Saturday, October 10, 2015

Coffeeneuring ride #1

Today I rode to Outbound Station in Conshohocken. The ride was approximately 32 miles, and I had a chai latte, bagel with cream cheese, and banana. Outbound Station is right next to the Conshohocken train station on the Schuylkill River Trail, and is a favorite ride stop for Philadelphian roadies. There are two bike racks outside, and lots (LOTS!) of bike-specific decorations inside.

I'm spoiled. I got into bicycling when I lived in Seattle. Taking the bus everywhere was a drag, and people biking looked like they were having fun. So, I started biking. I got to commute on the Burke Gilman Trail every day, and frequently took the long way home on a series of trails that took me around Elliot Bay. There's a bench near Centennial Park over there that I could always count on as a place to sit and stare at the water, about a mile from my apartment.

Philadelphia...is another story. When the Schuylkill was named the best urban trail in the US, I laughed audibly. I didn't vote for it; I voted for the Burke Gilman. The Schuylkill takes you out of the city; the Burke takes you through it. The Schuylkill is FULL of PEOPLE who don't practice good trail etiquette. Sure, many do, but far too many do not. But there isn't even good signage telling people what to do, or where to go. This is an old story, but Saturday on the Schuylkill is battling kit-clad roadies, people pushing strollers, a regatta, pedal-powered carts that hold entire families and travel at walking speed, lots and lots of joggers, and people out on bikes for an excursion. It's not their fault. It's not my fault. It's not all that well-designed of a trail, and only divides walkers & runners from bicyclists (etc.) in a few very short places. There are several blind curves, and it's not all that wide.

But it's the best we have, and there's a whole lot of us who live here. Even though I mutter under my breath about all the annoying things that go on on that trail, I'm still glad we have it. I realize, I understand that while it is possible to have nice things in Philly, anyone who wants to improve trails, green spaces, bike lanes, or even pavement quality in this town is climbing an uphill battle and fighting against general political will. It's so much harder to get things done here than most people realize. Looking to cities like Seattle, Portland, or Vancouver and demanding that we have their infrastructure (and criticizing local advocacy groups in the process) is misunderstanding the way each city works. We need to celebrate small victories here, because it's just so difficult to get anything done.

Look, we can't all live in Seattle. I surely couldn't. But we take what we can from the environment in which we live. We do the best we can.