ELIZABETH–When Janet Scott rode in her first Tour de Elizabeth four years ago, she brought along two friends for the 15-mile bike ride through the city.
Last year, nearly 20 neighbors and family members joined her for the ride and next month, it’s likely even more will join her for this year’s ride on May 22. In fact, as word keeps spreading about the annual Tour, the number of riders just keeps growing.
Of the nearly 500 people who rode last year, there were twice as many riders from outside of Elizabeth, some coming in from south Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut to enjoy the mini-festival, which looks for different ways to celebrate the city’s rich history.
This year’s theme is the city’s rich cultural and ethnic heritage, riding through the city’s neighborhoods that have welcomed each succeeding wave of immigrants to America’s shores.
“I just like the whole thing,” said Scott, who lives in the city’s Elmora section. “I started out with my neighbor next door. Now we have our whole neighborhood involved, and we have a big get-together when it’s over.”
“It’s just very interesting to be on a bike through some of the places we go through,” she said, noting that it’s also been fun meeting people from other communities who also ride.
“I loved the year the theme was the movies (filmed in Elizabeth). And I love riding along the waterfront and the fireboat shooting all the water. It’s just totally fun,” Scott said.
While 15-miles may seem daunting to some, the organizers of the annual bike ride, Groundwork Elizabeth, have figured out a way to get everyone through. At 9 a.m., advanced riders with that need for speed, head out first, screaming down Elizabeth Avenue towards the waterfront.
Fortunately for all riders, city police provide escorts and traffic control officers so that cyclists make it safely through the many road intersections.
After the advanced cyclists, intermediate riders get going, taking a more leisurely pace to enjoy the sights of the city. And finally, families with younger children set out. There is also a point half-way through the route to turn off and be back at the starting point if a rider does not feel up to finishing the ride.
And should anyone have a flat tire or other mechanical problems along the way, there will be a “sag wagon” trailing the ride to pick up those needing a lift back.
“We’ve had years to really fine tune this,” said Jonathan Phillips, Executive Director of Groundwork Elizabeth and coordinator of the Bicycle Committee that organizes the event. “The ride and all the entertainment afterwards makes for one of the most enjoyable events of the year. We really invite anyone who can ride a bike to come out. As long as they can handle a two-wheeler and pedal at a moderate pace, they’re good to go.”
Riders can register by downloading the registration form at elizabethnj.org or groundworkelizabeth.com or by calling 908-289-0262. Forms are also available at bicycle stores and other venues across Union County.
While advance registration is preferred, there is registration the morning of the ride beginning at 7:30 a.m. at “Union Square”, at the corner of Elizabeth Avenue and First Avenue, where the ride begins and ends.
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