Harlan Price clicked on his helmet and jumped on his bike. With just those two motions, he was ready to take on Philadelphia's first pump track at 53rd and Parkside in West Philly. He glided around the circular dirt course — navigating mounds of packed earth along the way.
What is this place? "A pump track is a miniature BMX style course without jumps," Price said. "So the point is to keep your tires on the ground, use your body and your weight to increase speed, learn how to go around corners. The best kind of bike is one with knobby tires or fatter tires."
The brand-new track officially will open Saturday. Price said the beauty of this kind of track is, you don't need high-priced specialty equipment to ride: it's open to anyone who has a bike with fat tires.
Nearby a worker tamped down a pile of dirt to make final preparations, ensuring the corners were ready for riders.
Price, an East Falls resident, surveyed the pump tracks — it's actually two different ones: a beginner track and one for advanced riders. He and two fellow cycling enthusiasts helped bring this place into being, by proposing the idea to the city.
"There's thousands of hours of volunteer labor in this from the Philly cycling community, the local community, the kids started showing up one day and we ended up with kids being here before because they were so excited," he said.
Price really wants kids who ride in the street to have a safe place to get on their bikes and he knew the local cycling community would support the idea.
Lucinda Hudson, president of the Parkside Association of Philadelphia said when the idea was first proposed, she had never of a pump track. But once she learned about it, she was on board. She sees it as a fun way to fight obesity among kids.
"The young people, all ages, always complained that they didn't have anything to do," she said. "I am always amazed that, 'If you build it they will come,' and they have really been a part of this process."
Hudson has lived in the neighborhood for 39 years. She said it's changed from an impoverished crime-ridden place to a community with a mall at 52nd and Jefferson streets, rehabbed houses, an upgraded recreation center and a new school.
"We have come a long way," she said, "West Parkside now is the go-to place."
She said this pumptrack will build community, a good place where neighborhood youth to spend their free time.
"And the pump track volunteers themselves have been very engaged with the community. So it's like a win-win situation," she said.
Parks and Recreation Commissioner Michael DiBerardinis said the city was excited about the project, it donated the land.
"We have a really keen interest in diversifying our recreational offerings and using our vast system — over 10,000 acres — to get kids outdoors and to connect them to nature and to new activities," he said.
Helmets are mandatory for riders on the course. Those who don't have a bike can borrow one and a helmet for free at the track.