Cyclists Coming to Princeton May 14-15, Stop on Greenway Ride from NYC to Philly
By Donald Gilpin
May is National Bike Month, and on May 14-15 Princeton will be hosting nearly 300 participants (riders and volunteers) in the second New York City-to-Philadelphia Greenway Ride.
The cyclists, from ages 17 to 80 — with an average age of 48.7 — come from 17 different states and Washington, D.C., with the most riders coming from New York (64), New Jersey (54), and Pennsylvania (42).
Sponsored by the East Coast Greenway Alliance (ECGA), the 125-mile, two-day ride supports the ECGA with fundraising for development of the ECGA route in New York City, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The event has raised more than $450,000 in the past year.
After setting out from Liberty State Park in Jersey City on Saturday morning, May 14, the riders will arrive at the YMCA in Princeton in the afternoon and collect their gear for the night. Some will camp at the YMCA, and others will stay at local hotels. On Sunday they will ride on to their destination at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia.
Sophie Penkrat, who cycled on the D&R Canal Path into Princeton when she was a student at Rutgers University in the 1990s and participated in the inaugural New York City-to-Philadelphia Greenway Ride last August, is looking forward to this year’s ride with her Greenway Grinder Guys and Dolls team.
“I’m doing it again because I enjoy the experience,” she said. “The ride last year was fantastic. It was super fun — really exciting to see New Jersey from a bike. I love the ride into Princeton.”
A Jersey City resident and creative director for a national company, Penkrat has happy memories of bicycling and Princeton. “Riding into Princeton on the path last year was sort of stepping back in time for me,” she said. “Also, it’s such a wonderful town. I was riding last year with some people who had never been to Princeton, and they were saying what a great town it is — the University, and all these shops. It’s a wonderful place to explore.”
Besides loving the ride itself, Penkrat is also a strong proponent of the East Coast Greenway. “I’m a big biker, and I’m also an advocate for sustainability and green spaces,” she said. “The extension of this greenway that will eventually go from Florida to Maine is absolutely incredible. It’s a wonderful initiative, giving people back the land that we deserve and we should be using, and supporting our Earth.”
Penkrat, who was one of the top five fundraisers for the event last year, raising more than $2,600 for ECGA, described the satisfaction of completing last year’s ride. “One of the best things is kicking your shoes off and lying down in the grass in Philadelphia. I’d just covered 125 miles. There’s a real feeling of satisfaction and camaraderie. You’re surrounded by people who all have smiles on their faces. They’re all in the same boat of excitement. We all did this and we completed it together, and that’s one of the best feelings around.”
ECGA Executive Director Dennis Markatos-Soriano noted that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the D&R Canal State Park have been hard at work resurfacing the D&R towpath following major flooding from Hurricanes Henri and Ida in late 2021.
“It’s a reminder of the severity of the climate crisis,” he said. “It’s not just in California. It’s hitting the Princeton region too and it shows the importance for all of us to take action. What more fun way can we take action than by biking together, enjoying our community, enjoying the nature around us, enjoying the camaraderie, and doing it in a way that builds a better future.”
Markatos-Soriano went on to emphasize the importance of the infrastructure of the 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway and surrounding trails. “That can bring us to low-carbon transportation, to improve public health, both mental health and physical health,” he said. “The Greenway is miles of smiles.”
As a former graduate student at Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs, Markatos-Seriano said he was inspired in his work on the environment, climate research, and the Greenway project by the likes of Princeton Professors Michael Oppenheimer, Stephen Pacala, and Robert Socolow. He noted that the stop in Princeton was one of the highlights of last year’s event.
“Our riders loved getting to experience the Princeton community — the architecture, the food, the hospitality — whether they were camping or staying in local hotels,” he said. “They enjoyed spending the evening and night in Princeton.”
Princeton Mayor Mark Freda will be on hand at the YMCA on Sunday morning, May 15, to give the riders a sendoff as they depart for Philadelphia. “The New York City-to-Philadelphia Greenway Ride returns to Princeton for the second year in a row,” he wrote in an email. “And there are efforts to work with our local businesses to welcome hundreds of riders and support crews on May 14.”
The ride is looking for Princeton area residents to volunteer to set up and run the site at the YMCA Princeton on May 14 and 15. Visit greenway.org/ridevols to volunteer and/or find more information.
In further celebration of National Bike Month, the Whole Earth Center and several other local businesses have teamed up to reward cyclists for choosing to bike rather than drive to town.
Once a week throughout the month of May a representative of Whole Earth will randomly reward six bicyclists on the streets of Princeton with “Thank You for Bicycling” packets of gift cards from local businesses. Each reward packet contains more than $60 in gift cards, and by the end of the month more than $2,000 in gift cards will have been given to 30 bicyclists.
Princeton Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee member Lisa Serieyssol commented on the highlights of National Bike Month in Princeton. “It’s wonderful that Princeton has the opportunity to welcome back the East Coast Greenway riders, particularly during National Bike Month,” she said. “We are so fortunate to have this trail so close by, with connections to other local and regional trails. I am also glad that Whole Earth Center has brought back their Bike Month tradition of Random Acts gift packets for those getting out on their bikes, and for the many businesses and organizations who are participating.”