Bumpy trails, bleeding heads, boys running with oars, and angry geese…Must be spring!

With the fair-weather crowds, I’ve been riding mostly on the west side of the river. A few more bumps on the trail over there, but when faced with rollerbladers meandering the crowded trails alongside dogs on long leashes and mobs of friends walking side-by-side, I’ll take the bumps. (One can connect to the east side via the East Falls Bridge.) I suppose this will be one up-side when the oppressive heat hits us this summer. We’ll reclaim the trails!

Recent happenings/sightings on the commute include:

A cyclist (on a fold-up) with a bleeding head. She was hit near the Market St Bridge and appeared to be ok, but wow was there a lot of blood. Yikes. Wear helmets and be safe!

A high school crew team running along the trail with oars, yes OARS!, in each hand. What kind of coach sends twenty 16 year-old boys off on an extremely crowded trail to run with giant sticks? I almost stopped to take their picture, but I feared getting whacked in the head.

Poor use of taxpayer dollars example #402,003: A policeman who sits at the Walnut St. entrance to Penn Park periodically in order to tell the occasional cyclist entering to walk their bikes on the nearly deserted ramp to the park.

Angrier than normal geese. Must be mating season. Careful out there!


The crazy things people do, another alternative while the trail is still closed, and views from the train…

The trouble with nice weather is that it brings out the crowds, and with the crowds come the crazies. Here’s one example: On Tuesday I was biking home from work, enjoying the beautiful weather when I found myself behind two cyclists and a blind corner up ahead. I fell in slowly behind them, waiting for a safe place to pass. When we got around the corner, I saw ahead of them a small child on his bicycle, weaving back and forth haphazardly, and his mother, several steps behind…on her cell phone. On an open trail with few people around? Maybe. But this was not the place for negligent parenting (and yes,  there are good–or at least better…Ok, fine, acceptable?–places for negligent parenting). The three of us on the bikes slowed down almost to a standstill to allow the child and mother to pass. At that point, apparently, there were some words exchanged by the mother and the cyclist in front of me, and the next thing I know I see the mother, still on her cell phone, start yelling obscenities at the cyclist and sticking her foot out repeatedly at her wheel (to kick it? get run over? not sure…). Now, I’m a mother, and I would love to stick up for the mom here. I take my kids on trails a lot, and I have run across some real jerks on bicycles who seem to think that children should be locked up away from all trails. But the cyclist in front of me was certainly not one of them. I can only feel for the child..If only I could force people like that (the mother, I mean) to read my trail etiquette post!

In other exciting news, my bicycle is out of the shop and running great. Thank you so much to the guys at Wisshickon Cyclery I think the improvements have probably cut 5 minutes or so off my commute. See Jane ride. See Jane be happy.

There were a couple days where my bike was in the shop, and I hadn’t yet broken down and pulled out my monster Trek and therefore rode the train. And let me tell you, I do NOT want to go back to commuting by train. In the span of two days I missed the train by a hair and had to call a friend to pick up my kids from school. (Meanwhile, the second train was late.) I was squeezed between two unfriendly men, one who smelled of alcohol and one who insisted on sitting with his knees nearly three feet apart. And, of course, I shelled out nearly $16 for these privileges. I am so grateful that the option to commute by train is there when I need it, but so happy I can usually take advantage of the two wheeled option instead.

The third day without my bicycle was an absolutely gorgeous, beg-to-ride-your-bike kind of day so I pulled out my old Trek Hybrid from 2001. Certainly not the worst bike in the world, but after sitting in the basement neglected for a couple years, and after becoming accustomed to a bicycle that I love, it almost felt tortuous. I don’t know if it was the bike or just my psychological state when on the bike, but I felt like I was riding a beach cruisers while everyone else was on Madones. The only bike I managed to pass was one of those fold-up deals. (Why do people ride those on trails? Aren’t they for riding five blocks from the train to the office?…)

And lastly, should anyone be looking for another alternative while the trail work along Lincoln Drive is going on, to the side of the guard rail along Lincoln Drive there is a narrow but passable path. A bit tough to ride the whole thing without dismounting for those of us with side panniers, but at least it is an alternative.

My husband took this picture on the way home one night. This guardrail is on the northwest side of Lincoln Drive, paralleling the trail that is closed.


