The first bike trips this reporter ever took as a kid began with a very simple idea: Pick a road and follow it as far as humanly possible (which, at age 7, was on the scale of magnitude of a mile or so; but still). On Thursday (the day this paper goes to print), a remarkable news conference is supposed to be taking place in which Mayor Michael Nutter, Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia will be announcing the inauguration not just of a bike lane or a bike trail, but of a veritable velocepedic vision that revolves around that primordial desire to go and go and go. They call it "The Circuit."
For a long time now, the BCGP has emphasized the idea of "connectivity" when it comes to bike lanes, bike paths, "sharrows" (they're just painted arrows that remind cars to share the lanes they're legally obligated to share, regardless of what Stu Bykofsky has to say about it) and other bike accommodations. It's a logical enough idea: A bike lane or trail is a lot more useful when it connects to another one and, you know, goes somewhere. It's the reasoning behind the bike lanes on Spruce and Pine, which connect the two rivers; it's the reasoning behind the bike-friendly ramp being built for the South Street Bridge, extending the Schuylkill River Trail down to Bartram's Garden.
And it's the impetus for Thursday's announcement, which unveils a new plan to create a bicycle "circuit" that will extend throughout the region. The idea, says Bicycle Coalition executive director Alex Doty, is: "Wherever you live in Greater Philadelphia, the Delaware Valley, Camden ... if you walk out your door, you could look north, south, east or west, and know you can ride all day on trails."
To do that, a coalition of groups is working to create, complete and — most important — connect bike trails. They've already published an online map (still in development) showcasing the vision under the moniker "Connect the Circuit," which you can see for yourself at connectthecircuit.org.
It's an ambitious project, not least because it involves the cooperation of biking and other groups across the whole region. The circuit may take a decade to complete, Doty acknowledges. But he also points out that a decade is not, in bike-trail years, that long. The Schuylkill River Trail, which begins (or ends, depending) in Philly's Fairmount Park and hopes to extend, unbroken, past the Appalachian Trail near Pottsville, has been in the works for longer than that.
"It's still not finished now," Doty points out, "and it still gets a million riders a year."
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