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West Hartford Roadways To Be Car Free for Inaugural ‘Center Streets’

A loop around West Hartford Center’s central business district will be closed to vehicular traffic for a few hours on Aug. 28 for the town’s first ever ‘Center Streets.’

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By Ronni Newton

Bicycles, scooters, skateboards, strollers – and feet – will be the only acceptable modes of transportation on several of West Hartford Center’s main roads on the morning of Aug. 28 as the town holds its inaugural “Center Streets” event.

Cars will not be permitted on the four roads that form a rectangular loop around West Hartford Center: Farmington Avenue, South Main Street, Memorial Road Extension (between the LaSalle Road Post Office and Town Center building), and LaSalle Road. The event will run from 9 a.m. until noon.

“When I was a kid we lived on a dead-end street. We could play in the street. That’s where everything happened,” said Scott Franklin of Bike West Hartford, the main sponsor of the event.

Franklin said that several years ago the organization held a bike fest, and parts of North and South Main streets were closed to traffic. There were 100-150 people in the street, including lots of kids, Franklin said, and it was a great experience.

He’s thrilled that the town is willing to close the roadways for those three hours on a Sunday morning, and thinks there’s value to people of all ages. “This is about getting people to reconnect with the streets,” Franklin said.

Families with young children are especially encouraged to attend Center Streets. Many businesses have already agreed to open, there will be live music all morning, and there will also be plenty of food for sale. Franklin said that many restaurant have agreed to open early and are coming up with some event-specific menu offerings.

There will be several booths, including a bike repair station sponsored by REI, Franklin said. The West Hartford Dog Park Coalition will also have a booth.

Center Streets is modeled after the highly successful “Summer Streets” program in New York City, which is held for three Sundays in August.

“Center Streets combines fun and exercise with a community-centered public event,” co-organizer Ethan Frankel said in a news release. He was inspired by car-free summer events like Summer Streets as well as others held elsewhere around the globe.

“We want to demonstrate the popularity of bicycling as a transportation and recreational option in West Hartford and show local businesses that bicyclists are good customers,” added co-organizer Edward Pawlak,

“We’re going to start small, take the temperature of the town, and build on that,” Franklin said. The bike festival targeted bicyclists, but this type of event should have more mass appeal, he said.

Although the Department of Public Works as well as West Hartford Police will be involved in shutting down the roadways and ensuring participant safety, Center Streets is a public-private partnership and is not being paid for by tax dollars, Franklin said. Financial sponsors of the Center Streets event include: Metro Realty, Inc.; Bloomfield Bike Shop; Thomas Fahy Insurance, Inc.; Engel & Volkers; Filomeno; West Hartford Police Officer’s Association; LaSalle Road Partners; Whole Foods; MDC; Scott Franklin & Associates, Inc.; and Connecticut Ecosystems LLC.

The main sponsor of the event is Bike West Hartford, Inc., a non-profit organization that advocates for bicycle-friendly policies and programs in town and is focused on the development of bicycle infrastructure and education within West Hartford and surrounding communities.

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