Police will crack down on partyers at the Manayunk bike race this weekend who are drunk in public, lie about their age to get alcohol, or commit other crimes, city and state officials said Wednesday.
The increased enforcement this year is necessary because partying by spectators surrounding Sunday's race has become a four-day event that starts Thursday night and has affected neighbors' quality of life.
On Friday, from 8 p.m. to midnight, the city will have a special "bike court," where people whose partying crosses into illegal behavior will be taken so their crimes can be adjudicated immediately. The bike court is modeled on the Eagles court used at football games to curb rude and lewd behavior.
"While we recognize the benefits the race has brought to Philadelphia, we also thought that something needed to be done about the vandalism, underage drinking, and disregard for property that have been prevalent in Manayunk during the race," said Don Simon, who heads a neighborhood committee that deals with issues raised by the bike race. The daylong race, in its 27th year, starts at Logan Square, runs along Kelly Drive, and extends into Manayunk, where thousands of spectators gather in a densely populated neighborhood. Racers complete 10 laps of a 14.4-mile circuit.
At a news conference Wednesday, Simon and others explained how one of the sport's premier races had in recent years also become a premier party destination. The race is officially the TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championship but is best known for the grueling hills that are part of the course in Manayunk, where people line the streets to watch the wheels whirl by.
In recent years, more students and younger people have moved into Manayunk, and they have loud parties with lots of drinking at the race but also on weekends throughout the year.
"The bike race is really the most public face of what we experience on Friday nights," said Kevin Smith, president of the Manayunk Neighborhood Council.
In October, Simon took the neighbors' complaints to Jane Lipton, executive director of the Manayunk Development Corp. They took their concerns to local officials, including Councilmen Curtis Jones Jr. and William Greenlee, Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison, and State Rep. Pamela DeLissio. Gillison agreed to add police in Manayunk throughout the race weekend. He would not say how many more police, saying the city does not generally make such information public.
The bike court also is new. The city chose Friday for the court because partying for the race starts Thursday, Gillison said.
"There is a need to get things under control right off the bat," he said. People who urinate in public, lie about how old they are to buy alcohol, or are simply disorderly can be arrested on the spot and taken to the bike court, which will be at the Fifth Police District headquarters at Ridge Avenue and Cinnaminson Street. The court will immediately hear the case and decide on punishment. Fines for these types of crimes generally start at $300.
The cases of those who are cited or arrested Saturday or Sunday will be adjudicated during regular Municipal Court hours.
Last year, only five citations were issued during the race, but Gillison said that was because the city's focus had been more on crowd control.
Jones said city officials had identified houses that have been known as problem spots during the race and would keep a close eye on them this weekend.
Race organizer David Chauner said that cyclists loved racing in Philadelphia, and that he hoped the social problems could be resolved so that the race, with the steep climb in Manayunk known as the Wall, remained here.
"They make it up the Wall the eighth, ninth, and 10th time because so many people are cheering for them," Chauner said. "In a way, we're victims of our own success because we've created such an exciting sporting event."
Smith said neighbors also liked the race but needed better behavior from spectators before agreeing that it could stay.
"We cannot guarantee that the community will continue to support the race in our neighborhoods unless there is a change in the destructive culture that has developed," he said.
Everyone at the news conference emphasized that it was not the race or the neighborhood but the behavior of spectators that raised questions.
"This is not a bike-race problem," Lipton said. "This is a neighborhood, party-out-of-control problem."
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