Year two of a community-driven campaign aimed at returning the Manayunk Bike Race to its family-friendly roots appeared to be a success, according to residents and neighborhood leaders who gathered in the Northwest Philadelphia neighborhood on Sunday for the annual, one-day event.
“This year is much better than last year,” said Joseph Kamine, who moved to Manayunk with his wife, Lindsey, two years ago.
As the pair stood outside of their door on Lyceum Avenue, the site of the competition’s infamous Manayunk Wall, Kamine pointed to the lighter, less rowdy crowd assembled before him and the strong police presence in the community throughout the weekend.
“All and all, I’d say they’ve done a pretty good job maintaining order,” he said.
Enforcing the ‘zero tolerance’ policy
After years of what many residents viewed as an escalating party-scene, the area’s civics and community development corporations banded together last year to form a Bike Race Committee. Their goal: to tone down some of the race-day craziness.
Working with the Philadelphia Police Department and city and elected officials, the committee sent a staunch “zero tolerance” message to spectators that certain behaviors would no longer slip under the radar. They include: carrying open containers, public intoxication and underage drinking.
Those efforts have so far included beefed up police patrol, having liquor control board agents on site, having a temporary court for summary citations and adding barriers between the course and the crowd.
Those same pieces were in place this year, with a few, small extras. Among them, no cans or bottles were allowed along the course. Cups were. And Main Street was roped off.
Jane Lipton, with the Manayunk Development Corporation, a member of the committee, said those additions and the rest paid off.
“Not only is our success from last year spilling over, there’s been improvements,” said Lipton around 1 p.m. on Sunday. “If you look at the race course, it’s almost entirely calm.”
A pleasant turnout
The Central Roxborough Civic Association, Roxborough Development Corporation, Manayunk Neighborhood Council, Manayunk Development Corporation, Wissahickon Neighbors Civic Association and the Wissahickon Interested Citizens Association are also part of the committee.
Last year, 12 citations were handed out to individuals and 12 citations to businesses in Manayunk.
Figures for this year’s edition of the race were not available as of late Sunday afternoon.
As of 4 p.m., Capt. John Cerrone with the city’s 5th Police District, which covers Manayunk and Roxborough, said he had not heard of any citations being issued.
“I’m extremely pleased,” said Cerrone, who called Sunday a “good day for everyone.”
Not everyone thought that the race-day measures were necessary to deter the day’s partying – especially the police presence.
“There’s no need for all of that,” said Frank Casella. “You don’t need that many cops.”
‘Nobody is looking for people to get locked up’
Casella and Robert Stilts, who refer to bike race day as “Manayunk Christmas,” both explained that the community has no need to be so upset. While they don’t condone rampant drinking in the streets, contained drinking in the context of house parties should be given a pass.
“It’s not a bunch of drunken people being [jerks],” said Casella. “Just let people do their thing. Most people police themselves.”
“Some of the locals need to be controversial about it, but this is one day out of the year,” said Stilts.
Dave Bass, a member of MNC, said his civic and the rest of the Bike Race Committee will not base the success of the group’s second campaign on punitive measures.
Anecdotes of people enjoying a pleasant, incident-free day, will more than suffice.
“We don’t want that. We’re not trying to go that way,” said Bass of judging success in terms of citations and arrests. “We want the race to be a happy, fun time, but nobody is looking for people to get locked up.”
NewsWorks will follow up on citation numbers when they are available.