning to fall and stick across the region. We’re not expected to get a lot — about an inch — but please be careful out there. Here’s what else you need to know:

Attacks return to the Schuylkill River Trail, arrests made.

The young men on bikes who have been robbing joggers, walkers and riders on the Schuylkill River Trail are back after going into hiding when police stepped up patrols on the trail. Trail users were relieved of cash and possessions in three separate incidents on two days this week, according to a 6ABC report. In the most recent incident on Wednesday, things got violent when the victim refused to unlock his cell phone and the young men began to punch and kick him. Police arrested four young men a few minutes after that incident, while other incidents reportedly remain under investigation. Residents living near the trail have been concerned about the attacks for months, and City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson has formed a task force to come up with ways to make the trail safer. Read more »

The Checkup: The Schuylkill River Has Some Awesome New Riverside Trails in Its Future

Photo via Schuylkill Banks/Facebook

Photo via Schuylkill Banks/Facebook

• If you plan on sticking around Philly for the next few years, you can look forward to many-a trail run along new riverside trails: Last week, the Schuylkill River Development Corporation released their strategic plan for the next four years, and there are some awesome trail additions, with predicted completion dates ranging from this year to 2026, in the works. [Curbed] Read more »

This Is How the City Is Making the Schuylkill River Trail Safer

Editor’s note: Over the summer, reports began to surface on social media of assaults occurring on the Schuylkill River Trail. Stories emerged of cyclists being shoved off their bikes, runners being chased and cornered and women being assaulted. Multiple accounts described a group of teens on bikes perpetrating the incidents. In September, local media began reporting on what was going on, as police began investigating one specific incident that involved a female runner being surrounded by a group of teens on bikes and being slapped on her backside. 

We followed the postings and back-and-forth on the very active Run215 Facebook page, where a lot of folks pointed out issues with the trail itself (lights being out, lack of consistent police patrolling, etc.) that made the SRT less safe than it should be. Not surprisingly (to those who know him, anyway), founder Jon Lyons soon took the lead, organizing advocacy efforts and working with local officials to make changes to the trail that would help keep users safe.

Since then, he’s worked with other groups to meet with city officials on two occasions, with more meetings planned for the future. Below, you’ll find Jon’s report on the second meeting, which happened just last week. The takeaway? That the city is taking this seriously, and change, at last, is coming.  Read more »

Schuylkill River Trail Update: Bartram’s Mile to Break Ground November 23rd

Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk | Photograph by Laura Kicey

Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk | Photograph by Laura Kicey

Would you like to see the Schuylkill River Trail become just a wee bit longer? Well, mark your calendars, folks, because the long-planned Bartram’s Mile trail, the future mile-long section of the Schuylkill River Trail, will break ground this Monday, November 23rd.

Commencing at 11:00am, the Monday groundbreaking will take place at Bartram’s Mile North and will count Mayor Michael Nutter, elected officials, Bartram’s Garden Executive Director Maitreyi Roy and others as speakers. The event is open to the public and will include light refreshments and ample free street parking. (Further details here.)

Image courtesy of SRDC | More renderings below.

Bartram’s Mile is set to run along the west Schuylkill riverbank from Grays Ferry Avenue to 56th Street and will eventually link to to the Schuylkill River Trail, thereby extending trail access to Southwest Philadelphia and historic Bartram’s Garden. How will this happen? Well, because Bartram’s Mile will be on the Schuylkill’s western bank (the first segment of the trail to be on this side), it will have to connect to the Gray’s Ferry Crescent trail on the eastern bank by way of a novel, though not unheard of, method: a swing bridge.

Read more »

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