When Jesse Frank, CEO of Whirled Peace in Manayunk, saw one of his store’s frozen yogurt cups lying in the street, he stopped his car and picked it up. For a business that prides itself on being environmentally friendly, littering is certainly out of the question. And that’s part of the reason why 24-year-old Frank is a bit nervous for the Philadelphia International Bike Race this year.
“You never want to see your customers treating the world as it’s their own trash can,” Frank said.
This year will mark the 27th time the city will hold the bike race, which generally boasts crowds as large as 300,000 people throughout Philadelphia. And the Manayunk area, home to the famous Manayunk Wall, is a hotspot for the day’s festivities, concentrating around 10,000 people in the Manayunk, Roxborough and East Falls area alone. To put it into perspective, that is equal to about one-fifth of the area’s total population.
The Manayunk Wall itself runs up Levering Street from Main Street, becomes Lyceum Avenue and then ends when the cyclists turn onto Pechin Street. And the name “wall?” That comes from the fact that the hill has a 17 percent grade, which, in layman’s terms, means it is really steep.
The race brought a lot of attention to Manayunk and bike race founder David Chauner said, “It has been a big factor in helping to stimulate the redevelopment of Manayunk.”
As the crowds got larger, the businesses boomed, Chauner explained.
But now, with so many people stuffed into a relatively small area, and alcohol flowing freely, some business owners are understandably nervous – especially those more familiar with the race, like Michael Rose, owner of the Manayunk Brewery and Restaurant.
Rose has been working at the restaurant and bar for 13 years, and has already seen 22 bike races. “In the past, it’s been more of a family, neighborhood event. But the last couple of years it’s turned into a real drinking fest,” Rose said.
Which is not to say that Rose dislikes the bike race. To the contrary, he stressed that he enjoys the event, and wants to curb rowdiness and excessive drinking before it makes the bike race go the way of the Manayunk Stroll.
The Stroll was a pre-race event held on Main Street in Manayunk, but was shut down in the late 1990s due to too much drinking and disorder.
“We stopped the Stroll, which was ridiculous. We should’ve never had to stop the Stroll. We should’ve took it and got it under control. I mean, they have problems at the football stadium. They didn’t stop playing football,” Rose said.
And, indeed, local law enforcement seems to have taken a page from the football stadium officials’ playbook: a “bike court” was instituted to deal with illegal behavior in the run-up to the race.
Rose said it saddens him that the neighborhood has had to institute such measures to get the problem under control, but that he is on board as long as it helps the event return to a more family-friendly attitude.
“If that’s what it’s coming to to curb the problem, then so be it and we’ll move forward and we’ll be a better neighborhood for it,” Rose said.