PopeRide to Make Best Use Ever of Closed City Streets During Pope Visit

The for-fun group bike ride is open to one and all.


Photo by Jeff Fusco

When local cyclist Alexandria Schneider heard that the Pope was coming to town, she didn’t freak out about the influx of visitors, potential traffic, road and business closures, and general sense of, um, cluster like the rest of us did. She saw an opportunity.

“When was the last time the streets were closed for something other than a natural disaster?” she says. “I’m looking to make the best of a bad situation.”  

So she logged on to Facebook, created an event and called it the PopeRide, a for-fun group bike ride on city streets closed (or mostly closed) to traffic during Pope Francis’s visit to Philadelphia next month. As of this writing, nearly 350 people have signed up to participate.

The 10.23-mile ride will begin at 30th Street Station on Saturday, September 26th at 10 a.m. The route then meanders through Center City — staying inside the mostly-traffic-free “traffic box” — with stretches on interstates 676 and 76, both of which will be closed to vehicular traffic. That’s right: If all goes according to plan, you’ll be able to ride your bike on car-free highways. The ride ends at Washington Square Park.

“We shouldn’t (fingers crossed!) have any problems on the route, but I’ve got a contingency in place for two segments,” wrote Schneider in an email to participants this morning. “If we can’t go on 676, we’ll go to Vine Street. If the Schuylkill is blocked off, we reroute to surface streets until we get to the South Street bridge.”

If you want a double dose of PopeRide fun, there’s another group ride planned for Friday night that’ll take you over the closed Ben Franklin Bridge. Cyclists will meet at 9 p.m. at Washington Square Park; the bridge closes to traffic at 10.

Both rides are open to all levels and ages; cyclists will maintain a leisurely pace. Note: Schneider has not coordinated her plans with city officials — she’s neither reached out to them, nor have they reached out to her. However, if police or other officials say the group can’t ride on a certain road, “we’ll find a different way,” she says.

Schneider says the PopeRide is not intended to be a protest or make a political statement. “We’re just hoping to have kind of a mini party — a rolling celebration,” she says. “It’s in celebration of the Pope and in celebration of what the Pope is bringing — which is closed city streets.”

For the record, Schneider says she reached out to Pope Francis via Twitter and invited him to participate; she hasn’t heard back. “He has an open invitation to ride with us,” she says. “I would be more than happy to have him.”

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