The third annual Center Streets drew a crowd as a loop around West Hartford was closed to vehicular traffic for several hours on Sunday.
By Ronni Newton. Photos by Hunter Marotto
They came by foot – or on one, two, or three wheels – but one way visitors did not arrive in West Hartford Center on Sunday was by car or truck, unless they parked outside a loop that was closed to motor vehicles for the third annual Center Streets.
A crowd estimated at 3,000 filled the streets of West Hartford Center between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sunday as the community enjoyed the third annual Center Streets event organized by Bike West Hartford and sponsored by the organization as well as at least a dozen businesses and individuals.
“At 11 a.m. you could not walk across Farmington Avenue because of all the bikes,” said Scott Franklin, an organizer of the event and treasurer of Bike West Hartford as well as the chair of the town’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Commission.
“The weather certainly helped, and it also helped that we got the word out early,” Franklin said of the event’s success. There were at least 500 more attendees this year than last, he estimated.
There were people of all ages – and on all types of bikes. In addition to “regular” two-wheeled road and mountain bikes, there were unicycles, tri-bikes, and recombinant bikes. There were young kids with training wheels, and one teen who is a member of Errace showing off his speed doing laps around the Center, Franklin said.
Franklin said that some of those who were riding loops around the Center on Sunday had learned to ride a two-wheeler through iCan Bike, a program run in West Hartford by the Miracle League of Connecticut that teaches those with special needs to ride a bike.
Some bikes were used to transport additional passengers. There were Burley trailers and child seats of all varieties, as well as “co-pilot” trailers – including one that was attached to a tandem bike. Representatives from Cycling without Age provided rides in their rickshaw.
West Hartford resident Kevin Vicha of Bike Walk Connecticut attended Center Streets on his Bullit Bike with the front compartment occupied by his 4-year-old twins, Alex and Riley. He said that the bike is intended to transport cargo – which in this case was his daughters.
The Kennedy family was attending Center Streets for the first time this year. “Primarily we came out to giver her good space to learn to ride her bike,” said Christine Kennedy, whose daughter, Evelyn, had just received a new bike with training wheels for her fourth birthday on Saturday. They thought she would also enjoy seeing everyone else on their bikes having fun.
“She’s not a pro yet,” Christine Kennedy said, but said it was definitely a good experience.
“One of the reasons we moved to West Hartford was for all of these events,” said Sean Kennedy. He grew up in town, and recently moved back with his family. They live about a mile from the Center, and on the weekends enjoy coming out to dinner as a family, walking around, and getting some ice cream. He said they love all of the town’s other “outdoorsy” activities, like the Halloween Stroll and Om Street Yoga.
A new participant at Center Streets this year was LimeBike, the bike-sharing company with which the town is considering piloting a program. There were 10 LimeBikes available for residents to test out at no charge.
LimeBike representative Kevin Maldonado, who was manning the company’s table at Center Streets and encouraging people to take test rides, said that the bikes – and the concept – received a great reception at the event. The 10 bikes were in almost constant use.
“They love it so much, and say it’s very accessible. You can use it to go to work, go anywhere,” he said. Maldonado said that some parents even used the bikes, which have an adjustable seat, to teach their kids to ride.
The bike rodeo was also a great success this year, and Franklin said that moving the booths from the Arapahoe Road parking lot to a prime spot on Farmington Avenue made them more visible. Activities at the booths included a bike swap and bike registration through the West Hartford Police.
Several bands entertained participants, and groups of children and adults could be seen literally “dancing in the streets.” Children enjoy games and a chance to draw in the road with chalk on one end of Farmington Avenue.
One group of bike riders weren’t moving – although the cyclists were certainly getting a workout. LIFER Fitness brought a supply of spin bikes, and held classes on LaSalle Road.
“It’s a joyous event – a joyous day and perfect weather,” said Tracy Frankel of Bike Walk Connecticut, whose husband Ethan was co-organizer of this year’s event.
Students in West Hartford Public Schools return to class on Wednesday, and each year since it began Center Streets has been scheduled for the Sunday before school begins.
“Sometime kids get a little nervous about going back to school, and this allows them to see their friends and get adjusted,” said Frankel. “It’s a good weekend. Everybody’s back, gearing up for the school year.”
Roads were closed to vehicles for the duration of the Center Streets event in a rectangular loop that included Farmington Avenue (from LaSalle Road to South Main Street), the southbound lanes of South Main Street to the Memorial Road extension, the Memorial Road extension to LaSalle Road, and the entire stretch of LaSalle Road up to Farmington Avenue.
Although the Town of West Hartford personnel are physically involved in closing off the streets, the event is entirely run by volunteers and is a public-private partnership with all costs paid for by sponsors.
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