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With Cycling, New Haven’s Bike Month Aims to Connect City Neighborhoods

Ryan Caron King
New Haven cycling advocate Johnny Brehon bikes through downtown New Haven. Brehon has been involved in the planning of New Haven's Bike Month, which aims to increase diversity in the cycling community.
New Haven is among the most bike-friendly cities in New England.

The streets of New Haven sport a colorful slate of cyclists, from college students getting to class, to city residents opting to bike to work over public transit. 

For the month of May, volunteers from the cycling community in New Haven aim to bring the city’s cyclists into a conversation about cycling infrastructure, safety, and culture.

One goal of New Haven Bike Month -- a series of over 100 cycling events throughout the city -- is connecting the bicycle advocacy movement to cyclists who don’t feel like they’re part of the cycling community. The event’s planners want to bring in people from neighborhoods that are often cut off from street infrastructure decision-making.

Caroline Smith, a co-organizer of New Haven Bike Month, said another goal is to change how people perceive the average cyclist.

“There’s a lot of reasons people bike,” Smith said. “One thing we try to push is that there’s this conception of who a biker is in this city -- they live in specific neighborhoods, they look a specific way. And we’re really trying to expand what that definition is. Especially towards those people who have to bike to work every single day -- but who don’t necessarily have a seat at the table of what the future of transportation is in this city.”

New Haven Bike Month events range from more social programs like brewery tours and cycling-themed movies – but also include skill-building workshops on repair and traffic safety.

For Smith, an important piece of planning Bike Month was working with community leaders to bring the cycling events -- including several block parties -- into the surrounding neighborhoods. Professional BMX biker Mike Steidley will appear at a block party in the Whalley/Edgewood/Beaver Hills neighborhood. Smith said kids will often ride BMX bikes there, but might not always follow the rules of the road.

“So we can have this awesome guy, who’s a national champion, who can also serve as a mentor figure for young people,” Smith said.

New Haven is among the most bike-friendly cities in New England, with an extensive -- and growing -- bike lane network, and projects in the works to improve bike infrastructure across the city.

Smith said cycling advocates are also hoping to use Bike Month as a springboard for their “4 Lanes 4 New Haven” campaign. The goal is construction of four protected bike lanes that would pass through as many New Haven neighborhoods as possible.

In June, the city will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the invention of the modern bicycle patent, which was credited to a resident of New Haven.

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