This alternative may not be there for long, however, as I got an email tonight from WMAN stating:

“Beginning Friday, March 2, a single lane will be closed on southbound Lincoln Drive from Wissahickon Drive to Forbidden Drive.  The closure is needed for the continuing repairs to the supporting retaining wall.

The closures will be scheduled at 9:00 am after the morning rush starting Friday, March 2 and daily through the next two weeks. Advanced warning signs will be placed to channel a single lane of inbound traffic around the work area. During construction, the parking area along southbound Lincoln Drive is closed.”
I’m not sure how having both the trail and the road closed will affect the option next to the guardrail. However, Ken also reports that continuing along Ridge into Manayunk to Henry to the Walnut Lane Bridge is a good alternative. And, of course, one can also turn up Midvale off of Kelly Drive and go through East Falls and Germantown.

More on the Lincoln Drive Trail closing

This is the sign posted along the trail alerting people of the upcoming trail closing. In the background is the retaining wall they are planning to fix.

So, I stopped to get the scoop on the trail closing to on my way into work and was told by a very nice crew of about 10 city(?) workers that the trail would be closed, starting tomorrow, for some “temporary fixes” that would help “keep Lincoln Drive from falling into the creek until some federal dollars come through”. The sign posted (photo above) said the trail closing would be Feb. 7-April 30, but the crew I spoke with said they thought it could be opened back up earlier. Let’s hope!

When I came home tonight I had a message on my phone and in my inbox. So, while I wasn’t given much warning, at least information about the trail closing was eventually disseminated. As for getting around the closing, we plan to take Kitchen’s Lane down to Forbidden Drive to connect with what I believe will be an open section of the Lincoln Dr. Trail from Forbidden Drive to Ridge Ave. (and then on toward Center City). On lazy or busy days, we’ll just park in East Falls and bike from there. Here’s hoping this plan works out and the repairs are made quickly! I’m viewing it as a nice excuse to spend more time along Forbidden Drive, which I usually cut out via Wissahickon Ave and Rittenhouse Town in order to save time…

This From West Mount Airy Neighbors, via email:

Repair Work on Lincoln Drive

Emergency repair work begins on February 7th along Lincoln Drive between Rittenhouse Street & Forbidden Drive.
The stone/masonry retaining walls in this area were damaged by last year’s record rainfalls. The work is expected to take 2 months. The parking areas on the southbound side will be closed. The Park Trail between Forbidden Drive & the Pabst Lane Bridge will be closed to pedestrians & bicyclists.There will be some vehicular lane closings during off-peak hours.Check local traffic reports & updates if you’re planning to use Lincoln Drive.
No detours are planned.
For further info, contact the Streets Department at 215-686-5560.

Great start to the morning!

The crazy turn in the bike path at the corner of Kelly Drive and Ridge Avenue has been widened! I am a happy, happy commuter! Hi-hip Hooray! This is particularly good news with winter approaching. I have had numerous near wipe-outs  trying to make this tight corner (pre-widening) on ice covered cement, only to notice at the last minute a cyclist or jogger coming the other way. This should make the transition from the Schuylkill path to the Lincoln path much more pleasant. Hooray!

See the Bicycle Coalition Blog for before and during construction photos.

This morning, I was able to ride on the completed, widened corner (and didn’t have to go flying out into angry morning traffic). I was so delighted, I stopped to take a picture:

Newly widened corner at Kelly Drive and Ridge Ave.

And boy was I lucky I stopped! I felt lucky enough to have the construction completed of course, but then I noticed one of my panniers had fallen off (something that has happened only twice over a few years of riding daily)! I rode back to find it and see this handsome man riding toward me with an extra bag. My knight in shining spandex! Ivan, it just so happened, had been running late behind me, after dropping off the little ones so I could get in early for a meeting, saw my bag on one of the Wissahickon bridges and picked it up, recognizing it as mine. So, not only did I get my bag back quickly–and didn’t miss my meeting–but I got to ride in with my love after all. Great start to the morning!

Ewww, gross!

