Philadelphia is the fifth largest city in the US, and has the grittiness to show for it.
But it also has great parks and green space—and as luck would have it, some of the best ones line up along my bike commute.
11 miles, 9 of them on bike paths (no cars) along the Wissahickon Creek and Schuylkill River.
55 minutes of green, with only 4 traffic lights. Highlight of my week!
8 AM — off to work on my all-time favorite bike, a Trek hybrid.
Section 1 — Durham Street to Lincoln Drive
Along the quiet streets of West Mt Airy, and through the Wissahickon on Forbidden Drive.
3.1 miles (17 min)
West Durham St, our "quiet tree-lined street".
Things open up soon, on West Mt Airy Ave.
Some nice houses down this way.
Into the woods!
Across the Wissahickon Creek on one of its great old stone bridges.
Creek view from the bridge. Usually peaceful like this—but mighty in a storm, as its deep gorge testifies.
Forbidden Drive, so named because cars are forbidden, winds for miles along the creek. The packed dirt surface might be dicey for a touring bike but it's great for my hybrid.
Way up there is Walnut Lane, supported by this massive arch bridge.
Yes, there are people in the park. She said "this is my favorite place in the world!"
Section 2 — Lincoln Drive to Ridge Ave
On the Wissahickon Bike Trail.
1.3 miles (6 min)
They built a great bike trail along the creek! Biking on Lincoln Drive (opposite side) would not be pretty.
(Musical side note—this part of Lincoln Drive used to be called Wissahickon Drive, familiar to many fiddlers because of the fine tune by Liz Carroll. When I moved to Philadelphia I was excited to find it, but ultimately disappointed to learn it had been renamed out of existence.)
Fun chute, with great rattly planks.
Wait—did I take a wrong turn and end up in Vermont??
Leaning for creek sunlight.
Approaching civilization, two fine stone arch bridges—one for trains and the other for traffic on Ridge Ave.
Cool rock overhang.
Ridge Ave, first major road crossing (4.4 miles, 23 min!)
Section 3 — Ridge Ave to Strawberry Mansion Bridge
On the Schuylkill River Trail.
1.9 miles (8 min)
When complete, the Schuylkill River Trail will follow the river for 130 miles from Pottsville to Philly. Half of it is done, including the part I get to use.
Kudos to the City of Philadelphia, who re-paved the bike path.
Wait, make that is repaving the bike path!
...major road crossing #2.
Schuylkill River vista.
Three bridges—railroad, interstate, and local.
Section 4 — Strawberry Mansion Bridge to Fairmount Water Works
On the Schuylkill River Trail.
2.7 miles (12 min)
This part can feel a bit long ... but who can complain about a smooth separate path along a beautiful river?
Looks like my photoshoot happens to be on setup day for the Independence Day Regatta.
Rowing the Schuykill.
Downtown Philly looms. Note geese. (Evidence elsewhere on the path is less subtle...)
Flying musical statues.
Traffic backed up on the freeway. Bwahahaha.
Section 5 — Fairmount Water Works to University City Science Center
On the Schuylkill River Trail, and city streets.
2.1 miles (12 min)
This is the "civilized" part of the trip.
(For the final bit I actually take quiet back streets through Drexel University, but Google Maps wouldn't quite show it.)
Back door to the Philadelphia Art Museum.
The amazing Fairmount Water Works.
SEPTA regional rail train crossing the Schuylkill into 30th St Station.
Old and new—30th St Station and the Cira Center.
The ramp up to Market Street.
Cool mural, part of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.
Market Street, third and final major road crossing—at 10 miles (49 minutes).
My favorite urban tree.
Into my building via the parking garage. Note view from inside, with sign "NO PEDESTRIANS ALLOWED THROUGH THIS GATE".
Reminds me of my favorite verse from Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land":
As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said No Trespassing
But on the other side it didn't say nothin'
That side was made for you and me
(How come we never learned that verse in grade school?)
Finally the icing on the cake—covered bike parking, and a shower!
Made it! For a commute, it's hard to beat. And did I mention there's only a couple short uphill bits?
Epilogue — The Trip Home
OK, so my knees are showing the effects of 30 years of Morris dancing ... and the trip back has kind of a lot of uphill parts ... and SEPTA lets you take your bike on the train ... and my company buys me a train pass. This might be the best part of all!
Zip zop and we're home—at the beautiful Allen Lane station, which they just spent two years renovating.
So there it is, quite possibly the world's best bike (and train) commute. I feel lucky every day I get to do it.