For the second consecutive year, New Haven will host a citywide Bike Month to promote the health, environmental and social benefits of cycling this May.
The biking initiative, organized in part by Caroline Smith ’14, will comprise over 100 events throughout the month of May, including open street festivals, social rides, repair clinics and traffic safety demonstrations across New Haven. In addition, participants will receive discounts at participating local businesses — such as Koffee? and the Long Wharf Theater — for presenting bike helmets with a New Haven Bike Month sticker. Organizers emphasized that the project is geared not only toward promoting the benefits of cycling, but also to bring together disparate neighborhoods of New Haven around a common cause.
“We say it’s about biking culture,” said Smith, who was involved in planning New Haven’s first Bike Month in 2015. “But it’s also about celebrating the unique aspects of New Haven neighborhoods and elevating them.”
Organizers have worked to set up local events in neighborhoods all over the city. One such neighborhood is Whalley Edgewood Beaver Hills, where organizers will host a festival on May 14 called Wheels on Whalley. The celebration will include a demonstration by professional BMX biker Mike Steidley, free bike giveaways and a pop-up bike lane.
New Haven Bike Month will also include an educational component: Local organizers will work with students at a Fairhaven school to construct and design a separate pop-up bike lane on Blatchley Avenue later in May. The program is designed to promote skill and community building among student participants, she said. Smith added that organizers have not yet determined which school will host the workshop.
Nadine Herring, Whalley Edgewood Beaver Hills Management Team co-chair and organizer of the Wheels on Whalley festival, said after attending a meeting of New Haven Bike Month organizers, she was encouraged to spread the initiative to her neighborhood.
“I got to thinking, why not in other neighborhoods? Why can’t we do something like that here on Whalley Avenue?” Herring said.
After the meeting, Herring started working with Smith and other New Haven Bike Month organizers to plan the Wheels on Whalley festival. Herring said biking initiatives have typically been associated with other neighborhoods in New Haven, such as Downtown and East Rock.
Smith said one goal of New Haven Bike Month to encourage New Haven residents to visit neighborhoods outside of their own. She also stressed the importance of advocating for policies that makes cycling safer in all Elm City neighborhoods.
“Often when you hear about biking, you think about someone who lives in East Rock, Downtown or Wooster Square, who wears spandex, who is male-bodied and who is white,” Smith said. “There are many [other] people in this city who have to bike to work every single day. Our mission is to have those voices be heard.”
Residents of the Whalley Edgewood Beaver Hills neighborhood, according to Herring, only see biking as a means of transportation.
The Wheels on Whalley festival, she hopes, will make people more aware of the other benefits of biking.
“The people who ride bikes in my neighborhood are strictly using it as a way of getting from point A to point B,” Herring said. “They aren’t necessarily thinking of it as something that’s great for your health, that’s a great way to meet people, that it’s something you can make a career out of.”
New Haven Bike Month is part of National Bike Month, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, an organization that supports local advocacy for biker-friendly policy such as bike lanes.
Spokesman for the League of American Bicyclists Steve Taylor stressed the importance of local advocacy for policies that promote cycling and make it safer in cities across the country.
“In addition to focusing on national policy, we also want to support the local and state organizations and advocates that are working to make biking better in their own communities,” Taylor said.
Since 2000, bike commuters nationwide increased by 62 percent.