Bike Month Fever Hits Newhallville
National Stunt Rider Champion Mike Steidley hurdled through the air, defying space and time as he hovered over the street below, then began a downward descent. A handful of kids and their parents looked on, open mouthed. Then they burst into applause.
Steidley was a highlight at the second annual Newhallville Block Party, held last weekend at Ivy and Butler Streets as part of New Haven Bike Month. After kicking off with a Downtown Open Streets celebration last Friday, Bike Month will be running weekly rides, bike-themed events and neighborhood block parties throughout the month of May.
In Newhallville, Bike Month organizers worked closely with neighborhood representatives Arthur Edwards and Regina Wicks to set up bike safety and riding tutorials, give away free bikes and helmets, and showcase some wild riding from riders like Steidley. Edwards is a Project Manager for the Newhallville Safe Neighborhood Initiative (NSNI) and Wicks is a parent liaison at King Robinson Magnet School and on the New Haven Board of Education.
As gray-shirted volunteers set out supplies for bike repair on the sides of the street, they mingled with representatives from the League of Women Voters, Amity Bicycles, The Devil’s Gear Bike Shop, and Safe Kids Connecticut and others, who had all gathered in the name of bike safety.
Like Carol Nardini, who said she has volunteered at Bike Month for a number of years on her own, and that this marks the first year that she has partnered with an organization (she spent time tabling for the League of Women Voters and Safe Kids CT). She said she loves watching kids have “safe fun” while riding their bikes, and enjoys educating people on how wearing helmets is beneficial.
“How much people learn and take away never ceases to amaze me,” she said.
That was also true for Jeff Roshko, a scientist who is a member of the Bradley Street Bicycle Co-Op (BSBC) in East Rock. "This is my second year collaborating with the Newhallville Block Party and it has always been a blast,” he said.
Around him, the afternoon evolved into a real party, with soft 90s music laying the soundtrack. On one side of the street, student volunteers painted a bike lane for children to learn how to ride their bikes. A father and his daughter rolled cautiously toward them on foot and bike, as she perfected the basics of steering and insisted that her dad, not the volunteers, help her learn the ropes.
The little girl said she wanted to spend time with her dad because he works all the time as a New Haven police officer, spending endless hours at the station. They said they both thought they would come to bond with one another, but in turn, got way more than that—an immense amount of information and tips on how to stay safe while riding a bike.
Down the street from them, eight or so mechanics from Amity Bicycles, the Devil's Gear Bike Shop, Elm City Cycling, and BSBC worked on people’s bikes for free. Farther down, Nardini and fellow volunteer Griselda Luna manned a table funded by Safe Kids CT, giving away free black and pink-and-white marbled helmets for kids and adults.
On the other side of the street, three volunteers set up for Steidley’s stunt show, putting out props for the biker to use. There were two half-court basketball tournaments going on in the nearby Lincoln Bassett park, making the neighborhood feel full. If coming together has always been something that Newhallville, informally known as the “Ville,” has struggled with—something this reporter has seen firsthand as a resident of the neighborhood—it wasn’t a problem Saturday.
About an hour or so passed of mingling, basketball games, and passing information along before the stunt show started. Then Steidley and his friend Tom Larkin took the street by storm.
Larkin opened the show with some ground tricks as warm-ups. He did a trick where he would do a wheelie and twist his back wheel so the bike would do an 180-degree turn. At one point, Steidley coasted over a brave volunteer who laid still in the street. The crowd cheered and clapped as viewers gathered to watch them.
They made it look like anyone could do it.