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Thread: Philly cycling

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    Junior Member Evaristus's Avatar
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    Philly cycling

    Not sure if this is the right place to post this, as I'm completely new to the boards...

    Anyway, I've been biking in Philly a couple of years now and am wondering if those of rest of you who live or have lived here find cycling here to be unusually treacherous - esp. on the streets of Center City. Don't have much prior experience with riding in a major metropolis. Anybody have any tales of woe or other good stuff? Any recommendations on dealing with it? The buses and taxis seem to be the worst offenders - besides the potholes and drivers who yell "get off the road!"

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    NoGoSlow HelluvaStella's Avatar
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    I think that's just Philly. The high anxiety type A northeast personality rules here. There's a good amount of hostility from drivers to bikers. Your choice is thus: accept it or give it back. I've been accused of being an aggressive rider, but part of it is borne out of my experiences. I've been hit accidentally and intentionally. I've violated the cars/cabs/busses of those who've crossed me. But I've come to an understanding with the drivers of the city: don't mess with me and I won't mess with you.
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    horray for bikes! lasertotheface's Avatar
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    ive actually always thought that philly was not so bad as far as aggressive drivers goes.

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    put our Heads Together cerewa's Avatar
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    Anyway, I've been biking in Philly a couple of years now and am wondering if those of rest of you who live or have lived here find cycling here to be unusually treacherous - esp. on the streets of Center City. Don't have much prior experience with riding in a major metropolis.
    I ride in center city Philadelphia pretty often. The streets aren't very wide and the sidewalks are crowded, so in my opinion the best option by far is to pick a lane and ride right in the middle of it. Drivers may get mad, but with all the stop signs, traffic lights, and stopped vehicles you won't be slowing them down much. There is no room at all on those streets to ride at the edge of a lane in order to let people pass you in your lane.

    I don't know how much you've heard about vehicular cycling, but I don't think any of people's reservations about riding-like-you're-a-motor-vehicle apply in a place like center city. Because traffic is relatively slow, cars and motorcycles and bicycles all have to behave in nearly the same ways on the roads. So if you want to make a left turn, you should do it from the left lane. If you want to go straight or right, ride in the middle of the right lane. If you want to change lanes or turn, i suggest sticking your left arm straight out to signal left and right arm straight out to signal right at some point before you do it (and before you need to use your brakes), but of course look to see that it's clear as well.

    Most of center city's streets have an actual traffic speed of about 30 or 35 mph max, which should feel pretty safe if you're going 15mph yourself. J.F.Kennedy Blvd. and North Broad St. often have people going really fast, and if you don't like that you might want to avoid them. Vine St. too, i suppose.

    also, don't jump forward on a new green unless you can see for sure that nobody's running a red light... but you probably knew that already.

    I feel much safer in the dense, slow traffic of center city than in the fast-moving traffic you find 15 miles away. It takes some practice to feel comfortable, but just a confident attitude and basic road-user's common sense are pretty much all you need. Don't let yourself worry about somebody hitting you from behind while you're riding as assertively as one ought to drive a car, because that type of accident is very rare. It's much more common for people to get hit doing stupid things at intersections such as behaving unpredictably (which can happen when you act timid or scared).
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    Junior Member Cycli-Bot5000's Avatar
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    I can't speak for how it compares to other cities as Philadelphia is the only city that i've ridden in, but i'd agree that philly streets can be fairly treacherous for the unwary cyclist. In all the time that i've spent riding philly, i've found that the streets are most often either severely eroded, cracked or potholed, littered with various debris, a combination of all of those or ripped up for extended periods of time in preperation for relaying of asphalt. Whatever city or state ordinance it is that's in charge of road repair seems to take it's pretty time getting from the grinding up of the black top to the relaying. It's those sorts of conditions that drive me to ride MTB in the city. I destroyed several road bikes on such terrain, but my GT takes care of everything.

    I'm not sure how i feel about the relationship between motorists and cyclists in the city. What i think it boils down to is that in general it seems that almost no one really respects traffic laws or at least seems to buck them at whim. This goes for motorists, cyclists, skate boarders, roller bladers etc. Most people seem to wish they where the only one on the road and see anyone else on the road as a huge inconvenience and decide to act as though they're the only ones on the road anyway. I think perhaps the cyclists are affected more and become more frustrated by the general disrespect because they are much more vulnerable and because they do not have the motorists option of rolling up the window to block out the surrounding environment. It's up to the cyclist how to process and react, but most times you have no choice but to be party to whatever's being spewed upon you. It sucks for those of those that do try to ride safely, but i can't really blame motorists for wishing cyclists would go away when on a daily basis i see just about every other cyclist on the road diving through traffic lights with little to no caution or making eratic turns without a signal. I imagine to a motorists it's all rather nerve rattling, like driving through a field of heat-seaking insurance claims. So, they don't like us and we don't like them and none of us really like eachother and that's Philly.

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    Junior Member Evaristus's Avatar
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    I had to take some heavy items someplace in town today and had occasion to drive my car... I can barely believe how many ripped-up streets, massive (two feet wide or more) potholes, rocks, cracks, crumbling asphalt, obstacles, blocked-off sidewalks and lanes, and various other threats to bicyclists I saw today!

    I also saw another driver run through a red light (yes, she knew it was red) about three full seconds after the light had already turned to red. This is not uncommon.

