Empowering Philadephia’s “Invisible Riders”

The Better Bike Share Partnership is an effort led by the City of Philadelphia that works to ensure that Indego bike share is accessible to all Philadelphians. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is a nonprofit advocacy and education organization working as part of the Better Bike Share Partnership to support bike share and biking education. The Better Bike Share Partnership is funded by the JPB Foundation.

“The men who pedal the streets at daybreak with Francisco are invisible in so many ways. Some are here without permission and must hide from the official world. They are not noticed by the cars and buses that roar past, sometimes to tragic effect. They’re not even seen by those of us who claim to love cycling.”  – Dan Koeppel [1] 

To bring awareness and recognition to these so-called “Invisible Riders” in Philadelphia, the Better Bike Share Partnership and the Garces Foundation teamed up in late August and again in November to host two cycling workshops for the Spanish-speaking community. The goal: to engage in conversations about safely riding on the streets and knowing your rights and duties as a cyclist.

The workshops took place at the Garces Foundation, a nonprofit organization located at 1901 South 9th St. in the BOK Building. The Garces Foundation is committed to ensuring that Philadelphia’s underserved immigrant community has access to healthcare and educational services. They partner with organizations that connect constituents to needed services so that they may actively contribute their talents to making Philadelphia a world-class city. 

The workshops were facilitated by Brenda Hernandez, the Community and Partnership Coordinator at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. During the first workshop, the community learned about urban riding and how to use Indego. Brenda led a conversation about what it’s like to ride on city streets on a day-to-day basis, which provided a platform for community members to voice some of their concerns about riding on the streets in Philadelphia.

Some participants that said they work in the food industry shared their concerns about how riding early in the morning or late at night feels dangerous.

One community member expressed that being a woman cyclist and riding alone makes her feel unsafe. She shared that often she is harassed by drivers while taking her kids to school. Sometimes, she is forced to break the rules of the road because people driving cars don’t follow the rules themselves.

Many also expressed that Indego is the best option if they want to walk their kids to school and then ride a bike to work.

In the second workshop, the community learned about bike maintenance and engaged in a conversation about what other ways they can use bicycles and Indego, aside from day-to-day commuting. Those options included using it for recreational purposes and its health benefits.

This workshop was mainly attended by women who work in the food industry. Many of them said they knew about the different bike trails around the city, but didn’t see themselves using them. Seeing people in spandex riding bicycles for sport there made them feel like these public amenities weren’t intended for them. One of them even brought up that there is a lack of Latinx representation in the racing community, noting she is willing to start a racing group with the Latinx community if people got involved. 

By the end of the workshop series, many of the participants felt more encouraged to ride after openly discussing their hesitations around biking and learning their rights. Many also felt that the workshop empowered them by teaching them bicycle maintenance and their duties as cyclists.

Thank you to the Garces Foundation for partnering with the Bicycle Coalition and hosting these two workshops. We want to continue building conversations on how to better serve all communities, especially the “invisible riders” who often go unnoticed. It is imperative that they be recognized and included in conversations about the cycling community.

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How Low-Income Cyclists Go Unnoticed.” Bicycling Magazine, 9 Nov. 2015, https://www.bicycling.com/news/a20049826/how-low-income-cyclists-go-unnoticed/#sidepanel.

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