Monthly Archives: January 2010

Books I’m reading

A book I recently finished was Green Metropolis.  It had some really good perceptions of town planning and how towns mess things up while trying to improve things for pedestrians and bicyclists.  Here’s the NY Times book review.

Tom Branigan  loaned me David Byrne’s book, Bicycle Diaries.  I ended up buying a copy anyway.  Byrne is coming to talk about bicycle advocacy next Thursday at the Academy of Natural Sciences.  So far, I’ve found his book enjoyable.  He shares a global perspective and writes well.

While ordering a copy of Bicycle Diaries for myself, I decided to also get Jeff Mapes’ book, Pedaling Revolution.  David Byrne reviewed Mapes’ book in the New York Times.  No offense to Byrne, but I can’t put Mapes’ book down.  Part of it is that I get to read about friends like John Dowlin.

John Dowlin was one of the creators of the 1974 Philadelphia Bicycle Map and was one of the founders of the Bicycle Coalition.  He has been an inspiration and has dedicated much of his life to promoting the joys of bicycling.  I’ve learned a lot from his Bicycle Network News books and Cycle and Recycle Calendars.  We’ve bicycled together and had conversations about Mapping Havana Cuba.  We’ve worked together on Neighborhood Bike Works.  In John’s calm, passionate way, he knows how to stick to his vision of improving the world.  Mapes quotes John as saying, “I really felt the bicycle could be for the world’s cities what the spinning wheel was for Ghandi.”

These two bicycle books have made their way in front of other books that are sitting in my pile.

Next on my list is Restructuring the Philadelphia Region, by Carolyn Adams, David Bartelt, David Elesh and Ira Goldstein.  Mark Mattson, my cartography instructor at Temple GUS Department, did the maps.

Gerry Krieg gave me the book:  You are Here – Why We Can Find Our Way to the Moon, but Get Lost in the Mall, by Colin Ellard.

I also bought copies of the WPA Guide to Philadelphia and the WPA Guide to Pennsylvania.  Every Philadelphian needs to check out a copy of the WPA Guide to Philadelphia (at the library).

The convenience and uniqueness of Jenkintown

biek to school

Our Bike Friday Tandem. An awesome commute to school.

I moved to Jenkintown from Chestnut Hill.  In the past I’ve lived at 21st and Spruce, Academy House (14th and Locust), Spruce Hill, Fairmount, and Spring Garden neighborhoods.  While very nice, none of these locations in Philadelphia can compare to the convenience of Jenkintown, especially if you have a family.  I’ll also add that I’d take Jenkintown to living on the Main Line any day.

Despite living just a few blocks from the R7 Chestnut Hill East, I really wasn’t happy with hourly rail service that’s so typical.  My wife works in Abington, and Jenkintown is a dream location for a rail commuter who doesn’t want to worry about missing the next train.  The Jenkintown-Wyncote Station is served by the R1, R2, R3 and R5 trains and is the best served station outside of Center City and Temple.

The town itself is a little hilly, but it’s compact, has a historic housing stock (in multiple price ranges and sizes), sidewalks everywhere, and beautiful old street trees.  You can live here more easily without a car than you can in Center City.  A bicyclist or walker has easy access to Acme, Whole Foods,  Trader Joes, Produce Junction, Glenside Farmers Market or Barnes and Noble.  I can walk to four coffee shops in 5-15 minutes and bike to several more in that same time.  We have inexpensive office space, good restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a remarkably nice first run community movie theater.

I can walk to an indoor swimming pool/fitness club, walk to the dentist, ophthalmologist or the doctor, walk to UPS in 3 minutes or one of two post offices in 5.  I can walk to my insurance agent, accountant, community bank or car repair place in just a few minutes.

We have two fire departments within about a 5 minute walk from my house, one of which has a 4th of July Bicycle Parade.  Our library is beautiful and houses the Old York Road Historical Society.  We have an effective police department, headed up by Chief Al.  The Abington Art Center is about a 10 minute walk from my house. Our town square is a gathering spot for events throughout the year.

