City cycling enthusiast wins day of recognition

Elm City Cycling has gained over 300 members since its founding in 2003.
Elm City Cycling has gained over 300 members since its founding in 2003. Photo by Jacob Geiger.

With an official proclamation from Mayor John DeStefano Jr., Devil’s Gear Bike Shop owner and cycling advocate Matthew J. Feiner got his very own Friday.

Director of Transportation Jim Travers interrupted Friday morning’s “Bike to Work Breakfast,” a monthly event Feiner started for New Haven cyclists, to proclaim Sept. 20 “Matthew J. Feiner Day” in honor of the shop owner’s dedication to New Haven. On the official declaration, DeStefano called Feiner “a quintessential New Havener” and recognized Feiner’s advocacy for bike safety and support for community-wide events.

“Matthew has shown leadership in the New Haven community by encouraging friends, co-workers, acquaintances, neighbors and strangers to bike to work and school,” the declaration read, adding that Feiner has been “instrumental in raising awareness about bike safety.”

Feiner first entered the New Haven cycling community in 2000, when he opened Devil’s Gear Bike Shop on Orange street. Feiner had moved to New Haven in 1999 after spending five years living in Austin, Texas, and travelling as an artist to other cities across the country to exhibit his artwork. Seeing cities with strong biking infrastructures, Feiner said, made him realize what New Haven was missing.

“I saw a lack of biking infrastructure and biking culture in New Haven, so I decided to open up the shop to solve the problem. I wanted to bring the joy of cycling and commuting to the people of New Haven,” he said.

When Feiner initially opened the shop, advocacy came as a first priority and business followed second, he said. His main goal was to work with the city to make New Haven more biker-friendly.

To accomplish this goal, Feiner co-founded Elm City Cycling — a nonprofit community-based advocacy group that lobbies local, regional and state governing bodies to improve the city’s biking infrastructure. Since its founding in 2003, the group has grown to include over 300 members and, through a close partnership with New Haven’s Transportation, Traffic and Parking Department, has helped add more bike lanes and bring bike racks to buses and municipal buildings in New Haven.

“New Haven has this incredible cycling community now, and a lot of that is thanks to Matthew,” said Elaine Lewinnek ’95 GRD ’05, who worked with Feiner to expand Elm City Cycling.

Lewinnek said that part of what allowed Elm City Cycling to grow to a larger scale was Feiner’s ability to interact with a wide range of people.

“We called him the unofficial mediator of New Haven,” she said.

In 2005, Feiner reached out to the Yale Cycling Team, and his store became an unofficial sponsor of the team — offering discounts on both labor and products and bringing in experts to talk to the riders about training and proper nutrition. Until last year, Feiner and Devil’s Gear Bike Shop manager David Khan also traveled with the team to assist with coaching and fixing mechanical problems. Since 2009, the store has been listed on the Yale Cycling team’s website as an official sponsor.

“We have some big national sponsors that service a lot of other teams and have a focus on getting their name out there, so it’s nice to have a local group like Devil’s Gear that can focus on us exclusively,” former Yale cycling captain Ian Forsyth ’14 said.

In addition to supporting Yale cyclists, Feiner interacts with local riders and racers through his New Haven bicycle club. The shop offers four rides per week with different levels based on speed and type of terrain. Anyone can join the bicycle club and participate in the rides.

“Cycling can be one-sided in that there’s not that many women or people of color involved, but Feiner always says that cycling is for everyone, and I think that makes Devil’s Gear appeal to everyone. He deserves his own day,” said Johnny Brehon, the store’s sales manager.

Devil’s Gear Bike Shop is located in Pitkin Plaza at 151 Orange St..

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