New Haven residents and Yale students can expect to see tight-fitting, neon clothing today as the Elm City gets ready to host its first-ever Grand Prix bicycle race.
Racers will compete on a downtown course that starts heading north from the intersection of College and Chapel Streets, cuts through Yale’s campus on High Street, heads down Elm Street, and takes Temple Street through the New Haven Green before turning back on Elm. One hundred cyclists have registered across three heats — juniors, men’s amateur and women’s pro, and men’s pro — which will complete 27, 36 and 40 laps of the three-quarter mile loop, respectively. The Grand Prix, the brainchild of Mayor Toni Harp and Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson SOM ’81, is a part of the city’s push to make biking a more popular method of transportation for New Haven residents.
“They thought this would be a good idea to activate downtown, highlighting cycling culture and the work we’re doing in New Haven in improving cycling,” Director of Transportation and head of the New Haven Parking Authority Doug Hausladen ’04 said.
That work includes newly painted bike lanes around downtown and Go New Haven Go, a monthlong contest organized by Harp and Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 challenging individuals and businesses to use sustainable forms of transportation during the month of September. The race today builds off of those previous efforts, and organizers said they hope the excitement generated by the event will raise awareness about biking as an alternative form of transportation in the Elm City.
In recognition of the city’s work to promote biking, the League of American Bicyclists awarded the city a bronze-level Bike-Friendly Community designation last November. The league awards the prize based on interviews with local cyclists, an evaluation of the city’s biking amenities and an application submitted by the city.
“Twenty years ago, I got made fun of for riding my bike,” owner of the Devil’s Gear Bike Shop Matthew Feiner said. “Now, New Haven is considered a biking city. I’ve heard that people have moved here because the biking is great.”
Devil’s Gear will provide mechanical support for riders during the race.
Yale’s own cycling team will also be involved with the race. Team captain Mike Grome GRD ’19, assistant professor of English Justin Neuman and Professor of Psychiatry Michael Serynak of the Yale Medical School will compete, and other members of the team are volunteering their time to help run the event. The team will also have a booth set up where students can talk to team members and purchase team-branded gear.
“We wanted to use this event as a recruiting event,” said Grome.
In addition to the bike races, the Grand Prix also boasts a beer garden, a local pizza festival hosted by Taste of New Haven and three live music acts, all held on College Street.
To market the event, organizers have advertised by placing stickers on streets around downtown and by promoting the race over the air via local news station WTNH — what Hausladen called an “aggressive media strategy.”
Access to Old Campus will be limited to crosswalks manned by crossing guards during the race.