Politically, it’s an interesting place.  Our volunteer borough council, school board, and borough staff work very hard.  Ed Foley, our mayor lives up the street from me and is a remarkably likable guy.  Larry Curry, our State Representative lives across the street from Ed.  I think Larry has the best environmental record in the state legislature. I’ve seen Representative Curry waiting for the 55 SEPTA Bus to head to Philadelphia Community College to teach history. Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz has both her Congressional office and her campaign office here.  I saw Joe Hoeffel, our former Congressman, current County Commissioner, and current candidate for Governor at the Drake Tavern recently.  There’s probably a reason that President Obama came to the West Ave Grille in Jenkintown during his campaign. Even State Representative Josh Shapiro (champion of distracted driving bills in the legislature) comes to Jenkintown to get coffee.

Jenkintown is really a remarkable place, and there is a reason that people move here for the schools and then stay for the next 30-40 years.  As residents get older, a lot of times they move into Beaver Hill Condominiums to stay apart of the community while downsizing their living space.

As a parent, I’m excited by the fact that my kids will be able to walk to school from K-12.  Jenkintown residents treasure their public and private schools.  We have the smallest school district in the state, and we don’t even need school buses.  We have 8 or 9 really nice crossing guards, and parents get to know each other as they walk their kids to school or wait to pick them up.  I actually bike on a tandem with my daughter to school, and a 10 minute walk ends up being a 3 minute bike ride.

I originally stumbled across our house while on a bike ride. It’s a 1920’s Dutch Colonial, and I’m told that the inventor of bubble gum used to live here.  The Kingsleys, who we bought the house from, were really nice.  And if want to describe where I live, I just say, “The Kingsley’s house.”

People here ride bikes.  Herb, my next door neighbor who is 80, both bicycles and skis.  Ted and Rosie, a couple houses away tour in Europe on their bikes.  Bert, who lives a few more houses away, bikes into his engineering job in Center City.  Bill and Elizabeth, who live across the street, both ride their Bromptons to work (one heads west to Plymouth Meeting.  The other heads to Trenton).  Josh, a lawyer in Center City rides his folding bike to work.  Tom, an art teacher in Southwest Philadelphia, brings his folding bike on the train.  A guy on Greenwood Ave bikes over to Fox Chase Cancer Center for his commute. We have a former bike racer and avid photographer named Big Al in town (He’s the guy in pink spandex).  A cyclist named Chuck lives in Beaver Hill apartments and bikes about 100 miles a week.  Adrienne (our movie discussion leader) bikes to summer camp with her son.  He’s on a trailer bike.  Bridget Chadwick doesn’t live in Jenkintown, but she bikes through all the time with her daughter.  Reverend Sandy Hull, at Grace Presbyterian Church rides a couple of times a week.  My neighbor Joe rides with his son JT on a trailer bike.  Our Borough Council President bought a bike at Guys Bicycles this past year.  I could go on and on.

Our local residents businesses here want to support bicycling.  For example, we showed the Movie No Impact Man on a Monday night and raised $700 towards bike racks.  About the same time, the Jenkintown Environmental Advisory Committee decided to contribute $500.  The Jenkintown Kiwanis Club said they’d commit $500.  Dr. Stuart Tollen, our award winning chiropractor (at Jenkintown Chiropractic), asked to sponsor a bike rack.  The Borough Council is looking into buying bike racks, and the masterplan calls for putting bike lanes on York Road…

As I’ve mentioned before, I can bike to anywhere in Center City in under an hour.  (It’s 40 minutes to Undine Barge Club on Boat House Row if I bike fast at 5 am.  And every trip into Center City can take a slightly different route.

To sum up… I could be very happy living in Philadelphia.  I don’t because we chose to live near my wife’s job and minimize her commute.  And I think that, in finding Jenkintown, we totally lucked out.  Now if we can get a bike shop to locate next to the Jenkintown Running Company or someplace else in town, this would be great.

