Manayunk: Not Everybody Excited About Bike Race
For the past 28 years, the Manayunk bike race has brought the community together and added revenue for restaurants and businesses. The race has also become a place for public and underage drinking.
Kevin Smith, president of the Manayunk Neighborhood Council and a member of the bike race coalition, watched over the years as it has grown worse thanks to the party atmosphere in Manayunk. Because of this, there are fewer family spectators and some restaurants are closing due to drunken behavior.
“It got to the point that they needed to do something or stop the race,” said Smith. “Two years ago was the first year we worked with city officials such as police and city agencies like Licenses and Inspections about enforcing banners and signs about liquor and liquor control.”
Thanks to these changes, Smith said there were more restaurants open last year.
One of the original members of the bike race committee, Keith Newman, said he found it interesting. “Many business owners close on the day of the bike race due to drunken behavior, when we homeowners have been complaining about the same behavior as being routine on Thursday through Sunday nights.”
Newman’s committee has three factions when it comes to the bike race: one group wanted it to go, one group wanted it to stay as it was, and one group wanted it to work for the community.
Newman is a part of the group that wanted the race to be a family friendly event again that does for the “business community the same thing the Susan G. Komen event does for the entire city.”
The race has become a way to bring out-of-towners into the community and see Philadelphia is not a bad place.
“I know firsthand people do not travel here because Philadelphia, unlike Boston, is considered unsafe,” said Newman. “Philadelphia is not a place where families can bring children. That is the reputation we have and that must change to make Philadelphia a true tourist destination.”
Maureen Hannigan, a Manayunk resident, said she invites people from out of town to watch the race each year because “it’s a pride thing.”
”I think it’s a positive thing, but I know people complain about the parties,” said Hannigan. “We usually walk down for the race earlier in the day and the partying doesn’t start until four or five in the afternoon.”
Newman said the first step in changing the city’s reputation is having a well-organized, exciting, friendly bike race.
One way his committee dealt with the issues the bike race brought was by putting together a compilation of YouTube videos demonstrating the negative behavior the race brought in the past.
“To say they were shocked is like saying Everest is a hill,” said Newman. “The truth is the bike race organizers were cooperative from the get go. I think their willingness and the Manayunk Neighborhoods Council’s willingness convinced a lot of neighbors that we could make a change.”
Michael Haggerty has lived in Manayunk for 48 years and finds the race to be a “fun activity” he looks forward to.
“It’s all people from out of the neighborhood that come here, it brings revenue for us and I really like it,” said Haggerty. “At times I guess it does get out of hand but it hasn’t lately. It has been pretty well managed.”
For the first time in 28 years, the bike race is under new management after David Chauner declared he would no longer run the race due to a lack of funding. Congressman Bob Brady, local businesses and community leaders are sponsoring the race, now called the Philly Cycling Classic. Smith wants to make sure community leader’s efforts are not undone.
“Our key thing is that we don’t want to lose on our progress we have made in the past few years,” said Smith. “So it kind of comes down once we find out if the race is on where it is going to go. We had some preliminary conversations with State Rep. Pam Delissio and the councilman’s office but now we are waiting on some more concrete declarations of when the race is.”
With new organizers and new people running the race, Smith said they are not used to running a race through Manayunk and his main concern is making sure the progress made continues.
“We want to help them organize because they aren’t used to the challenges of running through Manayunk. One of the people in our coalition has organized the course volunteers since the race started 28 years ago, so we have a lot of experience in what it takes,” he said.
The date had been set for June 2, but organizers are still waiting on the city’s approval of the event.
“They need some sort of conformation soon,” said Smith, “or you are going to lose that window and people are going to start planning other things.”
by By Joseph Van Dusen and Alexis Wilkinson