The Low Road

A cycling community is born


Part I: Genesis

In August of 2002, New Haven cyclist Elaine Lewinnek was fed up with the lamentable state of Orange Street, a major thoroughfare that cuts through the East Rock neighborhood. An ongoing sewer project had left the roadway patched and pitted and perilous — particularly for cyclists.

So Lewinnek, then a Yale University graduate student working on her dissertation on urban history, did what comes naturally to erudite New Haveners: She called her alderman to complain.

Her complaint fell on sympathetic ears.

Ninth Ward Alderman John Halle was something of an enigma in New Haven, a Green Party member who had broken Democrats’ decades-long lock on City Hall. A bicycle commuter himself, he was also one of the founders of ElmCityCycling, a Yahoo Group listserv that two or three dozen local cyclists used to keep in touch and vent about issues.

“He said that we should do something about Orange Street, but we should do something much wider than that,” Lewinnek recalls. What he said next surprised her: “He said I should take leadership in this group.”



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