Saturday, May 30, 2009

This ad makes me wonder

Although I'm not in the market for another bike, I still enjoy looking through the listings on the Philadelphia craigslist. A few days ago I came across this one:

20" Girls' Greenline Beach Cruiser - Baby Blue - $180 (West Chester, PA)

Reply to:xxxxxxxxxx
Date: 2009-05-26, 9:57AM EDT

Beautiful bike. Bought in March 2008. Used twice. Being sold because local traffic makes bike riding too dangerous.

• Location: West Chester, PA
• it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

I wonder what traffic conditions make the owner's neighborhood too unsafe for their child to ride a bike? Most towns allow children under the age of 12 to ride on the sidewalk to keep them out of traffic. However, many of the housing developments built in this area over the past 25 years have no sidewalks, only curbs. People moved further away from the city to have more land, more distance from the neighbors, more privacy. Sidewalks weren't wanted or needed, since no one really walks anywhere, and the properties look larger without them. But where is a young child supposed to ride their bike? I wonder how many children growing up in developments like these will never really learn to ride a bike? More space does not always bring more freedom.


  1. Very interesting observation. My first reaction: no sidewalks - how can that happen, are Americans really THAT lazy? My section reaction: hm, actually that's quite interesting, because sidewalks were only invented AFTER cars became popular. Strange how they seem to disappear again for the same reason.. (in Vienna they don't disappear but have been narrowed to give more space to parking cars, very sad too)

  2. I lived in Philadelphia for 4 years (college) and have visited friends in many of the suburbs. Could not imagine riding a bike in the city -- the streets seem much more frightening than Boston to me -- and as for the suburbs, you're certainly right about the developments with no sidewalks. My friend who grew up there tells me that her parents used to drive her to a park so that she could cycle.

  3. @anna - These housing developments were built on former farmland and open space along rural highways. There wasn't anything near enough to walk to originally, so sidewalks weren't installed. This isolation also resulted in more teenagers getting their own car, since there is no public transportation out there.

    @Filigree - I have never ridden on the streets of Philadelphia (only the recreational bike trails), but they must be improving - I just read that Philadelphia has been awarded Bronze status as a Bicycle Friendly City. I was fortunate to grow up in an older, closer suburb of Philadelphia, with just enough "elbow room" and plenty of sidewalks, playgrounds and neighborhood shops. I chose to stay here for all those features.