Philly Pedals

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Ridealong: Philadelphia Bike Planner Aaron Ritz

Philadelphia Bike Ride

I took a ride, then had a chat over a cup of coffee with Aaron Ritz, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs Planner for the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities. Aaron suggested we ride into Fairmount Park, then up to the Smith Memorial Arch and Memorial Hall, site of his victories in the 2010 and 2011 Brompton (folding bicycle) US Championships.

Bike guy finds his niche

I’m a bike guy at heart with an interest in planning and public policy. My dad owns a bike shop. I’ve ridden bikes all over the place, and I went to planning school. Suddenly, I found myself in a career where I could apply both of those aspects of my brain, which is super cool. I’m looking forward to the next year in particular because we’re doing the bike share project, which is the biggest thing I’ve ever been involved in.

Coming soon: bike share

We got back the proposals from the firms that put their bids in for the City of Philadelphia system in December, and we’ll be doing the interviews with the top candidates in January.

It’s really not about the bike. It’s about a handy form of transportation that happens to involve a bike and it happens to be fun and cheap and healthy. I’ve been universally pleased with how people react to it. It’s been really well received, and we’re in a good spot to take lessons from other cities.

(Read more about bike share in a recent Philly Pedals article by Katie Monroe.)

I’d like the work that my office does to stand for itself as projects that matter to people and make their lives better.

Bike parking

10,000 or more people go into Center City each day on bikes. The city at this point doesn’t have a steady source for bike racks, and we’re looking for one.  With the guidance of our office, businesses can install racks, and it’s a great way for them to show that they welcome all different kinds of customers. We’ve also had some really good success over the past year and a half with bike corrals. I was pleased to be able to work with Shake Shack to help permit their new rack.

If you’re interested in purchasing and installing bike racks for your business, it’s an easy process. Just go to the City of Philadelphia’s website and type bike rack in the search field. The first thing that comes up is the City’s Bike Rack Application and Guide. It’s something I worked hard on earlier this year. It’s a pretty good overview of what you need to do to put in a bike rack. You submit that to [email protected]

What we do is important

I’d like the work that my office does to stand for itself as projects that matter to people and make their lives better and give them more options on how they get themselves around town or how we get freight around town or how we get buses around town. That’s what we want to be doing. We want to make that so important that it becomes an issue that people see as necessary.

Aaron strikes a triumphant pose on Smith Memorial Arch, the site of his 2010 and 2011 US Brompton Championships.

A sense of perspective

An important commonality is that all road users hate it when somebody gets in their way. It’s a basic human impulse. That’s something I wish we could instill a bit: a sense of perspective. People don’t have the perspective of what other people are doing with their time or with their life. Just because you don’t like it, is it really a problem? Do you need to be going 40 miles an hour down a street? Is running a red light going to save you that much time?

What you can do

Talk to your District Councilperson about how important cycling is to you. Let your representatives know that the good work you see out there is important to you. Also let them know when things aren’t going right. Call 311, but also let your District Councilperson know that this is an issue for you. Make sure that people at the top know what you care about.

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