Map section of the Free Library

Map Librarian at Philadelphia Free Library

Richard Boardman has our maps!

I have always enjoyed browsing old maps at the Main Branch of the Free Library in Philadelphia.  And, when I first came to visit, Richard Boardman had the 1974 version of the Bicycle Commuters Map posted.

In grad school, I’d find old maps showing the city before the Parkway was built or maps of Fairmount Park during the Centennial Exposition. Even if I didn’t need maps, I came here to study and enjoy the awesome indoor space.

The spacious interior of the map room at the Free Library.

And as I’ve designed maps for Philadelphia and the region, I’ve always given Richard a bunch to give out.

Today, if you’re looking for one of the City’s Official Bike Maps, you can still get them here.  They may be outdated, but people still post them above their desks at work.

Jenkintown to Milk Boy Coffeehouse


Bike above the barista at Milkboy

Driving from Jenkintown to Milkboy Coffeehouse in Ardmore takes about 40-45 minutes. So, I was curious to see what the difference was on a bike.  Bicycling there took  1hr 10 min, and bicycling home took 1 hr, 5 min.  There was a bit of a breeze.

On the route there, I biked on Washington Lane, over to Roxborough and across the Schuylkill on the west side of Manyunk.  Then it was uphill from there to Montgomery Ave.  I took a back entrance into Suburban Square and walked beneath the SEPTA R5 railroad tracks to Milkboy on Lancaster Ave.

Trail along Wissahickon Creek next to Lincoln Drive

I took a different route home.  To Wynnewood, I took Lancaster Ave east and then took a back route to City Ave.  I don’t recommend bicycling on City Ave, but I just felt like trying it to make sure.  I had to act as part of the traffic and move to the center lane on City Ave to avoid being cut off by cars entering the Schuylkill Expressway.  On the bridge over the Schuylkill here, there’s a sidewalk.  But if you’re bicycling on the road, you’re kind of committed to staying on the road to West Ridge Ave.  This takes you to the Wissahickon trail entrance at the Wissahickon Creek and Ridge Ave.  I followed the trail to Historic Rittenhouse Town and turned left on Wissahickon Ave to Walnut Lane. This took me over Lincoln Drive and I made my way back to Washington Lane north.

12.6 miles, 1 hr 10 min, Average speed of 10.7 mph

Jenkintown to Milkboy in Ardmore

Shady rack

Careful where you lock up! I just saw this on Chestnut between 17th and 18th. I chose the next rack down…

My vision for Bicycle PA

Bicycle PA map panel layout

I want to put our Bicycle PA Route maps into perspective – i.e. Why I’m investing time and money  into something that is going to be available to anyone for free.

Vision for the maps:

This map series (to be available for download as pdfs) will highlight the Bicycle PA signed bicycle routes and nearby roads and amenities.  I’m making it free because I want to encourage bicyclists, local communities, and individuals to provide input to the on-going development of this series.

Phases of the mapping:

  1. Develop an efficient, standardized process for mapping (and editing) the routes.
  2. Develop a distribution and collaborative input process through
  3. Develop information specific to individual map panels that will include photos, illustrations, essays and notes.

How the maps fit into my unofficial vision for the Bicycle PA system

I decided to create my own mission statement and framework for this system – something simple that I can use to guide me.  There’s probably something official, but it’s still helpful for me to internalize a vision, so here it goes…

Bicycle PA Mission Statement:

A Pennsylvania bicycle route system where cyclists of all ages and parts of the world will come together to meet, explore, and share stories while engaging in a physical challenge amidst a beautiful landscape that is our Commonwealth.

Bicycle PA Implementation:

Phase 1: Plan and sign the Bicycle PA Routes (This is done)

Phase 2: Map the Bicycle PA Routes (We are doing this now)

Phase 3: Market the route opportunities to Pennsylvanians (Outreach)

Phase 4: Identify and purchase or get agreements to use small properties to be used as Hiker/Biker sites.

