Ask Benny: About that Locust Walk bike-riding ban

Dear Benny,

Is the ban on riding bicycles on Locust Walk during the hours of major pedestrian traffic ever enforced? I increasingly get the impression it is not.
—Looking in All Directions

Dear Eagle Eyes,
University Police Chief Thomas Rambo assures me that yes, the Penn Police do enforce the bike-riding ban on Locust, Hamilton and Smith walks from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Police officers will stop people they see riding bikes and instruct them to dismount during those times; repeat offenders may be cited under the state’s vehicle code. If you see someone riding a bike in violation of this policy, tell a nearby police officer.

There’s no bike riding allowed, ever, on the Locust Walk footbridge.

Dear Benny,

What is the origin of taking a bite out of the skimmer on Hey Day?
—Chew on This

Dear Nibbler,
University Archivist Mark Frazier Lloyd, the man to see on all matters historical, says, “There are two or three anthropological practices at Penn that are difficult to pin down. This is one of them.”

We do not know the exact origins of the practice of chomping down on the plastic foam skimmers worn on Hey Day, now held on the last day of classes in the spring. But we do know why skimmers are worn in the first place, thanks to material in the University Archives. The straw hat tradition dates to 1904, when students dressed more formally than they do now. To mark the revival of the annual Penn-Princeton baseball rivalry, The Pennsylvanian that year encouraged students to wear new straw hats to the game, and the custom quickly caught on. In 1916, Straw Hat Day—traditionally the second Saturday in May—morphed into “Hey Day,” a general observance of the juniors’ passage into senior year. Hey Day became formal in 1931 when the honors and awards formerly presented on Class Day during Commencement week were incorporated into the Hey Day celebrations.

Got a question for Benny? Send it to the Current, 200 Sansom Place East, 3600 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104-6106, e-mail it to current@pobox.upenn.edu or call 215-898-1423.

Originally published on March 7, 2002