#PopeRide: A Call for All Cyclists to Enjoy Open Roads During Pope Francis' Visit

When Pope Francis visits Philadelphia in September, most transportation in the city will be halted or adjusted. Most people may feel inconvenienced, but avid bike rider Alexandria Schneider is making the best of it.

“I’ve been joking that I was going to ride down 676 when I found out they were closing the streets,” said Schneider.

Schneider was talking with some friends when rumors about road closures started swirling. She bikes 10 miles to work every day and wondered what it would be like to ride the historic streets of Philadelphia with few cars passing by.

Just last Thursday, Schneider took to Facebook to spread her idea: a group bike ride through downtown Philly during the weekend of Pope Francis’ visit.

“It’s all about celebrating the fact that some of these roads will be closed and enjoying a ‘Grand Tour of Philadelphia’ sort of vibe,” Schneider said.

Schneider’s Facebook event, titled "PopeRide", has garnered a few hundred RSVP’s in just a week’s time, and there’s still a month and a half before the event would take place — Saturday, Sept. 26 at 10 a.m.

“I’m an event promoter in my spare time,” said Schneider. “In general, we like to say that about 1/3 to 1/2 of people that say 'Yes' actually show up.”

Even if it’s only half, that’s 80 bikers, with over six weeks left to intrigue more riders. In general, Schneider said, casual group rides range from 20 to 40 people.

There’s certainly no room for 80 bikes on a typically busy Center City road. The older infrastructure of Philadelphia never accounted for bike lanes, although Schneider mentioned Philly has become relatively bike-friendly.

“I think [Indego] helped. It’s made it much more accessible for people to use bikes without bringing their own around all the time,” Schneider said. “I’ve seen a lot more groups riding together now.”

Schneider's original route had the group traveling on Interstates 676 and 76, crossing the Ben Franklin Bridge and weaving through Market Street and other famous thoroughfares. With new details about the fence and road closures, the #PopeRide route will need to change. Safety and accommodation are her main concerns.

“I would very much like to work with the city to make sure this goes off without a hitch,” said Schneider.

“It’s a rare occurrence, and I want to take full advantage of it.”

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