By Shannon McDonald
This is a story I did for MURL, Temple University’s senior journalism class. The assignment was to go out into your assigned neighborhood – in my case, Brewerytown – and report on how the residents get around. This was a team reporting project, but I was responsible for the written portion.
The snowstorm that hit our region last Tuesday night left the city silent, snuggled up in a white, powdery blanket. But by Wednesday morning, the streets were a mess, the tighter ones paved in ice and the thoroughfares slippery with slush. Brewerytown residents didn’t seem to mind.
“I ride my bike in all kinds of weather,” said Waugh Wright, 34, a resident on the 800-block of Ringgold Street. “It’s a little icy today, but not bad enough for me to put the bike away.”
Wright is a teacher who bikes to work everyday, unless the weather is especially bad. Even though schools were closed last Wednesday, that didn’t stop Wright from pedaling around his neighborhood. The three-and-a-half year Brewerytown resident says the biggest attraction of biking is its environmental benefits, though the exercise doesn’t hurt, either.
“My bike keeps me active,” he said.
Though Wright lauds his bike’s convenience, he isn’t one to travel far with it.
“Center City is pretty much my limit,” he said.
If he’s traveling anywhere beyond that, Wright uses public transportation or his car. The bike is convenient, he said, but it has its limits.
Wright wasn’t the only one out biking through the snow in Brewerytown. Vincent Klopfenstein has lived at 25th and Poplar streets for four years, and uses his bike almost exclusively, even in bad weather, despite cautions from neighbors.
“It’s pretty bad out,” 23-year-old Klopfenstein said of the ice shining on his street last week.
But the slippery conditions and laughs from his neighbors didn’t keep him from his daily routine. Klopfenstein doesn’t own a car and rarely uses public transportation, because, he says, his bike is the “easiest and cheapest way to get around.”
Kay Sweet’s son-in-law uses a fold-up bicycle to get to and from work as a doctor when the weather is nicer. When the streets are messy like they were last week, he uses public transportation. His former preferred form of transportation remains parked outside his house.
“He used to ride the Vespa to work every day,” Sweet said of her son-in-law, “But a coworker was in a terrible Vespa accident recently, so he’s been using the bike more.”
While Brewerytown’s 20-and 30-somethings are part of the neighborhood’s biking subculture, the older and younger generations find different ways to get around.
Leroy Tunstall, 73, uses his senior pass to take public transportation around the city. While he makes his way around his small neighborhood by foot, longer trips, including visits to his grandson at Temple University, require the use of his pass.
Andre and Danny agree. The 12-and 13-year olds spent last week’s snow day covering their neighborhood by foot, looking for sidewalks to shovel. But normally, they prefer taking the bus. Though both boys have dirt bikes, they’re more for show than for travel.
“I get tired on the bike, ” Danny said. He’d rather take the bus if he’s leaving the neighborhood.
Bob Pignataro can also be found on the bus. The 46-year-old is a 25-year resident of Philadelphia, and has called Brewerytown home for 15 years. Though he has a car, Pignataro prefers to walk or take public transportation.
“SEPTA is quick and efficient,” he said of the city’s transit system.
An even bigger motivator for Pignataro’s bus use is the condition of the streets.
“It’s rare for the streets around here to get paved, especially the little ones,” he said.
Add the slushy, icy mix to the potholes, and it’s no wonder so many Brewerytown residents prefer to leave their cars at home.