“Wow,” someone exclaimed. “Look at Cheri Coryea ride that bike!”
The idea behind Sunday’s historic first ever Cyclovia in Manatee County was to ban cars from a road for four hours and hand it over lock, stock and barrel to skateboarders, scooters, rollerbladers, bicyclists and pedestrians and scientifically study how they all meshed.
But Coryea, Manatee County’s neighborhood services department director, blew it when she couldn’t stop smiling and giggling as she rode her personal bike up and down that closed stretch of 57th Avenue West between 26th Street West and 34th Street West on a lovely morning with a gentle breeze.
What cinched it was the sight of David Hutchinson, executive director of the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization, putting streamers on his own bicycle’s handle bars and showing off his skills by riding around in tight circles.
“I used to put cards in the spokes,” Hutchinson said.
It was obvious that Coryea and Hutchinson and the rest who put the event on knew Cyclovia Bradenton would be about pure fun, experiencing freedom and getting to feel like kids again for four hours on a closed road.
It was, well, very Millennial-ish. And, rightfully so.
Cyclovia Bradenton was the kickoff to Manatee County’s MCon2017 Millennial Conference, which started Sunday and continues through Saturday at State College of Florida.
“We are a special generation,” said Colleen McGue, 31, a millennial and the principal planner at the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization where Hutchinson is her boss. “One of the reasons why we chose a Cyclovia to kick off the conference is because millennials are interested in getting around without driving their cars. This type of event really promotes active transportation.”
Cyclovia is a Spanish term that means “cycle way,” and the event started in Bogota, Colombia.
“In Bogota they actually close down the roads to cars every Sunday,” added McGue.
“Events like Cyclovia have been held in Tampa and St. Petersburg, and they go on elsewhere across the U.S. and Canada, McGue said.
Ryan Moore, a manager at Ringling Bicycles, 3606 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton, was set up on the carless street like the first bike shop in a brand new concept village.
The MPO also had a booth at the event, as did several other agencies.
“I think the event is great,” Moore said. “It’s bringing awareness to alternative forms of transportation and letting people know there are affordable means other than cars to go from home to work or to school.”
Taking a break from her bike to join a crowd estimated at 200 who got bike safety kits and got to have their bikes checked out by Moore for free, Coryea shared her dreams for Cyclovia: “A walkable community. Less vehicles on the streets. More people biking. More people walking.”
Hutchinson said a few people stopped by the MPO booth to sign a bicycle safety pledge and pick up a bike safety kit.
“They told us they were glad that someone is going to do something about making the streets safer,” Hutchinson said.