NEW BRUNSWICK CICLOVIA MAKES COMMUNITY HEALTH A PRIORITY

By: Samantha York

Put on your sneakers, grab your bikes and get ready to enjoy the open streets of New Brunswick. On April 24, the city will host the New Brunswick Ciclovia, a citywide initiative focused on promoting healthy lifestyles to people, of all ages and of many cultures.

The first New Brunswick Ciclovia was held in October 2013 as a community-focused health and fitness effort sponsored by the city of New Brunswick, New Brunswick Tomorrow, Rutgers University, and Johnson & Johnson. Entering its third year, the New Brunswick Ciclovia continues to grow with more sponsors, participants, and health care opportunities.

During the event, a three mile stretch of the city’s streets, including College Avenue, Hamilton Street, George Street, Paterson Street, Bayard Street and Joyce Kilmer Avenue, will be closed to traffic for five hours while people ride bikes, run, enjoy activities like Zumba, and get to know the city of New Brunswick.

“The New Brunswick Ciclovia has done a phenomenal job of bringing the community together as a whole,” said Monica Reyes, manager of communications and development for New Brunswick Tomorrow, a community non-profit organization serving the people of New Brunswick. “Every piece of communication has been catered to its audience so we’ve focused on translating and keeping everyone in mind. At the end of the day, we are really trying to focus on the health and well-being of the entire New Brunswick community.”

In addition to the physical activities at the event, participants can benefit from health care information and services, as well as screenings from sponsors.

“We have been able to get our community partners to participate and offer their services to the community, for example the Saint Peter’s Mobile Health Unit,” said Reyes. “Through doing so, they are able to host health screenings and identify the needs of residents.”

Recent New Brunswick Ciclovia events have drawn an estimated 4,000 residents and visitors, making it the largest Open Streets initiative in the state.

“We have been very successful in getting a great portion of New Brunswick’s residents to participate,” said Reyes. “Compared to any other Open Streets initiative, we are truly representative of the demographic of our city. The ratio of the attendees to the miles shut down is pretty significant.”

This year’s event has added several new sponsors to the route, a few new obstacle courses, as well as two local radio stations.

“It is a really fun event,” said Courtney Zullo, a student at Rutgers University. “It was awesome to walk down the center of George Street with no cars and there were so many great things to do. I am really looking forward to going this year.”

“At this point, New Brunswick Ciclovia has become a staple to the community,” Reyes said. “Seeing the excitement of the community towards it is what makes it special.”

Ciclovia, a global health initiative first introduced in Bogata, Colombia, in 1974, has gained momentum throughout the United States. With the success of the New Brunswick Ciclovia, the sponsors are committed to its continuation.

“We want it to become a sustainable event that we can eventually host every weekend,” Reyes said. “I mean how nice would it be to have an Open Streets event every weekend promoting a healthy community? The impact would be wonderful.”

New Brunswick Ciclovia events are scheduled for April 24, June 25, Aug. 6, and Oct. 2. The events run from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. and are free to the public. For more information, go to http://newbrunswickciclovia.com and http://nbtomorrow.org.

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