Celebrating all things bicycle

Finn Copeland, 5, of Wynnewood , tries out a bike, joined by his father (right), Ken Deitch, and Ivan Altinbarak of WeeBikeShop, which had a booth at the Philly Bike Expo.
Finn Copeland, 5, of Wynnewood , tries out a bike, joined by his father (right), Ken Deitch, and Ivan Altinbarak of WeeBikeShop, which had a booth at the Philly Bike Expo.
Posted: November 11, 2013

PHILADELPHIA Mary Schaheen arrived at the annual Philly Bike Expo on Saturday looking for a custom frame.

She wanted a smaller bike, one that would allow her to hop on the seat without leaning sideways and spilling a bag of groceries strapped on the back.

She also wanted disc brakes for when she pedals through the snow.

"My only mode of transportation is the bike or public transit," said Schaheen, a senior executive in the pharmaceutical industry who lives in Washington Square West.

Schaheen is just one reason the annual expo, in its fourth year, continues to expand, setting up this year at the Convention Center. Hosting a variety of businesses as well as seminars on topics such as yoga for bicyclists, the expo illuminates what has been apparent on the streets of Philadelphia for some time: More people - and families - are riding bikes, particularly ones built by smaller manufacturers.

And the city, with its increasing number of bike lanes, will become more bicycle-friendly as the Nutter administration plans to launch a bike-share system in 2014 (another seminar topic).

The expo also explored some of the limitations bicyclists still face. For example, one seminar focused on the lack of options smaller women have for buying bikes on the mass market.

Georgena Terry, a custom builder in New York state, explained that large manufacturers are trending toward a more unisex frame for economic reasons. And bike dealers, often limited by their bottom line, can offer only so many models.

Handlebars can be too far from the seat and pedals too high off the ground, creating stress in the lower back, neck, and shoulders, Terry said.

That's one reason Schaheen came to the expo. She said she could find only two pre-built models that she would be willing to ride. "I want a woman's frame - I don't want to stretch myself out," she said.

Another challenge is mass transit. During a seminar on "multi-modal transport," a SEPTA official said the authority receives far more complaints about people bringing bikes on trains than from bicyclists who want to ride SEPTA more often. Currently, bikes are barred from trains during peaks hours and face other limitations.

If bicyclists want more access, they should be more vocal, said Erik Johanson, SEPTA's manager of strategic business planning. Starting next year, the authority will look at ways in which it can better work with the bicycling community.

Stephen Bilenky, who owns a custom bike shop in Olney, said a cottage industry of builders has sprung up in the city, coinciding with the movement of people abandoning their cars and moving to the city.

"Philly as a [bike] city is about ready to arrive," he said. "Whether we'll be Amsterdam . . . who knows what 20 years can bring?"

The expo continues Sunday. For more information, go to www.phillybikeexpo.com.


bfinley@phillynews.com

610-313-8118 @Ben_Finley

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