MILLBURN, NJ — It was riders ready yesterday on a crisp, cool September morning, as the Inaugural Tour de Millburn brought dozens of bicyclists out to downtown Millburn for an event meant to promote bike safety as well as provide a fun event for those who signed up.
By count of the organizers and volunteers at the ride checkpoint, 171 participants took part across three separate start times at 8:00, 8:30 and 9:00 a.m., for a 12-mile, seven-mile and two-mile start respectively for each time.
For Jennifer Duckworth and Jorge Mastropietro, the two co-organizers of the event, the idea for the Tour de Millburn came from a conference that they both attended.
"Jorge and I were at a bike/walk New Jersey Conference," Duckworth said. "We were at a panel session that I was speaking at, and the other two panelists from Jersey City and Highland Park had very successful pedestrian safety visions. And they did bike rides that brought people together."
"So when we were coming back, she was driving, and we were talking about 'why don't we do something similar for our town," Mastropietro added.
Both co-organizers also said that the expectations they had for the event were met and surpassed by the eventual turnout from the crowd. They also said that the goal of biking safety was met by sending out instructional videos with tips on how to properly bike safely and securely. Duckworth and Mastropietro also said that they hoped to run this event annually from now on.
As an added precaution due to the COVID-19 pandemic, riders were asked to wear masks at the starting area, and riders were broken off into smaller starting groups, in order to minimize the number of people in one area at a time.
One of the riders who went off in the 12-mile group at 8:00 a.m. was Craig Rothenberg. Rothenberg, a Millburn resident, said he was drawn to the event as a way to support the community, and because it was a chance for him to get out and really ride.
"I'm actually relatively new to it, having started just a few months ago," he said. "This is my first serious road bike."
Rothenberg was also passionate about the topic of bike safety.
"Bike safety is everything. Without it, we don't get to ride," he said. "I've actually been pleasantly surprised, because I've heard some horror stories from friends who are much longer-term cyclists about how inconsiderate some drivers can be. I've had nothing but really good experiences so far, car drivers being very attentive and sharing the road."
Millburn Mayor Jackie Lieberberg, who was in attendance at the start, said that the event had exceeded everyone's expectations, and that all the goals of the organizing team and committee were fulfilled.
"It's a community-wide event, [where] we are attracting residents of all ages," Lieberberg said. "The emphasis is on fun and safety, and there's not an iota of completion. It's about community, it's about engagement and it's about participation."
For their work in bringing the ride to life, Duckworth gave extra praise to the steering committee, which included Millburn residents and officials Lillian Cho, Joe Esposito, Alex McDonald, Tara Prupis, Gil Tavares and Elizabeth Vollavanh.
She also thanked event volunteers Sandi Chung, Manisha Grover, Gaston Haupert, Ed Hilzenrath, Radhika Iyengar, Erica Moffitt, Connor Murphy, Sean O’Brien, Priyanka Pandey, Odarka Polanskyj, Priya Patel, Corinne Simmons, Nicky Starace and Tom Stockert, who all gave their time and efforts to make the ride a success.