The 27th edition of the Philadelphia International Cycling Championship will not only feature elite athletes, but a stronger commitment to making the event more family-friendly.
Manayunk and Roxborough residents joined city and state officials Wednesday to publicly announce a series of measures aimed at curbing unruly, citation-worthy behavior in those neighborhoods, the only residential sections of the 14.4 mile circuit.
“Something needed to be done to change the alcohol-fueled, destructive behavior, disorderly conduct, public intoxication, underage drinking and disregard for property that have been prevalent over race weekend,” said Don Simon to a small audience inside the Manayunk Development Corporation’s Main Street headquarters.
Simon helped form an ad-hoc, community-based bike committee in October that’s been steadily working with the city and elected officials to tone down the race’s party atmosphere.
At the heart of this year’s effort is a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to police enforcement.
Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Everett Gillison said there will be more officers patrolling the streets and additional police barriers in place along the race course.
Some of those officers will be deployed to “hot spots” around the bordering northwest neighborhoods that are traditionally sites for large parties, said Fourth District City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., whose district includes Roxborough and Manayunk.
Flyers detailing prohibited behaviors will also be posted throughout the neighborhood and “robocalls” featuring Gillison’s voice will be placed prior to Sunday’s race.
The locations of those “hot spots” were not revealed. The number of officers that will be deployed during the event was similarly shrouded, though the majority will come from the city’s 5th Police District.
Gillison did say that the race’s overall budget will be much higher as a result of the increased police presence. “City services alone went up $100,000 this year,” he said.
A nuissance or “bike” court will also be in place this Friday from 8 p.m. to midnight. The temporary measure will be held inside the 5th Police District’s headquarters and be used to more promptly process citations.
David Chauner, president of Pro Cycling Tours LLC, said he was optimistic these measures will help return the race to its less rowdy roots.
“We’re confident that the message is loud and clear,” said the race co-founder and organizer.
Jones echoed Chauner’s message, but added that residents will have to view this year as the start of a longer-range effort to make race day less of a negative public spectacle.
“This is a work in progress,” said Jones.
Still, many who spoke said they are very interested to see whether they will see a discernable change this weekend, especially during Sunday’s race.
First-term State Rep. Pam DeLissio (D., 194th) said she hopes there will be “meaningful measures” of progress.
“I’m looking forward to a post-mortem of this to understand to what degree we were successful in trying to get this event back on track,” said DeLissio.
Kevin Smith, president of the Manayunk Neighborhood Council and a member of the bike committee, will also be particularly interested in getting results this year. He’s cautiously optimistic at best.
“Our big question is what’s going to be done differently than in prior years that will affect how the race impacts the community,” said Smith toward the end of the event.
“As far as we know, that question is still unanswered,” he added.
MDC Executive Director Jane Lipton, another bike committee member, and At-Large City Councilman Bill Greenlee also spoke briefly during Wednesday’s press conference. Officers with the 5th Police District were also in attendance.
This is a corrected version of the story. Cyclists will log 156-miles on the 14.4-mile course.