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West Hartford Center Will Be Vehicle-Free for Third Annual ‘Center Streets’

Center Streets, West Hartford Center. Aug. 27, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

A loop around West Hartford Center’s central business district will be closed to vehicular traffic for a few hours on Sunday, Aug. 26, for the town’s third annual ‘Center Streets.’

By Ronni Newton

Wheels will be permitted in West Hartford Center on the morning of Sunday, Aug. 26 – as long as they are attached to bicycles, scooters, skateboards, or strollers.

A loop around West Hartford Center will be closed to vehicles as people of all ages enjoy a family-friendly “care-free and car-free” summer morning at West Hartford’s third annual “Center Streets” event.

“This is the third year we’re doing it, and each time we approach the town we get more and more good feedback,” said Scott Franklin, who is treasurer of Bike West Hartford as well as the chair of the Pedestrian and Bicycle Commission. The culture at Town Hall is very receptive to this type of event, he said.

Last year about 2,000 people participated, and Franklin said he’s hopeful that this year’s crowd will be even larger for Center Streets, which is the signature event of the nonprofit organization Bike West Hartford, Inc. The event will run from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Traffic will be closed off to vehicle traffic in a rectangular loop that includes 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.

In addition to having the roads at their disposal for cycling and strolling, those who attend Center Streets will also be able to enjoy brunch offers, special discounts, and “free surprises” from West Hartford Center merchants.

“More stepped up this year,” said Franklin. As of late July, the list included the following merchants: Ben and Jerry’s, Brueggers, Bar Taco, Barcelona, Milkcraft, Grants, Sweet Frog, Bridgewater Chocolates, Cosi, Larson’s Hardware, 10,000 Villages, Cookshop Plus, and Play it again Sports.

New to Center Streets this year will be the participation of LimeBike, the bike-sharing company with which the town is considering piloting a program. Franklin said that there will be six LimeBikes available for residents to test out at no charge.

The West Hartford’s Police Department will offer free bike registration, as well as a bigger and better “bike rodeo,” Franklin said. The bike rodeo will include an obstacle course.

There will also be a bike swap, and rather than being located in the Arapahoe Road parking lot, it will be more visibly located all along LaSalle Road, said Franklin. Participants will be able to buy or sell bicycles as well as accessories.

The play zone will also return, where children can play hula-hoop, jump rope, and draw with chalk in streets closed to traffic.

Several bands will provide live music throughout the event.

“Our first few Center Streets were beyond amazing,” co-organizer Ethan Frankel said in a news release announcing the event. “We were thrilled with the massive turnout and everyone was smiling.”

Frankel, who along with Ed Pawlak is in his third year as co-organizer of the event, said that the initial family-friendly festival was was inspired by car-free summer events like Summer Streets in New York City as well as others held elsewhere around the globe. He, and local residents, are looking forward to Center Streets returning for a third year.

Franklin said that the event costs about $10,000, which includes overtime costs for town employees who close off the streets, and is run by volunteers and funded entirely through donations and sponsorships.

Center Streets sponsors include Talcott Financial; The Residences at Steele Road; Connecticut Children’s Medical Center (Watch for ME CT); United Bank; West Hartford Police Officers Association; Scott Franklin & Associates, Inc.; Farmington Savings Bank; Bloomfield Bike Shop; Marcum LLP; Thomas Fahy Insurance; Berkshire Bank; Connecticut Ecosystems LLC; MDC Water Wagon; and the Frankel family.

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