Saturday September 30 my father in law and I took part in the annual Discover Hartford Bike Tour, presented by Bike Walk Connecticut. We have ridden this tour before and it is always an interesting time riding through downtown Hartford and most of the parks in the city. It made for a rough start to the day with temperatures in the lower 50s and a heavy mist felt almost like rain that hung in the air. The mist was thick enough to cut down on visibility and cover some of Hartford’s higher buildings. The view must have been pretty interesting up there as well. There were fewer people riding this year than last, but I think the weather must have had an effect on attendance. We saw many hard-core cyclists that were ready to ride and were equipped for the weather. They looked like they would ride through anything, and a little wet weather wasn’t going to ruin their morning. There were very few casual riders out, though I did see a father with three young boys getting ready to tackle the ten-mile version of the ride.
We began our 25 mile ride from the gathering point in front of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection after a welcoming speech by the Mayor of Hartford and The Director of the Connecticut Science Center. It was nice to see that both Mayor Pedro E. Segarra and the Science Center found it worth while to be involved in the event. It was also nice to see that some major corporations sponsor the event, such as Travelers. Stephanie Simoni from WTNH was even there to cover the event. It was great to see all of the excitement at the start of the ride. It made the event feel like something special.
Once we started the ride, we were treated to views of Hartford that most cyclists never see. The Hartford Police Department shut down intersections and allowed us to ride down the middle of
Main Street on our way to Riverfront Park. It is strange to ride down a busy city street surrounded by hundreds of other cyclists. You get to see the street from a new viewpoint and really experience the buildings as you pass, not having to worry about cars and other hazards as you normally would.
Once we arrived at Riverfront Park we were able to watch Hartford Envisionfest setting up. There were vendor tents and displays being set up, as well as food trucks everywhere. It was very tempting to jump off the bike and grab a hotdog or some other treat. The organizers of each event did a great job of cross promoting with the other events. We were reminded by Bike Walk Connecticut to stay after the event and check out all that Envisionfest had to offer. It was good to see that event organisers were working together instead of against each other.
After riding by the Connecticut River we headed west to our first organized stop, the Hartford Circus Fire Memorial. This is the spot of a terrible circus fire in 1944 that killed over 160 people and injured over 700. The memorial marks the spot where the fire happened, and is made up of memorial bricks with inscriptions for the people who lost their lives. It is hidden behind a school next to the playground and makes for a slightly surreal sight. I wonder if the kids understand what the memorial really means, or if it is just some bricks near where they play?
After that stop it was time to head out on our way to the first rest stop. I didn’t take many pictures of places that we didn’t stop, so I am going to gloss over those areas. There were plenty of cool sights as we traveled through many of Hartford’s city parks, but the volunteers made the day. Not only at the two rest stops, but at intersections and entrances to parks. They were there with smiles on their faces and often times music from radios to keep everyone happy and positive as the miles wore on. I don’t think enough good could ever be said about their support for the people on the rides. They truly made the day a better one everyone riding.
The Biker’s Edge also lent a hand with a SAG Wagon and mechanical help at rest stops along the way. I managed to break a couple of spokes and they helped me finish the ride. My local bike shop finished the repairs. Manchester Cycle is a great shop, I highly recommend them.
One amazing site that I did stop to sneak a picture or two from was a wedding in one of the parks. It was a great place to have one, and I wish the Bride and Groom all the luck in the world. I wonder if it is good luck to have a couple hundred people ride by your outdoor wedding? Everyone looked very happy, and by then the weather had started to improve.
After Trinity, it was a quick ride to South Hartford and a trip through a huge cemetery. This place was huge and full of challenging hills. It almost seemed cruel to spend miles in there after riding through Hartford, almost into Bloomfield, along the West Hartford line and down to Wethersfield. Our legs were burning by the time we reached the last decent to the exit of the cemetery.
From there, we rode north back to the river, through downtown and back to Bushnell Park where we started. It was a little strange to pass CL&P’s Hartford Area Work Center. I realized how much I miss working for the company when we passed the yard and I could see all of the electrical equipment in the new yard.
Overall the ride was a blast. My father in law and I had a great time. We enjoyed the scenery and seeing different parts of Hartford than we might normally see. We were disappointed by the number of people who came out to ride. As I said, a lot could be chalked up to the weather, but I think it was much more than that. There was no visible marketing of the ride in the city. There were signs for the Hartford Marathon, and Envisionfest, but nothing for the Discover Hartford Tour. I also didn’t see or hear anything on radio, television, or most importantly the internet. I know that Bike Walk Connecticut has a web site that promotes the ride, but even their Twitter feed was fairly silent in the weeks leading up to the ride. I feel like a larger push would have helped bring more riders out. I know that I spoke to other people who I saw riding the Hop River Trail and none of them knew about the ride. That is a huge shame. The year before this had at least double the people and that was more fun and made a larger impact. The ride is put on to promote Bike Walk, the city of Hartford, and what a positive impact cycling can have on the city. The more people who come out, the better all of those goals are accomplished. I did take a survey and volunteered my time to help market the ride, I will let you know what I hear back from Bike Walk.