ELIZABETH—David Salguera came to Elizabeth from Costa Rica in 1970. An active young man, Salguera was an avid soccer player, then jogger. About 10 years ago his knee began giving him problems. Upon recommendation from his Doctor, David now enjoys cycling around Elizabeth as a low impact form of exercise. On Sunday, May 20, Salguera and his 12-year-old granddaughter will be rejoining hundreds of riders as they participate in the 9th Annual Tour de Elizabeth.
Each year the Tour de Elizabeth embodies a theme which demonstrates the city’s rich cultural and ethnic heritage, as riders of all ages and skill levels ride through New Jersey’s 4th largest urban center’s geographically and ethnically diverse neighborhoods. With a unique vantage point poised on the seat of a bicycle, this year’s riders will enjoy “Elizabeth’s Architecture, from a different perspective”. Helping to select this year’s theme was the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders HEART grant, (History, Education, Arts, Reaching Thousands.) Founded in 1664, Elizabeth has served as the State’s first capital, and is home to buildings which boast historic narratives as well as new cutting edge “Green” Buildings. The 15-mile ride will wind through business, historic, diverse, recreational neighborhoods to show off the structures.
The ride attracts a slew of cyclists. 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. Jane Scott, who lives in the city’s Elmora section has ridden in 5 Tours. Prior to last year’s ride she shared her personal perspective, “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.”
Salguera, who has ridden all but the first Tour echoes that thought, “I love the riding, and I see so many things in the city that I can’t see on an every day basis. But the thing that keeps bringing me back is the people. When I go there I talk to so many riders of all different backgrounds, people that I would not normally have a chance to talk to. I feel like for this day, we are all part of one big family.” Salguera and his granddaughter won a bicycle at the free raffle that is a perk of the ride at last year’s Tour.
The organizers of the annual bike ride and Groundwork Elizabeth, which oversees the Bicycle Steering Committee have planned the route so that it can be ridden safely and enjoyably, with views of urban and natural beauty. Most hills are avoided. Fortunately for all riders, City of Elizabeth police provide escorts and traffic control officers so that cyclists make it safely through the many road intersections. Although the Tour has attracted riders as young as 8 and as advanced as 80, the Safety portion of the Committee led by the Police Department stresses that riders should have a basic level of competency and children under the age of 12 should be accompanied by an adult.
After the advanced cyclists dart out in a pre-ride group, 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. The parcel in front of City Hall will be set up with display tables for the sponsors and other organizations that want to share their products and ideas.
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.
“This year, due to growing demand, we had to move the Tour start/finish site, “said Jonathan Phillips, Executive Director of Groundwork Elizabeth and coordinator of the Bicycle Committee that organizes the event. We look forward to seeing our family of riders and welcome new faces as well.”
Mayor Chris Bollwage has been an integral part of the success of the annual Tour from its very start. “Each year Groundwork Elizabeth and the organizing committee improve upon the ride and 2012’s is not to be missed,” said Mayor Bollwage. “Elizabeth’s historic Midtown is an ideal location for the ride’s start…so much rich history and in keeping with this year’s theme, impressive centuries-old architecture.” Bollwage added, “In addition to our history and culture, we are proud of our diverse neighborhoods, green energy, improvements to our parks, river, and waterfront, and economic successes — all on full display to riders.”
The Tour de Elizabeth is officially hosted by the Mayor J. Christian Bollwage, the City of Elizabeth, the Elizabeth Avenue Partnership, the Historic Midtown Special Improvement District, the Elizabeth Development Company, and the Greater Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce, and is supported by its many loyal sponsors and by admission fees. Riders can register by downloading the registration form at elizabethnj.org or groundworkelizabeth.com or by calling 1-908-289-0262. This year, riders can also register and pay online by accessing the two websites. Forms are also available at bicycle stores and other venues across Union County. Last minute registration on the morning of the ride beginning at 7:30 a.m. is also possible at the event site, 50 Winfield Scott Plaza. Riders are encouraged to register early; early registrants will receive a free hat and T-shirt courtesy of Tour sponsors.
The Tour’s sponsors support the Tour, and enjoy benefits such as recognition on posters, tables at the event site, media, and free riders. Assisting in this role for 2012 are: Elberon Development Company, Prologis, Elegant Headwear, T-rific T’s, and the Police PBA#4, Waste Management, Colonelli Brothers Construction, American Water, and Michelino’s Restaurant. Also assisting are the Rotary Club of Elizabeth, Harbor Consultants, the Elizabeth Avenue Partnership, BJ&M Auto, the Historic Midtown SID, Infineum USA LP, ConocoPhillips, State Farm Insurance Angel Rodriguez office, Brounell and Kramer Realtors, Elmora Healthcare, Palumbo and Renaud, PMK Environmental, Sonic Restaurant, the Suburban News, Rockin’ Joes at the Union Train Station, Navet Printing, the Tropicana Diner, Dario Scholis Art, Trinitas Regional Medical Center, Union County and its Board of Chosen Freeholders, and many others. Sponsorships are still available by calling Groundwork Elizabeth at 908-289-0262, and provide recognition for donors which include free ridership for sponsor participants. A full array of tables for sponsors and services are expected at Winfield Scott Park on Tour day.
Funds raised by the event help pay for its amenities and also go towards helping Groundwork Elizabeth accomplish its mission of environmental sustainability in the City by “improving places, improving lives”. Groundwork is working with the City’s CDBG program and Union County College in a Green Workforce Initiative program, and has recently partnered with the County of Union, the City, the State of NJ Green Acres Program and other entities on an Elizabeth River Trail. It also proudly administers a growing community driven Community Gardening Program spearheaded by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union County) called, “Come Grow With Us”, which promotes healthy locally grown foods. Plants from this program will be available for purchase on event day.
Riders with any questions, and organizations and companies interested in sponsorships to the Tour are welcome to call 1-908-289-0262.
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