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Bike West Hartford to Host ‘Slow Roll’ in Place of Center Streets this Year

Center Streets, West Hartford Center. Aug. 25, 2019. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

The public is invited to participate in a ‘slow roll’ beginning from the West Hartford Town Hall parking lot on Sunday morning.

Center Streets Slow Roll route. Courtesy of Bike West Hartford.

By Ronni Newton

The annual Center Streets block party in West Hartford Center was one of the casualties of the coronavirus pandemic, but leaders of Bike West Hartford have come up with an alternative family-friendly bicycle event that doesn’t violate physical distancing protocols.

In lieu of the traditional fifth annual Center Streets event, Bike West Hartford is hosting a “Center Streets Slow Roll” on Sunday, Aug. 30, from 10 a.m.-noon. Participants are encouraged to dress as their favorite super hero.

Sunday’s roughly 2.5-mile slow roll route will begin in the Town Hall parking lot, cross South Main onto Ellsworth, turn left onto Four Mile Road, right onto Sedgwick Road, right onto Ridgewood Road, right onto Farmington Avenue, and right onto Four Mile.

The logistics of holding the traditional event would not have been possible for a variety of reasons. “Because of the changes in the Center [with outdoor dining corrals] it would have been more difficult to close the street,” said Scott Franklin of Bike West Hartford, who along with Ethan and Tracey Frankel has been one of the key organizers of Center Streets.

Franklin said that Bike West Hartford had not started raising funds for Center Streets once the corrals were installed. He said they didn’t want to raise funds and then have to return them if the event needed to be canceled.

“But then a month ago we started asking the question …” Ethan Frankel said.

“Tracey and I used to do a lot of slow rolls in Hartford,” Frankel said, including the “Real Ride,” a nighttime event that began at Real Art Ways and involved lights on bikes and music.

“They were a blast,” Frankel said.

Center Streets Slow Roll will be a bit safer than biking through the streets of Hartford in the dark, and includes only right turns, in a big rectangle, so riders will not even have to cross traffic.

There will be signs in place directing riders, who will be able to complete the loop multiple times within the event timeframe if desired.

Before moving forward, Franklin said they asked the town if a permit or any type of permission was needed, and nothing is required because roads are not going to be shut down.

Helen Rubino-Turco, the director of Leisure and Social Services, gave her support as well, noting in an announcement that the “Slow Roll is designed to be an easily accessible and free family friendly ride for all kinds of riders. The ride would be similar to the slow roll rides that have taken place all over the country, including in Detroit and Buffalo. West Hartford’s Slow Ride will be confined to residential roads west of the Town Hall.”

“We’re not interfering with any businesses,” Franklin said.

West Hartford Public Relations Specialist Renée McCue confirmed that while a police presence is not required, the West Hartford Police will have some bicycle officers participating.

Bike West Hartford hosted multiple rides throughout the summer, and Frankel said that Wednesday Wheels and Weekend Wheels involved anywhere from 12-28 riders at each event.

While the roads are not being shut down, “it really starts to be a critical mass. There’s safety in numbers,” Frankel said. Bike West Hartford is hoping to attract hundreds of riders.

There is no registration required and no age restriction, but participants are asked to meet near the flagpole in the Town Hall parking lot at 9:30 a.m. Pedestrians are not permitted, but Franklin anticipates there may be some skateboarders joining the group.

Helmets – and masks – are required.

Some have questioned the mask requirement since physical distancing between non-family groups is also being requested, but Franklin and Frankel both feel it’s appropriate. The Slow Roll is not a race, he said, and riders will be going less than 10 m.p.h., so wearing a mask should not be too uncomfortable.

Franklin said he ordered some masks in case people show up without them.

There are no other activities associated with the event – no food or beverages, or music, Franklin said, although some may play music from their bikes.

There has been a renewed interest in biking since the pandemic began, Franklin said.

“This is a way of celebrating that, and the end of summer and the beginning of the school year,” said Franklin. “If it’s successful we may do it again.”

Anyone with questions can email Frankel at [email protected].

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