September 29, 2015 (Philadelphia, USA) – Mayor Michael Nutter and the Philadelphia Bicycling Advocacy Board recently presented the gift of a custom commemorative bicycle to Pope Francis on the occasion of the Papal visit to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families on September 26-27. The bicycle was received by Archbishop Charles Chaput at a ceremony held at the Philadelphia Convention Center.
Designed by Breezer Bikes – a brand owned and operated by bicycle company Advanced Sports International, which is headquartered in Philadelphia and distributed in Canada by Vellendtech – the bicycle was created to celebrate Pope Francis’ advocacy for environmentally responsible modes of transit. In conjunction with this gift, 100 bicycles have been donated to bicycle-based community programs in Philadelphia.
In his second encyclical, Laudato si’, the pope calls for a shift in social consciousness about the way we live, with references to transportation and more livable cities. The reasons for this shift are not only environmental, they are innately social. Moving from an automobile-centered system to one in which walking and biking exist in harmony with public transportation enhances human relationships and fosters greater social equity within our communities.
“A simple bicycle offers not just healthful exercise but access to employment, education, and health care,” said Mayor of Philadelphia Michael Nutter. “The bicycle is a true champion for all, regardless of socioeconomic or cultural background, gender, age, or any perceived limitations. Getting places under their own power gives people an enhanced sense of their individual potential and greater hope about their lives.”
A commuter-style bike, a “people’s bike,” was chosen by Mayor Nutter and the Philadelphia Bicycling Advocacy Board as a symbol of the many benefits of cycling. The bicycle is a zero-carbon alternative. It is often called “the noblest invention.”
“We are humbled to have this opportunity to honor Pope Francis and his work on behalf of livable cities and his appreciation of the bicycle as a means to create a better, more sustainable environment,” said Karen Bliss, chair of the Philadelphia Bicycling Advocacy Board and VP of Marketing at Breezer Bikes/Advanced Sports International.
The bike is a Breezer Downtown 8, an easy-to-ride, easy-to-operate bike, designed for getting comfortably and efficiently around city or town. While Pope Francis’ Downtown 8 features a custom paint job and chain guard, the frame is the same frame available to consumers.
The founder of Breezer, Joe Breeze, designed and built the first mountain bikes in 1977. He is also known as a leader in the U.S. development of bicycles for transportation in the 2000s.
“The bicycle is a great tool for humanity, giving us personal mobility in a clean and sustainable form,” said Breeze. “In fact the bicycle is the most efficient form of personal transport ever devised. What’s more, it helps connect people and communities and brings us health and joy. People who get places on bicycles know well that riding clears the mind, enhances thinking, and leads to new connections and insights.”
The Breezer Downtown 8 is equipped with Shimano’s internally geared Nexus 8-speed drivetrain, making shifting easy and smooth and giving the bike its clean aesthetic. Wide tires absorb road bumps, and a comfortable saddle makes the ride enjoyable. A chain guard and fenders protect clothing from grease and the elements, and a rear rack can be used for carrying groceries, bags, or briefcases.
The Pope’s bicycle also bears the creative graphics of Amanda Dirksen Catanzaro, head of Advanced Sports International’s graphic design team. Catanzaro enthusiastically embraced this project, for which she could combine her Fine Arts major and faith-based education with her everyday job.
Starting with a clean, papal white frame, Catanzaro created elements to honor the Pope, including his name in his native Spanish language, Papa Francisco, on the top tube. She chose the Pope’s crest for the head badge, fabricated in brass by Toronto-based artists Carl & Rose.
Other symbols she placed on the bike include a Cross, a Holy Candle, a Peace Dove, and the colors of the Swiss Guard. As a tribute to Philadelphia, Catanzaro placed a Liberty Bell and a “PHL Made” logo on the seat tube.
One of the most distinguishing details is the chain guard. Custom designed and fabricated by Carl & Rose, the metal chain guard takes the shape of an angel’s wing. The bicycle was hand-painted by Toronto-based design company VéloColour, which is owned by craftsman Noah Rosen.
“I wanted an element on the bike that represented a spiritual aspect central to the Pope’s life and career,” said Catanzaro. “It is my hope for him that as he continues to travel and teach that he will be bolstered by his faith, that he will experience the security and strength that comes from leaning on God,” she added.
The Pope’s visit to the USA will conclude Sunday when he leaves Philadelphia and flies back to Rome.
VéloColour is a custom bicycle painting shop in Toronto that specializes in contemporary bicycle refinishing and vintage frame paint restoration. Owned since 2008 by Noah Rosen, VéloColour has painted and worked on custom-built bicycles that range from vintage Cinellis, Colnagos, Rene Herses, and Singers to modern carbon fiber road and mountain bikes. Rosen has a BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and a diploma – major in ceramics – from Sheridan College.
Carl & Rose is the creative company of Suzanne Carlsen and Noah Rosen, both award-winning artists. Noah is the man behind VéloColour bicycle painting, and Suzanne is a multi-talented craftsperson and designer. Together, they produce functional items, objects, and installations based on their unique vision. Playful, colorful and made with care, Carl & Rose creations infuse every environment with a little extra joy. Carl and Rose is color, quality, and Canadian-made.