Cyclists Coming to Town Aug. 28, Will Stay at YMCA, Local Hotels
By Donald Gilpin
Recently recognized as the most bike-friendly town in New Jersey, Princeton will be hosting more than 350 cyclists on the weekend of August 28-29, as they ride into town for the night on a two-day, 125-mile spin from New York to Philadelphia.
Sponsored by the East Coast Greenway Alliance (ECGA), this ride, being labeled “from Cheesecake to Cheesesteak,” will support the ECGA with fundraising to help accelerate the development of the ECGA route in New York City, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. About 1,000 miles of the ECGA Maine-to-Florida route is on protected greenways, and the organization is hoping to move the entire route off-road by 2030.
The riders, from ages 15 to 78 with an average age of 50.8, come from 22 different states, with 82 from New York, 76 from Pennsylvania, and 71 from New Jersey.
“This is such a pivotal time for the climate, for building community and making links between people, and for public health in our country,” said ECGA Executive Director Dennis Markatos-Soriano in a phone call Monday from ECGA headquarters in North Carolina. “This ride is partly about helping to transform the way people move so that we’re not driving everywhere. We’re starting to bike and walk and run more, and it’s good for our public health. It’s good for the Earth and it’s good for the local economies that we connect.”
After their Saturday 9 a.m. departure from Liberty State Park, riders in this inaugural event will proceed southwest, with nearly half the route on trails and paths separated from traffic, including the Middlesex Greenway and the D&R Canal Towpath leading into Princeton.
The riders will be arriving in Princeton throughout the afternoon on Saturday and heading to the Princeton Family YMCA on Paul Robeson Place, where a number of them will camp, with showers and locker rooms available. Others will move on to the Nassau Inn or to other area hotels. YMCA campsite space registrations were already filled by February.
“We’re gearing up to have a good time,” said Bobby Dobra, YMCA membership and healthy living director, who is coordinating this event for the YMCA. “I hope the weather holds up.”
Riders will depart from Princeton on Sunday at 9 a.m., heading for Philadelphia where the ECGA Ride will culminate with closing festivities on Sunday afternoon at Penn Treaty Park on Beach Street.
With a standard registration fee of $150 and a $600 fundraising commitment ($250 and $1,200 for premium registration), the ECGA has already raised more than $250,000 In support of continued Greenway development.
“This will help move the Greenway forward,” said Markatos-Soriano, who studied climate change and energy policy at Princeton University’s School for Public and International Affairs. “We want to upgrade the safety of the route. The D&R towpath could use some upgrades on some of the crossings, and we’ll be building out more trail so that Princetonians and others from the region can enjoy biking up to New York, biking to Philadelphia, or going all the way up to Canada or to Key West.”
Princeton Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee Chair Lisa Serieyssol pointed out that this event will encourage more people to look at Princeton’s plentiful biking opportunities, both on- and off-road. The ECGA is looking to make this event an annual event, with next year’s New York-Philadelphia ride planned for May 2022, she said.
“A regular event will bring more attention to biking in the area,” she added. “I’ve also seen more e-bikes, e-scooters, and e-skateboards, and we’ll be seeing a lot more of this in the coming year.”
Serieyssol urged the use of the local transit service in conjunction with bikes or scooters for people to get in and out of town without having to drive. She also predicted an increase in biking this fall as the school year gets underway.
Registration for riders for the ECGA August 28-29 ride is closed, but further details, including opportunities to donate and volunteer, are available at greenway.org or at princetonnj.gov. Volunteers are needed to help set up the YMCA site and to run it on Saturday, August 28 and Sunday, August 29.