Saturday was a beautiful day for a bike ride, and the Newark community came out in droves to cycle through the bike-friendly city.
Mild temperatures and cotton candy clouds dotted the landscape at Newark Shopping Center on East Main Street, where the season’s largest local biking event was held. Now in its fifth year, the Community Bike Day — formerly known as the Mayor’s Fun Ride — featured prize giveaways, information tables and representatives of local recreation, law enforcement and cycling groups and a food truck from the University of Delaware creamery.
The event kicked off with some prize winners and encouraging words from Newark Mayor Jerry Clifton and included a 2.25-mile family fun bike ride on the Pomeroy Trail. More adventurous cyclists could also ride the 8.25-mile bike ride through Newark.
Law enforcement officers from the University of Delaware Police and Newark Police worked with cyclists to direct traffic and make people aware of the rules of bike lanes.
The event drew hundreds throughout the day, with more than three dozen cyclists of all ages — some so young they rode in bike wagons or were donning training wheels — arriving early for the shorter family ride. The event was made possible by a collaborative effort of the community advocacy organization BikeNewark, the University of Delaware and the city of Newark.
“This is our bigggest event of the year,” Brandon Farzad, social chair of BikeNewark, said as he clipped his bike helmet into place for a morning ride. “Our organization is all about getting people in the area informed about biking life in Newark.”
Farzad and his girlfriend, Lauren, along with approximately twelve other volunteers, wore orange BikeNewark shirts for easy identification.
Farzad said the organization is fun for social events for all ages, but he appreciates the special emphasis the community advocates place on youth cycling.
“It’s really important for kids to know there’s things to do outside,” he said. “This organization is responsible for a lot of the bike lanes you see in Newark. Our 2014 Newark Bike Plan maps it all out, and it’s slowly coming to life. You can follow the bike paths on the Pomeroy Trail, and riding on the roads is quite safe to do here. It’s safe for people of all ages.”
Clifton smiled as he watched the families begin their morning bike ride.
“It’s a great event because it brings a diverse community together with a common interest,” he said. “If you look at the number of participants they have here, you can’t discount the value of health and camaraderie of the people who get out and do the rides.”
Clifton praised the city’s many bike trails as part of the full package of the good life for locals and credited the advocacy of BikeNewark for accomplishing their goals towards a cyclist-safe city.
“Newark is a great place to get out and ride,” he said. “I can’t say enough good things about BikeNewark and what they do for the city. They keep this event alive, and they made it happen. There are a great number of stakeholders that are here this morning.”
And it’s not just cycling that made the day fun. The Newark Parks and Recreation Department had a table full of information about family-friendly outdoor events and various camps for Newark youth, and there were bike gear demonstrations and other activities.
“It’s a good day,” recreation specialist Melinda Bertling said. “It’s a big event every year to support Newark and biking in the community.”
Bertling and her daughter, Audrey, spoke with dozens of community members throughout the day.
“I’m a mountain biker,” said Audrey.
“Parks and Recreation has lots of different trails throughout the city, and there are hundreds of activities a year for all ages,” said Bertling.
Of the early morning raffle winners, Ken Kramer, Don Foster and Macy Buckley were three who came away with donated prizes, such as Staples gift cards and bike lights from Trek.
“We have beautiful weather,” said former mayor and BikeNewark supporter Polly Sierer. “Some years, the Mayor’s Fun Ride was rainy. This is a great turnout, and there are lots of kids. They will learn where it’s safe to ride, and we’ll have a successful, safe event today.”
Bob McBride, who heads up BikeNewark, said the pre-registration numbers were lower than the actual turnout.
“I think the weather is bringing people out today,” he said.