Work has started on the Philly Pumptrack at 52nd Street and Parkside Avenue behind the Mann Center. Pumptracks are bike courses where the rider uses gravity, momentum, and a pumping motion to propel themselves without pedaling. This project, the first of its kind in Philadelphia, has earned the support of the community. Last week they received the Donated Services Agreement they needed from the city to start digging.
The Philly Pumptrack team has worked for three years to get to this point. According to Project Coordinator Heidi Grunwald “In the Fall of 2010 we made a pitch to Parks and Recreation. They loved the idea: to create a safe place for kids and adults to ride bikes and learn bike handling skills in an urban setting. Together with Parks and Rec staff and a supportive Advisory Board we submitted a proposal to Bikes Belong and Specialized to raise some funds. We started working with Parks and Rec to set out requirements to help us locate a site with: 1. Land near an existing rec center; 2. A dedicated water source; 3. Graded properly and somewhat shaded; 4. On existing city bike path/trail networks; and 5. Community approval.”
Harlan Price, the project’s Community Outreach and Development Liaison, described a pumptrack as, “a closed loop made of dirt that’s a series of small rollers and berms that you can navigate your way through without having to pedal. You use your body pressing into the bike and lightening the front and rear end of the bike in order to make the bike move around the track,” pumping the ground to get around the course. Riding the loop allows beginning riders to build skills and always keeps them in a safe zone, because to go fast requires developing the set of skills that will keep the rider rolling smoothly at that speed.
Builder Jim Dellavalle spoke to how pumptracks help experienced cyclists by “building their bike and body separation skills to the maximum.” Dellavalle, who also built Brooklyn’s Havemeyer Bike Park by the old Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg, works to create sustainable parks. Philadelphia’s park will include environmental, educational, social, and agricultural elements.
Completing the project will require the volunteer help of many volunteers. Check the Philly Pumptrack Facebook page for ways you can lend a hand.