The City of Philadelphia Gives Pope Francis a ‘People’s Bike’

The City of Philadelphia presented the pope with a bicycle to honor his support for environmentally responsible transportation.

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Pope Francis is set to arrive in Philadelphia, PA, this weekend for the World Meeting of Families, which will be taking place in the City of Brotherly Love from the 26th-27th of September. As is commonplace with papal visits, Philadelphia mayor Michael A. Nutter has a couple of gifts to present to the pope to honor the visit and his work.

Alongside an ivory-bone China bowl featuring images of Indepedence Hall and St. Peter’s Basilica, mayor Nutter and the Philadelphia Bicycling Advocacy Board are taking the opportunity to present Pope Francis with a bicycle. The bike, a custom-designed Breezer Downtown 8, was received by Archbishop Charles Caput at a ceremony held in the Philadelphia Convention Center on September 22nd.

Mayor Nutter with Breezer Downtown 8

Mayor Nutter with the pope’s new wheels, photo Courtesy of Advanced Sports International

The style of bike was chosen by Mayor Nutter; the Breezer 8 is a classic commuter – a “people’s bike” – which Nutter felt best represented “The People’s Pope”. The bicycle was chosen to celebrate and honor the pope’s advocacy for environmentally responsible modes of transportation. Accompanying the gift, the city will also donate 100 commuter bikes to bicycle-based community programs around Philadelphia.

Breezer Bikes is a brand operated by Advanced Sports International, which is headquartered in Philadelphia. The Breezer Downtown 8 is designed for getting around comfortably and efficiently. Although Pope Francis’ Downtown 8 features a number of custom additions, the frame is the same as the one available to all consumers.

From the time of his first homily in 2013, Pope Francis has been very open with the public about his feelings towards sustainability. This summer, he delivered an extremely influential encyclical, Laudato si’, that referenced a call for a shift in social consciousness and the way we live. The pope called for a change in transportation and a move towards more livable cities. The encyclical also focused on environmental degradation and the effects of climate change on the poor, thus not only lamenting the environmental effects of climate change but the innate social consequences as well. As a result, top Vatican officials held a summit advocating for an increased global focus on the links between poverty, economic development, and climate change.

But Pope Francis doesn’t only talk the talk, he walks the walk – or, should we say: buses on the bus. In his recent visit to his home city of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis opted to take the bus as his main mode of transportation rather than the limousines Popes are generally driven around in. The pope believes that moving from a car-centric system to one where walking and biking are preferred will foster human relationships and greater social equity within communities.

Mayor Nutter likewise added his thoughts on the bicycle, noting how, “A simple bicycle offers not just healthful exercise but access to employment, education, and health care.” He additionally noted that the bike is a “true champion for all” that doesn’t discriminate based on socioeconomic or cultural background, gender, age, or any other perceived limitations.

Some of the custom aspects of Pope Francis’ new wheels are a Papal White frame hand painted by Noah Rosen of Toronto-based VéloColour; the Pope’s name in his native Spanish language – Papa Fransisco – on the top tube; and his crest for the head badge, fabricated by the Toronto-based artists Carl&Rose. Other cool touches are a Cross, a Holy Candle, a Peace Dove, and the colors of the Swiss Guard. To top it off, the designer of the bike’s graphics, Amanda Dirksen Catanzaro, also included a Liberty Bell and a “PHL Made” logo on the seat tube. Finally, the bicycle has a custom chain guard, designed and built by Carl&Rose, which takes the shape of an angel’s wing.

We love this initiative by the City of Brotherly Love, and hope The People’s Pope finds much joy cruising around The Vatican on his new people’s bicycle.


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