That Time We Had a Police Escort on a Bike Ride to Philadelphia

Cheesesteak Century Ride to Philadelphia

Last Sunday, I organized a small group of cyclists from the New York Cycle Club on a ride from Newark, New Jersey to Philadelphia, as I had previously noted on this site.

When I boarded the PATH train at World Trade Center, there were about a dozen, mostly black cyclists that boarded with me, holding their bicycles as we travelled under the Hudson River. When we arrived at Newark Penn Station, we found that there were dozens more waiting in the lobby, and when we emerged outside, there were well over a hundred more cyclists waiting to start riding. Clearly, there we stumbled upon a some kind of cycling event.

Cheesesteak Century Ride to Philadelphia

One of the cyclists gathered outside Newark Penn Station asked us where we were headed and if we were going through New Hope. We said that we were going to Philadelphia and that, yes, we planned to ride through New Hope.

He then invited us to ride with the group, noting “we have a police escort.” The video below shows the peloton riding through the streets of Newark. You can see the NYCC cyclists scattered at the back of the pack at about 1:10.

The ride we stumbled upon was the annual New Hope Ride, organized by Major Taylor Cycling Club of New Jersey. This club traces its roots back to the 1970s when two sisters formed a cycling club in response to “the discrimination they experienced while riding with other NYC cycling clubs.” The club’s namesake, Major Taylor, was an African American cyclist who set numerous world records at the turn the of the twentieth century while facing racial discrimination and persecution.

Marshall Taylor with his track bicycle

Major Taylor, the namesake of the club we rode with on Sunday’s ride to Philadelphia.

After the rest stop in New Brunswick, at about mile twenty-five, I found that these cyclists could ride much faster than I could, so we detoured back to our planned route and continued on our way. Nonetheless, it was certainly an extraordinarily great experience to stowaway on this club’s event, taking advantage of their police escort and to blow through countless red lights through the streets of New Jersey. In this racially charged climate we live in today, especially after the violence in Charlottesville just the days earlier, we also rode in unity and in solidarity.

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