Bike enthusiast plans a “pope ride”

When the Pope comes to Philadelphia in September, it could be a unique opportunity for urban bicyclists.

Alexandria Schneider, a bike commuter, thought it would be a great idea to take a joyride through the so-called restricted “traffic box” when much of downtown will be shut down. More than 800 others – to date – think the same way, and indicated they will join her on the PopeRide.

Schneider said a “demented seed” was planted in her mind a few months ago, when she saw on the news that someone using Indego bike share had wandered onto the Vine Expressway in center city Philadelphia. Maybe, she thought,  she could do the same thing when the city shuts down the highway during the pope visit.

“It started out as a joke, to be perfectly honest” said Schneider, a technician for Comcast. “It started out as a joke of me hopping the police barricade and going for a ride on 676. I’ve never seen that road closed but for a natural disaster or an accident.”

She shared the joke as a Facebook invitation, expected about a dozen friends to join her. In three weeks, more than 800 people indicated they will do her PopeRide. With three weeks left until the ride, more are expected.

At first, Schneider called the ride a Critical Mass Pope Ride, but Critical Mass rides have historically been confrontational demonstrations, so she dropped it from the title.

Schneider mapped a 10-mile loop on city streets inside the restricted traffic zone. There will be no police escort, no refreshments, and no support of any kind. She has never planned a bike ride before, and stresses this is just a fun, at-your-own-risk jaunt.

“The only places I wanted to see were Broad Street without cars, Market Street without cars – wide boulevards the city is known for that are always choked with cars,” said Schneider. “To see them filled with pedestrians and bikes would be quite a sight, I think.”

Schneider may not get on the Vine Expressway in the end. If police will not allow access to the highway, the ride will divert to an alternate route.

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