LIVINGSTON, NJ — On the heels of National Bike Safety Month in May, a new record of nearly 500 Livingston riders participated in the sixth annual Bike Livingston event, a family-oriented bike tour of Livingston’s neighborhoods hosted each year by the West Essex YMCA on the first Sunday in June.
With three routes to choose from—a four-mile route around the Collins/Mount Pleasant schools, a longer seven-mile route that also included Hillside School and the Oval and a more challenging 10-mile route that explored the Burnet Hill neighborhood and some hills on Hillside Avenue—participants explored the streets of Livingston as families, pairs and individuals.
“People enjoy the opportunity to do things with their family that are not costly and they can just enjoy each other,” said YMCA Executive Director Helen Flores. “Even though it was kind of an overcast day, we had 371 riders the year before, so the event is really starting to catch on like wildfire. I think it’s a really good opportunity for people to learn the neighborhood, and a lot of them are transplants from other areas, so this way they could go through the neighborhood and enjoy what Livingston has to offer.”
Gary Schwartz, chair of the Bike Livingston planning committee, said the annual event comes just in time to get local children ready for summer riding.
“Biking is positive in so many ways—it's healthy exercise, it's safe for the environment and it's fun,” said Schwartz.
Following the ride, professional mountain biker Chris Clarke hosted a bike show that Flores said is an annual hit among the children. She said that in addition to being a talented entertainer, Clarke also sends a good message to the kids about how to ride safely while also enjoying the environment around them.
Participants also enjoyed refreshments; posed at the photo booth, courtesy of first-year sponsor CycleBar Livingston; and took advantage of the opportunity to win gift certificates from CycleCraft, which donated $500 in prizes. TransOptions, which conducted helmet safety checks at the event, also provided free helmets to those in need.
“That’s a great service because we don’t want these kids riding around without helmets or helmets that don’t fit,” said Flores.
Thanks to these sponsors as well as RWJBarnabas Health, the West Essex YMCA, Eastman Companies, Regal Bank, ShopRite of Livingston, CPG Interactive and Healthy Community Healthy Youth, the township is able to host this event free of charge to all riders.
Flores also thanked the Livingston Police Department and the many members of the township who helped make this event a success.
“Lt. [John] Drumm has been exceptional,” said Flores, explaining that Drumm provided insight and safety tips for the event. “[Assistant Township Manager] Russ Jones was able to move most of the vehicles from the town, so we had good use of the parking lot without any problems, and everybody pitches in and does an awesome job of helping.”
She also acknowledged her own staff at the YMCA for volunteering with the event, including those who could not attend on the day but were instrumental in helping with pre-registration, shirt design and more.
“Everyone really gave their time to let these people enjoy themselves,” she said.
The first 250 people who pre-registered received a free Bike Livingston T-shirt, which can be seen in the photos above. All photos were provided by Russ Jones.