Last Wednesday marked the second outing on my bike in Philadelphia, and it went well! L had the whole week off, so I took a half day so we could go on a biking picnic. The Sun was shining and the temperature topped out at 80. It was a great day.
We took the Spruce Street bike lane all the way from Old City to the entrance of the Schuylkill River Trail at 25th and Locust. So far, I have always dismounted for cobblestone; I swear, this city and it’s cobblestone. After that, it was pretty much smooth sailing! It was about 11:30 a.m. when we were headed out, so the streets were relatively clear until we got on the west side of Broad- here the lanes are almost always blocked.
A huge improvement for me on this excursion was my ability to look behind me independently to check for cars without L having to do it for me. Another improvement was feeling OK merging into the lane when the bike lane ends and not feeling like I have to hug the side of the road at risk to me. A win!
I am, however, still unsure how to merge into actual traffic. I trust this is an advanced maneuver that is better avoided at first. I also trust that I need to get better at hand-signals and, you know, actually removing a hand from the handlebars to alert drivers to my intentions. For now, L saves the day.
We hop on the trail, and it appears the rest of the city decided to forgo work in favor of sunny skies as well. Have I been that walker in a group that takes over both lanes of the trail? I really can’t remember doing so, but who knows. Anyway, the trail is rather frustrating until we get passed Boat House Row. Then, it clears out and is AMAZING. The Sun is shining and I’m feeling good and strong today! I’m shifting successfully and going faster. I even pass people! How about it?!
Somewhere around Falls Bridge I have a bizarre exchange with two men who are taking up the entire lane and moving rather slowly. I wait for a while, then move as far to the left as possible and give a sort of overkill On your left as I pass. They tell me I’m not supposed to do that. As a beginner biker I just give a Er, oh, okay before continuing on, red-faced. Apparently they were joking, as they revealed to L when they realized we were together… Huh?
I decide I’m up to continue on. There is something mildly terrifying about riding so close to the crazy traffic on Lincoln Drive. We arrive at the entrance to the Wissahickon Park across the way from the Wissahickon Transport Center. We enter the park and ride a bit along the windy, beautifully paved and empty trail. We cross a couple suspect bridges before we find a nice area with benches and some lovely houses. Phew. We take out our packed lunch of a green bean salad, potatoes, and sardines, all topped with cilantro and our dessert of apricots and chocolate. Eager not to get caught up in afternoon traffic we get going.
There is afternoon traffic. But first, we take the alternative trail on the other side of the Schuylkill (we cross at Falls Bridge) that, despite the crazy bumps in the pavement from the protruding tree roots, is my preferred route. It’s empty. We cross again at Spring Garden, and the main trail is packed. We get back on the road. I’m feeling pretty confident now. That is until I teeter off and almost fall.
Almost. Maybe I’m being unnecessarily dramatic. Philly intersections are just ridiculous. In this case, basically every weird thing that could happen did. A big van with no blinker or anything pulling in front of us. A taxi riding my butt and overwhelming me. Another car following him. So I teetered off, couldn’t get my footing, and proceeded to yell in frustration (embarrassed because there were kids around, they didn’t flinch. Ha! ), and dismount my bike and walk it to the end of the block. Admitting defeat is sometimes the best solution.
I reached the end of the block, got back on, and the rest of the ride was happily uneventful. Once I get on the east side of Broad, I am happy. Once we neared home, I even challenged myself to ride on the busy side street home that has no bike lanes. Success!
I have a lot to work on, namely shifting more easily, hand signals/entering traffic, starting and stopping more quickly and riding on my own. I love taking the bikes out together, but I really need to get better at these and get out there. There’s a group ride in a few weeks that I’m considering. It’s in the morning on a weekday, so I am hoping that means an easier ride.
Until then, wishing for warmer days and empty summer weekend morning streets.
Enjoy your weekend, folks! Who will be at the Travel and Adventure show? Be sure to say hi!