The ride over the Hoan has been a nice boost for the Ride for the Arts.
The annual outing to raise money for the United Performing Arts Fund will provide bikers their first opportunity in decades to pedal over the iconic Hoan Bridge, legally. They’ve responded.
A record 575 signed up for the event at the Wheel & Sprocket Bike Expo earlier this month, and the rider roster is now approaching 3,000. With six weeks left to the date on June 5, the registration count stands about 17.4% over the same time in 2009 and up 84% compared with 2008, according to UPAF officials.
“When we look at our numbers right now, 70% of those who registered are riding over the Hoan Bridge, either the 25, 50 or 75 mile route,” said Cristy Garcia-Thomas, the president of the United Performing Arts Fund. “I think that’s a big driver behind it. I think that’s something that’s new and different.”
Riders ready at the start of the 2010 UPAF Ride for the Arts. Photo courtesy of UPAF.
Organizers secured permission to close the iconic bridge to motor vehicle traffic from 7 to 9 a.m. on the morning of the ride. Starting from the Summerfest grounds, participants will pedal south over the two-mile span, then return over the northbound lanes toward the city skyline.
Since it opened in the late ‘70s the bridge over the Port of Milwaukee has been closed to cyclists and pedestrians, except for once-a-year outings organized by the county.
Those walk-the-bridge days ended in the late ‘80s, however, and the Hoan has been off limits to anything without a motor for decades, despite persistent requests from cyclists.
UPAF seems to be benefiting from the pent-up demand, and the boost is a welcome one.
Since it peaked in the early ‘90s, participation in the ride sponsored by Miller Lite has steadily declined, from roughly 14,000 to about 6,000 in 2010.
It’s still one of the largest charity events in the city, and generates roughly $325,000 for a fund that supports local arts groups.
Garcia-Thomas said moving the start / finish area to the Summerfest grounds and improving the post-ride party also helped boost the enthusiasm for a 30-year-old event.
“We like the trend,” she said. “We like the direction it's moving.”
Team registration for the Miller Lite Ride for the Arts closes on May 4. Individual registration continues through June 5. For more information, check out the website.