New Haven residents and bike-afficionados gathered at the Bradley Street Bicycle Co-op from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday night to celebrate the launch of the third annual New Haven Bike Month.
Caroline Smith ’14, a co-organizer of New Haven Bike Month, kicked off the month with a launch event that included food, speakers and community art. The launch featured bike portraits by “Faces of Cycling,” a project partnering with New Haven Go that highlights the diversity of cyclists in the Elm City.
Once the annual bike month officially starts in May, events will include various open street events, bicycle clinics, prize giveaways and other celebrations of biking culture.
“At its core, its main mission is that every single person stays excited and empowered to ride bikes,” Smith said.
When Smith graduated from Yale in 2014, she decided to stay in New Haven to work at the local organization SeeClickFix and said she used biking as a way to get to know her city. Seeing bike months celebrated in cities like Boston and Houston, she decided to start an iteration here in New Haven. She asked Doug Hausladen ’04, the city’s director of the Department of Transportation, Traffic and Parking, about the event, and he and his colleagues helped jump-start the mission. The first official New Haven Bike Month took place the following year in May 2015.
“Mayor Harp is extremely proud of the work that Bike Month has been able to do in [its] short time here,” Hausladen said.
Another important component of the New Haven Bike Month’s mission is social equity and social justice for all bikers in the city, Smith said.
“We recognize that there is this idea of who bikes in this city. They’re typically white, they’re typically male,” she said. “A lot of the voices that get left out are people who have to bike to work every day. [Biking is] necessary to their livelihood.”
Throughout the month, community members and partners will help organize a variety of events. To Smith, the best events come from members of the community who are organizing for their own communities. Thus, her goal is to lend support to these individuals and help them build their own events and generate “neighborhood empowerment.”
One such event that New Haven Bike Month promotes is the open-street festival. In this event, a chosen street is blocked off, giving bikers full ownership over the streets and allowing them to “take back the street from cars.”
To promote their events, Smith and other Bike Month organizers use various social media and online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, aiming to maximize the number of residents they can reach. Wednesday’s launch event was similarly advertised. Smith said it was meant to honor those individuals who have so far used the platform that is New Haven Bike Month to run, organize and develop events in their own neighborhoods.
However, for some students at Yale, the business of their everyday lives has not allowed them to be as involved in New Haven bike culture.
“I have not [heard of New Haven Bike Month]. I haven’t really had time to become involved in New Haven bike culture like I was back at home,” John Paul Kenney ’20 said.
Kenney added that in his hometown of Buffalo, New York, a similar type of event takes place that mixes social causes with the promotion of biking culture.
Alanis Allen ’20 also had not yet heard of the city’s bike month. Though she said she is not involved in New Haven bike culture, she believes that having a bike in town is very useful given the topography of New Haven.
The bike month will celebrate events nearly every day of May, with the first being a May Day Bike Brigade co-organized by Unidad Latina en Acción.