Spirits remained high despite rain and frigid temperatures on Thursday night as Elm City biking enthusiasts and environmentalists came together at Artspace to kick off the 10th Annual Rock-to Rock event.
Rock-to-Rock, an annual community bike ride to raise money for environmental organizations in New Haven, will take place on April 28 and feature biking routes from West Rock to East Rock that are 12, 20 and 40 miles, respectively, as well as a metric century ride and a new 5-mile family parade. The goal of the Thursday event was to foster excitement about Rock-to-Rock and encourage people to register to ride and pledge more donations for the event. It featured live entertainment from the local band Nosmo Kings and a dinner with dishes from several local venues. Guests mingled among the gallery’s latest exhibit, Between Beauty and Decay, and heard speeches from community member Fatima Rojas and Doug Hausladen ’04, the director of transportation, traffic and parking in New Haven. The program concluded with a birthday cake to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Rock-to-Rock.
“We are in a moment in history where cities need to step up as champions and models and change agents and resisters,” said Joel Tolman, one of the organizers of Rock-to-Rock. “So the idea of getting together with 1,500 of my neighbors to say we have a different vision of our future and that climate change is real and we are going to do something collective about it feels like such an important antidote to Trump, the world we live in and all the threats to the environment.”
Community members also seem to be feeling urgency in their efforts to fund environmental justice projects — Rock-to-Rock has raised more than $66,000 so far, which Tolman said is twice the amount it had raised at the same point last year. The goal for this year’s event is $250,000, which will be distributed among 31 partner organizations, including environmental charter school Common Ground, the New Haven Land Trust and JUNTA for Progressive Action.
Several fundraising events will take place in the lead-up to April 28, including a Pint Night at the Patagonia store on Broadway and a Day of Service on April 7. Additionally, the MFUNd and the Faxon Law Group have contributed funds that match $10 for every $50 donation made.
Chris Schweitzer, a ride organizer who works with the New Haven-Leon Sister City Project, also emphasized the need for community activism at times when the federal government refuses to act.
Rock-to-Rock started as a conversation between community members in the cafeteria of Common Ground High School and at first attracted only a few hundred riders. But the organizers say they expect more than one thousand riders to participate in this year’s event, according to Ann Pickett, the lead organizer.
“I live in New Haven and I am committed to the environmental program that support the health and well-being of this city,” said Drew Goldsman, who is a rider this year. “I think that Rock-to-Rock is a great way to bring together community and the organizations that are committed to this city and ensuring that the city’s built and natural environment supports all residents.”
For other participants, the celebrations that occur during the event are their favorite part of Rock-to-Rock. Susan Bramhall, who is raising money, said there is a “fabulous karma” associated with the event. And Schweitzer said he is excited about the addition of the 5-mile family parade, in which families and other groups will build floats for their bikes.
One of the goals of this year’s ride is to make participating more accessible to a wide range of community members. New Haven’s new bike share program will donate 100 bikes to the event so that people who do not have their own can participate, Pickett said. “I feel like New Haven keeps making moves that are moving us towards a vision of a just and sustainable and green city,” said Tolman, one of the event organizers, referring to the new bike share program. “This just feels like one more move in that direction.”
Despite the positivity surrounding the event, participants acknowledged that there is still plenty of work to do. In her speech, Rojas said it was often difficult to find bilingual resources on environmental justice. And Hausladen emphasized the need to include the Latinx population in conversations about environmental action.
Hausladen also encouraged people to join discussions about some of New Haven Transportation’s newest projects, including a new commuter rail to Hartford, improving bus service and building new cycle tracks with state funds.
Artspace is located at 50 Orange St.
Carolyn Sacco | firstname.lastname@example.org