Updated 11:40 a.m.
Traveling between the two biggest cities in the Mid-Atlantic by car or bus takes about two hours, if traffic is kind. Train can get you there in an hour and a half, or less if you pony up for express. Airplanes cut the transit time to one hour, not counting any security snarl.
If you’re not in a rush, you can skip all that hassle and spend a leisurely two days on the trip — via bicycle.
The first NYC-to-Philly bike ride is going down this spring, and you can sign up now to participate.
The event is a fundraiser for the East Coast Greenway Alliance, a 26-year-old nonprofit that advances an in-progress cycling route stretching from the Canadian border all the way to Key West. According to organizers, it’s the largest undertaking the ECGA has mounted to date.
“We have not done anything of this scope so far,” John Martin, communications director for the North Carolina-based advocacy group, told Billy Penn. “When registration went live, that was the single-biggest day [for event signups] ever.”
The guided group ride starts in Manhattan on Saturday, May 16, stops in Princeton for an overnight campout, then picks up and arrives in Philly on Sunday, May 17, finishing in a celebratory party.
About half the 125-mile route is on paths separated from car traffic, Martin said, shouting out New Jersey’s “awesome” D&R Canal Trail, with which cyclists from Philly may not be familiar. “It’s an opportunity to bring awareness to the route,” he said.
During stretches that are on roads with autos, riders will be accompanied by guides, and even police at some heavier traffic points. The need for escorts underscores the goal of the ECGA, which says only about one third of the 3,000-mile Maine-to-Florida route is currently protected. To Martin’s knowledge, about 60 people have biked the entire thing.
On the New York to Philadelphia trip, there’s space for 500 total riders. Around 100 spots have already been snapped up, Martin said.
Participation isn’t cheap: $125 per person, plus a commitment to raise at least $500 from supporters by the date of the event. Tickets include a t-shirt, baggage transportation, snacks at rest stops along the way, a spot at the campsite (you have to supply the tent), and opening and closing festivities.
There’s an early-bird discount of $25 off for anyone who registers before Nov. 15, and also a double-price VIP option that includes a hotel room in Princeton instead of space at the campgrounds.
If all the spots are filled at the regular level, the ride would bring in a nice $250k for the ECGA — a pretty big boost for an organization with an annual budget around $1.2 million.
A lot more work is needed to finish the connections in the Mid-Atlantic region, according to Alliance content manager Lisa Watts, who said that was the impetus for the May event. The Meadowlands is especially challenging, she said, noting that a federal grant providing a lot of funding for work in the area was going to run out.
“A lot of the bridges are hard,” Watts said. “That’s been part of the issue in New Jersey.”
Philadelphia is considered one of the bright spots on the Greenway, and for cycling advocacy in general. Local partners for the ride include Pennsylvania Environmental Council, the Riverfront North Partnership and the Schuylkill River Development Corporation, as well as the William Penn Foundation and GSK, which are providing monetary support.
“The people in Philly are fantastic, great advocates for our work,” Martin said. He cited the Circuit Trails — one of the country’s largest networks of interconnected paths — and the Schuylkill Banks as reasons Philadelphia is “one of the top cities on our route.”
Find out more about the NYC-to-PHL ride and register to participate here.