Razel Suansing, Contributing Photographer

On Saturday, bikers around New Haven celebrated Earth Day by riding between East Rock and West Rock to raise money for local environmental efforts.  

The annual Rock to Rock Earth Day Ride consists of bike rides of various lengths, with participants pledging to raise money for local organizations supporting sustainability efforts. This year, Rock to Rock partnered with 25 organizations and raised over $126,000. The theme was “Save the Seas,” with the tagline “The oceans are rising and so are we.” Rock to Rock is one of the Elm City’s largest annual civic events and drew over 550 people this year.

“It’s amazing that we have this collaboration,” said Anna Pickett, one of Rock to Rock’s co-organizers. “People get to know what nonprofits are doing environmental work and how they can be supportive, so it’s an awareness-builder in addition to being a community-builder.” 

Due to the pandemic, this year’s event was slightly modified so that bikers could participate in staggered rides across the city.

In order to take part in the Rock to Rock ride, bikers are asked to individually raise at least $100 each. These funds are then donated to an organization of the participant’s choice, which they can select out of a list of about 25 partners. These partner organizations — primarily environmental or social justice nonprofits — must use the Rock to Rock donations to make their work more environmentally friendly in some way.

“Each organization raises money for their different projects — urban farming, climate education, climate organizing, tree planting, advocacy,” said Program Coordinator of the New Haven Léon Sister City Project Chris Schweitzer, one of Rock to Rock’s partner organizations.

Participants were also offered prizes depending on the amount of money they were able to raise. Individuals that raised more than $100 by April 6 got a free Rock to Rock T-shirt, and the first 20 riders able to raise $1,000 or more got a $25 gift certificate to a New Haven restaurant. Bigger prizes were offered to the top fundraisers — the individual who raised the most money received a new bike donated by The Devil’s Gear Bike Shop, one of the event’s sponsors.

For the 2021 Rock to Rock event, participating partner organizations included CitySeed, Solar Youth, Junta for Progressive Action, Columbus House, Massaro Community Farm, Common Ground and Gather New Haven. The three organizing partners involved with coordinating this year’s ride were Yale’s Urban Resources Initiative, the New Haven León Sister City Project and the city’s Department of Parks, Recreation & Trees. 

Participants in the Rock to Rock event had a variety of different routes to choose from, Schweitzer told the News. The 20-mile ride, which stretches between East Rock and West Rock, is one of the event’s most popular routes. 

Bridget Gilmore ENV ’21 and Tiffany Mayville ENV ’21, who spoke the News at East Rock Park after completing their rides, were part of a large group of Yale graduate students participating in Rock to Rock for the first time.

“Everything’s blooming,” Gilmore said. “The energy was really nice because we’re a big or spread out group, and it was very supportive.”

Serious cyclists opted for the “metric century” 66-mile ride, winding through cities as far as Guilford, Wallingford and Woodbridge. 

Many families chose an easier 2-mile ride at Edgewood Park suitable for young children. For non-bikers, local nonprofits Gather New Haven and Common Ground also led nature walks in East Rock Park and West Rock Park. 

“The course was really nice, well-planned and well-marked,” said Adam Houston ’18 ENV ’21. “We got a little bit of everything in Connecticut, got to see everything this area has to offer, and I felt really happy to be raising money for [URI] today.”

Massaro Farm, Common Ground, and URI had the top three teams on Saturday, raising $34,235, $20,891 and $12,601 respectively. 

While last year’s event was held virtually due to the pandemic, organizers were able to hold an in-person event this year while implementing public health precautions. Riders were advised to take part in the event in small groups with staggered start times. Participants could sign up for a specific time slot online. For those not comfortable with participating in person, Rock to Rock also suggested pledging to take 20 to 60 actions individually in support of the environment — such as volunteering with the various partner organizations or commuting by bike every Friday in May. 

The first Rock to Rock Earth Day Ride took place in 2009.

Sylvan Lebrun is a Managing Editor of the Yale Daily News. She previously served as City Editor, and covered City Hall and nonprofits and social services in the New Haven area. She is a junior in Pauli Murray College majoring in Comparative Literature.
Sai Rayala reports on Yale-New Haven relations. She previously covered climate and environmental efforts in New Haven. Originally from Powell, Ohio, she is a sophomore in Timothy Dwight College majoring in History.
Isaac Yu was the News' managing editor. He covered transportation and faculty as a reporter and laid out the front page of the weekly print edition. He co-founded the News' Audience desk, which oversees social media and the newsletter. He was a leader of the News' Asian American and low-income affinity groups. Hailing from Garland, Texas, Isaac is a Berkeley College junior majoring in American Studies.