Phase 5: Develop Hiker/Biker Campsites with the following features:

  • 1/2 to 2 acres, or designated areas of existing campgrounds
  • No reservations are needed
  • Covered Pavillion with a table, with solar lighting system
  • Composting toilet
  • Water source
  • Kiosk to services, rules, and local host contact info
  • Log book

Phase 6: Continued maintenance, expansion, evaluation and promotion of the routes.

Where to go from here:

I’m focused on what I want to focus on (currently phase 2) and have no intention on managing Bicycle PA.  I believe that capable people and organizations who know their own skill sets (and resources) and are internally motivated will figure out how to contribute to the realization of this vision.

Tour de la vie

Tour de la vie

Got this T-shirt at a wedding.

What do you get your brother-in-law who met your sister on a bike ride?  Mine gets me waterproof clothing, rear-view helmet mirrors, etc.

I got my brother-in-law a membership to Adventure Cycling Association because I think ACA has an awesome mission and succeeds in fulfilling it everyday.

From the ACA Website: Our mission is to inspire people of all ages to travel by bicycle. We help cyclists explore the landscapes and history of America for fitness, fun, and self-discovery.

Adventure Cycling has first-rate publications, so even if my brother-in-law rarely gets on his expensive custom painted feather of a bike, I think he’s going to  enjoy this gift.  Actually, I think he’s already inspired to travel by bicycle.

Ride to Mugshots

Mugshots, on Fairmount Ave.

Mugshots Coffeehouse, on Fairmount Ave.

Yesterday, John Branigan and I met at Mugshots, a great coffee shop in Fairmount (and Manyunk) with an extensive local foods buying club. John and I brain stormed, talked about what’s working and what’s not, talked about clients’ needs, and left with a list of problems to solve. Problem solving with the right people makes work fun.

To get to our 10:30 meeting, I left home at 9:40. The worst part of my ride always seems to be in Cheltenham. Washington Lane is far too wide and drivers treat it like an interstate. I’m not a fan of having cars come within 2 feet of me going 50 miles an hour. Once in Philadelphia, I feel much more comfortable.  The cars parked on a street like Washington Ave in Philadelphia cause traffic to move more slowly, and the roads are part of the neighborhoods, not just means of getting beyond them (as in Cheltenham).

My route took me through Germantown on bike lanes and then to Midvale Ave down to the river.  Rather than follow the trail along the Schuylkill, I biked on Ridge Avenue to Girard and zigzagged through Fairmount to the coffeehouse.

Mileage: 11.5 miles, Time: 51:18
Jenkintown to Mugshots in Fairmount

Philadelphia Bike Map in Apple OSX Video

This is an image from Apple’s 2007 video for OSX.  We have always designed our maps on Macintosh Computers (since 1990).  In 2007, When Apple came out with the Leopard operating system, I was glad to see that they included the Philadelphia Bike Map in the promotional  video.

If you want to get copies of this map, it’s available at the Main Branch of the Philadelphia Free Library in the Map Room.

Registered for the Bike Summit

An old photo of Steve, Kate and our Congresswoman

An old photo of Steve, Kate and Congresswoman Schwartz

I signed up for the League of American Bicyclists Annual Summit, which is March 9-11 in Washington DC. Fortunately, my Congresswoman, Allyson Schwartz, cares about bicycling an healthy communities, and she is very effective as a policy maker. I have really enjoyed serving on the Jenkintown Community Alliance Board with Julie Slavet who manages the Congresswoman’s local office.

The Bike Summit is a wonderful place to learn about national policies that affect us locally, and I encourage anyone who cares about bicycling to attend.  The early registration ends soon, so now is a good time to register.

If you want another cool experience, attend Velo-City 2010 in Copenhagen.  I went to the Velo-Mondial conference in Amsterdam in 2000, and it was incredible to be immersed in a bicycle friendly culture.