Where do you shower?  It is the probably the most common question I get about my bicycle commute.  The answer is…I don’t.  Well, of course, I shower at home everyday.  But nope, no shower for me when I get into work.  There are a few showers available on campus, if I really, really needed them, but that would just waste time.  What, 10 miles of riding your bike, and you don’t shower!?!  Ewww, gross!  Well, maybe that’s true, but I’ve worked it out.  There are a couple of things that make it easy.  I have a relatively flexible and casual job, the bike ride in is mostly downhill so I don’t get quite as sweaty as on my ride home, and I have an office where I can shut the door to prep.  But perhaps more importantly, I have low standards.

So how exactly do I go about riding to work, not showering and not stinking up my department?  Well, when I get into work, I first go to the sink and rinse my face.  I have a large utility sink near my office so I can also stick my legs and arms in on rainy days and get the mud off.  Then, I head to my office–I try to get in at least 30 minutes before I need to be presentable–and I stretch and cool down while I read my email and get settled in.  Once I’m cooled off, I use wet towelettes to wipe off.  Then I get dressed, put on a bit of make-up and some deodorant, brush my hair, and I’m good to go.  Gross?  Maybe, to the overly sanitized types, but if this is what I have to do to get in 20 miles of riding my bicycle every day while working full-time and being a mommy of two little ones, I’ll take it.  You know how people like to say, “You can’t do it all!”  Well, I like to think that maybe you sort of can, or at least most of it, but you won’t always look good doing it, and that is ok with me.  Just don’t get too close.  And truth be told, I don’t even come close to doing it all, but at least biking to work gets me a little closer.

Basic Trail Etiquette

Some basic etiquette for those of us who use busy, urban/suburban, multi-use recreational trails, including Forbidden Drive Trail, Lincoln Drive Trail and the Schuylikill River Trail

For everyone:

A busy trail is very similar to a roadway.  If you wouldn’t do it on the street, don’t do it on the path either.  This includes U-turns without looking over your shoulder, passing on the right, stopping in the middle of the path, walking in the middle or left side of the path, and yelling obscenities.  (OK, so maybe we each occasionally do that last one on the roadways, but it isn’t acceptable on the trail.)   Also, if you walk, run or bike with headphones, keep one ear free, or turn your music down low enough to hear passing traffic.  Keep in mind the nature of a multi-use trail.  While you may be trying to get to work on your bicycle, others are trying to enjoy a morning stroll with their child.  Conversely, if you are strolling along hand-n-hand with your lovey, keep in mind that someone behind you may be trying to get home to their family on their way home from work.

The Basics:

Walk, run, skate and cycle to the right of the trail.

Pass on the left.

Share the trail.

Try to anticipate the actions of those ahead to avoid collisions.

Always listen and be on the look-out for others.

If you plan to stop, look behind you first, and stop to the side of the trail.

Do not litter, and practice low-impact trail use.

Be polite.  (We’re all out there for recreation, after all.  Trail rage is no fun.)

Be aware of your surroundings.

Glance over your shoulder periodically, and always before stopping, passing and turning.

Never cross the trail without looking.  (It is bad enough that the geese do this.)

Look out for the well-being of other trail users.

Special Considerations with Children:

Keep your children within arms’ reach and to the right of the path.

Consider using the trail at less busy times (or another area such as a parking lot or grassy field) for things like teaching your child how to ride a bike.

Teach your children how to use a multi-use trail safely and review the basics each time you get on the trail together.  (I knew I had succeeded with this one when my son yelled at me “Mom, stay to the right of the path!”  Do as I say, not as I do…)

Special Considerations with Dogs:

Be mindful of how well-behaved your canine friend really is, and before taking them on a busy trail, make sure you have good control.  (Ask a friend their opinion, as doggie mommies and daddies, myself included, often have wildly flawed perceptions of our dogs’ obedience.)   If there’s a possibility Spot will jump or bark at children, bikers or runners, consider training him elsewhere and at less busy times before taking him on a busy path a 5pm.  Full disclosure: my naughty little lovable pooch is old and cranky and therefore no longer allowed on busy paths.

Only walk your dog on a busy trail if you are using a very short leash.  Trying to pass someone who is walking a dog on a long leash is extremely dangerous for the person passing, as well as the doggie and the owner.

Consider keeping your dog to your right, on the outside of the path.

Special Considerations for In-Line Skaters:

When the trail is busy, limit the wide turns and side-swinging of your arms.

Skate in control and ready to stop quickly and safely.

Special Considerations for Walkers and Runners:

Stay on the right side of the path.