    The city likes to spout the rhetoric about bike-friendliness, but, and I hate to be negative here, it's a far cry from the reality.

    Thanks for all the observations from everybody who took the time to reply to this thread, though.

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    Compared to riding in the suburbs with wide, high speed roads that people treat like their own personal race track, I've found riding in the city to be quite fun. Keeping up with the flow of traffic is a novelty given the higher speed limits of where I normally ride. The times I've been in the city lately I've basically been able to blend in with the traffic flow aside from the odd cab driver who needs to do 50. My preferred position for riding is in the traffic lane and nowhere does that position work as nicely and smoothly as it does in the city.

    Anywhere you ride you need to be alert and conscious of all traffic around you. And no matter where you ride people will be jerks (no changing that, and not much difference from driving a car or riding a bike) and people will do stupid things if you let them. Many people find an assertive position the best way to deal with the second type including myself. People will cooperate when there is no other choice.

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    grits enthusiast familytrain's Avatar
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    I feel more uncomfortable riding in Philly than I did in New Orleans, where people fairly routinely got mowed down (sometimes killed dead) by drivers...myself included (except not killed dead). the difference is, it seems, that in N.O., people were just oblivious to their surroundings, whereas in Philly people are aggressive and mean-spirited. that said, I would much rather bike in center city than in the outlying areas like Manayunk, where I live. jerks. morons. cavemen abound.

    considering what a hostile environment exists here, hats off to everyone who rides a bike. I'm getting older and more nervous and find myself sticking to actual bike trails and quiet streets. these car folks scare the bejeebus out of me.

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    dutret has a posse ryand's Avatar
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    how to know you're in philly
    1) be legally riding your bike
    2) get side swiped by car
    3) have driver yell 'get out of the road, ******'
    4) driver drives away
    5) walk to work and have to pay for your bike to be fixed/new bike.
    6) repeat.

    but my favorite experience was on chestnut street.
    "get out of the road!"
    "its a bike lane!"
    "No, its a car lane. get the **** out of the road."

    Yay, fun stuff. Um... don't let people make you get out of the road. Start riding more aggresively.

    Oh, and make sure you get a liscence plate number if/when you get hit. I was dumb enough not to.

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    ryand, your cycling experience matches my motoring experience in Philly exactly

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    I also saw another driver run through a red light (yes, she knew it was red) about three full seconds after the light had already turned to red. This is not uncommon
    .

    Very common. That's just how people drive here. Never trust a green light in Philly until you can see around the corner.

    in N.O., people were just oblivious to their surroundings, whereas in Philly people are aggressive and mean-spirited
    I think the same could be said for the Philly suburbs, and Manayunk, which is full of suburban drivers who are oblivious to everything but an open parking spot. City drivers will curse and honk at you, but they generally won't run you over by mistake. I feel safe riding among them, and I do every day. You just need to exercise a healthy amount of caution until you learn the traffic patterns. The 'burbs are much less predictable. You have to depend a bit on luck and a higher power I think.

  12. #12
    sharkfin. babychris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryand
    how to know you're in philly
    1) be legally riding your bike
    2) get side swiped by car
    3) have driver yell 'get out of the road, ******'
    4) driver drives away
    5) walk to work and have to pay for your bike to be fixed/new bike.
    6) repeat.

    but my favorite experience was on chestnut street.
    "get out of the road!"
    "its a bike lane!"
    "No, its a car lane. get the **** out of the road."

    Yay, fun stuff. Um... don't let people make you get out of the road. Start riding more aggresively.

    Oh, and make sure you get a liscence plate number if/when you get hit. I was dumb enough not to.
    you forgot to mention car doors. you always had a good story or two about them.

  13. #13
    dutret has a posse ryand's Avatar
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    yeah.... car doors and i dont mix.

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    Barbieri Telefonico huhenio's Avatar
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    I usually can go faster than the motorized traffic on the bike.

    I agree with cerewa
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    tarck bike.com exile 666pack's Avatar
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    the only complaint i have about riding in philly is cobblestones and horrible quality pavement... but that's all of pennsylvania for you, afterall we do have the worst roads in the nation.

  16. #16
    dutret has a posse ryand's Avatar
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    the only complaint i have about philly is how fat all the citizens are...

    on a serious note, i do have to agree on the cobblestone thing, but the streets in philly tend to be relatively smooth. dc has cracks everywhere and really lumpy streets, and new york is an adventure around every corner. one of my favorite things about philly is the ease of navigation... its built on ****ing squares. i love it. dc is like new jersey turned into a city... circles and diagonals and all sorts of odd shapes and sizes. its not very friendly if youve never been here. im starting to get it down now, but the diagonals and streets suddenly turning one way and all sorts of weird things happen here.

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    sharkfin. babychris's Avatar
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    the only thing ive really been bothered with in philly is people who are going down broad street and try and make a yellow light and come within 1-2 feet of you because they think they can make it. the only other thing I can think of it trolly tracks. they can be danger central.

  18. #18
    tarck bike.com exile 666pack's Avatar
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    oh, trolly tracks suck. i've ****ed myself up on trolly tracks enough times to avoid streets the tracks run on. philadelphia is my favorite city ever, ben knew what he was doing when he made all those square blocks and parks. there's a never-ending supply nice places to chill when you're out for a ride.

  19. #19
    sharkfin. babychris's Avatar
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    youre so right about the endless supply of places to chill when riding. theyre everywhere.

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