Just looking for a place to lock my bike

I rode my bike down to a friend’s house tonight, to have dinner with a group of women with whom I used to eat lunch with every Tuesday when I worked at Penn. It was part celebration and part send-off as a couple people are either graduating or heading off to new grad school experiences.

This friend lives in a neighborhood adjacent to Center City, it’s being called the Graduate Hospital area (or G-Ho for short) and despite the soaring housing prices, it’s still sort of a transitional neighborhood. Safe, but transitional.

When I got to her block, I looked around for a place to lock my bike and realized that there weren’t many options. Spotting a metal pole holding up a handicapped parking sign a little ways down the block, I started talking towards it. A group of women and children were sitting out on their stoop, right by the pole I was heading for. Before I even got stopped walking, the older woman (who I presumed was the grandmother of the group) shouted at me, “Don’t you even think about leaving your bike in front of my house.” There was real venom and nastiness in her voice.

I startled and said okay. Then I asked, “Do you have any recommendations as to where I could lock it, there don’t seem to be too many places around here.”

“I don’t give a shit as long as it’s not here.” This came from one of the other women. By this point, they had all moved one step closer to me and were all nodding and uh-huhing.

By this point the unprovoked intensity of their meanness and hostility had made my eyes sting but I looked up at the woman who had first spoken to me and said something to the effect of, “I absolutely respect your right to tell me not to park my bike in front of your house and I’m certainly not going to argue with you about it, but all you had to do was ask.”

She seemed to soften for a moment and then her eyes hardened back up and she dismissed me with a flick of her hand. I had to walk around the corner and half a block up to find someplace else.

I understand why these women didn’t want me to park my bike there. This was their territory and they’ve watched as their neighborhood has changed and many of their neighbors have been pushed out by other people who look like me. They were just doing what they could to protect what they felt was theirs, even if it was just a patch of sidewalk. But it was really shocking to unexpectedly be on the receiving end of such anger.

0 thoughts on “Just looking for a place to lock my bike

  1. Mom

    If you would just move back to Portland you would never encounter that kind of hostility. This is an extremely bike-friendly city, as you know. Come back home, sweetheart. You can park your bike anywhere. MOM

  2. Sparky Duck

    As I am not going to get into a mother daughter arguement, I was just curious to where the Graduate Hospital section is, since the wife never knows and shes the local.

  3. Paul

    Having lived recently in Bike/Beervana Portland, I’ve got to agree with MOM. Too bad about the nastiness you experienced- it seems bicycles and “white lanes” represent gentrification in mnay places?

    On a corollary note, I am irked by youths who simply toss their bikes down on a sidewalk, usually outside a store entrance, with no regard to others. But thats probably just how kids are in general, no?

  4. Melissa

    I’ve often wondered about the long time residents of those transitional neighborhoods. That particular area (which lies directly below South Street – west of Broad) has been in transition for a really long time, but it didn’t really take off until all the new townhouses (and their 10 year tax abatements) started showing up.

    I can imagine that everyone who isn’t wealthy enough to afford a $450,000 townhouse in a marginal neighborhood is pretty nervous about eventually getting assessed and taxed out of the place they’ve lived for years. Same thing happened in my neighborhood. I bought my house 11 years ago for less than $100K. Last house on my street sold for over $350K in 2005 or 2006 There’s no way I could afford my own neighborhood now.

    It’s too bad they took their fears out on you, but I can understand the frustration.

  5. Anthony

    I guess I’m not “city” enough to understand their vitriol. I’ve seen plenty of bikes locked to signs and trees on sidewalks around the city. Some look as though they have been abandoned while others are probably visitors in the neighborhood.

    It sounds as though they were being a bit too posessive, and since they don’t “technically” own the sidewalk you could have challenged them, but the results would likely have been your returning to what once was a bike and now a greasy spot.

  6. Christian

    I’m sorry you had this experience. I know that neighborhood very well and it’s going through a mean gentrification. In my neighborhood I hear talk that the whites are forcing the blacks to live west of Broad and South of Washington. That’s the sentiment. There’s a lot of negativity over there and I’m sorry you got a slice of it.

  7. Anuradha

    I guess I am not terribly sympathetic to this anger. I am a huge advocate of affordable housing and a skeptic of gentrification; HOWEVER, YOU did not cause this woman to lose her neighborhood and her anger is better directed at the next town hall meeting, or zoning hearing, or her next call to her elected representative. Sorry, but you didn’t bring your bulldozer to her neighborhood, you just brought your bike. (Also legally, she does not have an ownership interest in the sidewalk and does not have any authority to tell you whether you can or cannot park there).

  8. Anthony

    So, I’m getting the gist from these comments that the “real” issue with you and your bike was that you are white.

    That’s a sad commentary on society.

  9. Phillybits

    What you should do is pick up a cheap bike at a thrift store, a couple of old U-locks, and lock that thing to the pole and walk away.

    Don’t let a couple of rude individuals cow you away from locking your bike up–you have every right to do so.

    On the flip, I could understand if the bike was making it extremely difficult for someone to get to their car if their health problems created a difficult situation to begin with, but it’s still no excuse to talk to or treat you in that manner.


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