If passing a slower pedestrian, look quickly behind you before going to the left side of the trail to pass.

Don’t walk or run with more than one other person sise-by-side during busy times on the path.  Your group should never take up more than half of the path.  Ideally, groups should run single-file when the trail is busy.

Special Considerations for Bikers:

Unless passing others, stay to the right of the path and pass on the left.

Cycle in control.  Be ready to stop quickly and safely.

Don’t cycle with more than one other person sise-by-side during busy times on the path.  Your group should never take up more than half of the path.  Ideally, groups should cycle single-file when the trail is busy.

When passing others, slow down and look quickly behind you before going to the left side of the trail to pass.

When necessary, alert others that you’re intending to pass with an audible (but not jolting) “Passing on your left!”  “Out of the way!!” is not acceptable, even if it is what we want to scream sometimes.  If you’re biking in a pair or group, informing others of the number passing is helpful (e.g., “Five bikers passing on your left!”).

Special Considerations for Spitters:

Do your spitting and snot-blowing when others aren’t nearby, and try to avoid landing your luggies on the trail.

The nuts and bolts of my commute

I live in Mt. Airy, near Hortter St. and Lincoln Dr.,  and  work at Penn, near 33rd and Spruce.  Depending on weather, lights, traffic on the trail and my starting point, my commute in can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 50 minutes.  Coming home, since it is uphill near the end, usually takes a bit longer.

My starting place varies because sometimes I bike in directly from home, but other times, if I am in charge of dropping off one or both kiddos, I might park near my son’s school (in Germantown), near Rittenhouse Town off Lincoln Drive, or even in East Falls (on Midvale).  We have one car and therefore keep a bike rack permanently on the back to make taking the kids in to school, parking the car, riding in, and having the other parent able to bike quickly to the car for kiddo pick-up as easy as possible.  On a typical day I’ll have one ride that is about 6-8 miles and one ride about 10 miles.

Both of our schedules are somewhat flexible so when we ride in and back varies a lot day to day.   Typically I take the train home if I am commuting home after dark, but my husband and I both have lights for our bicycles (more on safety in another post).

The route from home to work:

Ride down Hortter St.

Cross Lincoln Drive and continue on Hortter.

Turn left at Wissahickon.

Just after Walnut and before Wissahickon crosses Lincoln Dr., take a sharp right onto the path through Rittenhouse Town.

This is where the trail section of the commute begins, and this section is often referred to “Rittenhouse Town Trail” and is paved in some sections and is packed gravel in other sections.

Follow path and turn right to stay on trail just before the trail runs into Lincoln Drive.

Follow path to the parking lot at the end of Forbidden Drive trail.

Go through this small lot, turning slightly to the left to the continuation of the paved trail.  (There is a wooden bridge on this section.)

This section of the trail is referred to as Lincoln Drive Trail, and the entire path is paved. 

Follow this paved trail to Ridge Ave.

Cross Ridge Avenue, turn left, and follow the sidewalk around to the right to the bike trail.

This is the  Schuylkill River Trail, and the entire section between Ridge Avenue and Chestnut St. Bridge is paved.

Continue on this trail until the Chestnut St. Bridge.

Go up to the ramp at the bridge to the street level and cross the river to West Philadelphia.

The rest of the ride at this point is in bike lanes on the roadway, unless the biker chooses to go through Penn Park.

At light, go left to Walnut Street.

Take bike lane to campus.


There are alternate routes for my commute.  Two of my favorite are:

Instead of taking the Schuylkill River Trail the entire way from Ridge to Chestnut St., sometimes I cross the Schuylkill River at Falls Bridge and ride to the museum on the west side of the river on the West River Drive Trail.  This trail tends to be less crowded than the east side of the river.

When I want to do more trail riding, instead of taking Wissahickon Avenue to the trail (or the reverse on the way home), I ride down Westview or Carpenter’s Lane to Kitchen’s Lane and from there ride down to Forbidden Drive Trail (packed gravel), which merges with the Lincoln Drive trail.  Kitchen’s Lane is a steep hill (paved) and there is also a rocky hill down to Forbidden Drive so it can be more challenging (and fun!) than the street route, but note that after a storm the rock path down to Forbidden Drive Trail can be difficult to navigate on a bicycle.