The popemobile gets streamlined

Even to non-Catholics, this should be of interest: Breezer Bikes created a custom Downtown 8 for Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States, which is currently underway. The pontiff is known for a strong stance on taking care of the environment and a lack of interest in flashy transportation. In fact, he often eschews his custom, bullet-proof rolling display case made by Mercedes-Benz to travel Rome in a more modest Ford Focus. Earlier in the week, he ducked into a small Fiat after landing stateside while his motorcade rolled in large, blacked-out SUVs.

So it would make sense that Pope Francis should be presented with a bicycle, one of the most modest, clean, and universal forms of transportation available worldwide. While it does sport an internally geared hub and multiple artistic nods to the pontiff’s mission, Downtown 8 is a simple machine. No disc brakes, no carbon, and with a rack and fenders included. It’s a rather different gift than the gold-plated Colnago Mexico that was presented to Pope John Paul II in 1979.

More information from Breezer/ASI:
Philadelphia, PA (September 22, 2015) – Mayor Michael Nutter and the Philadelphia Bicycling Advocacy Board today 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.

“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.”

Designed by Breezer Bikes – a brand owned and operated by bicycle company Advanced Sports International, which is headquartered in Philadelphia – 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.
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.

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.

“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 bicycle was hand-painted by Toronto-based design company VéloColour, which is owned by craftsman Noah Rosen.

A commuter-style bike, a “people’s bike,” was chosen by Mayor Nutter (pictured above) 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.

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