While towns across America are striving to become bike-friendly, West Chester is setting the example.
From the well-known Iron Hill Criterium, a professional cycling race, to weekend biking events and citizens routinely cycling to work and school, West Chester is a two-wheel town.
At the center of the West Chester cycling experience is the Iron Hill Criterium, an annual race that draws a hundred or so professional and USCF licensed cyclists to race 60 laps around a 1-mile circuit. At speeds of 35 mph, racers zoom through the streets of West Chester much to the delight of large crowds. The 2009 event will mark the fifth year of the race.
“The kids’ race is the most important part of the Criterium,” says Gilbert Torres, president of the West Chester Cycling Club (WCCC), a riding club that sponsors weekly bike rides throughout Chester County and surrounding communities. “We are building a support structure for these young ones with that portion of the event. It’s really enjoyable to see kids, from toddlers to teens, racing down the street in a big group. It brings the town together.”
Organizations such as WCCC help promote cycling by recognizing an array of skill levels. To ensure progress continues, Torres has the WCCC networking with other organizations to keep things moving forward.
“Before the West Chester Cycling Club, I used to see a lot of riders out, but I never saw any large groups of riders,” Torres says. “There have always been cyclists in the area, but I think WCCC makes it official.”
Ninety percent of the club’s rides begin and end in the town of West Chester. At any given time during the year, both during the week and on the weekends, a mix of professional and leisure cyclists can be seen pedaling through Chester County.
Torres says there’s a good reason West Chester is a two-wheel town.
“I think it is the easy access to the countryside and the quiet roads that make West Chester popular for cyclists,” Torres says. “You can ride 80 miles into neighboring counties, see a beautiful countryside, and be back by the end of the day.”
Just five miles outside of town, horse farms, lush creek areas and beautiful covered bridges abound in a low traffic scenario that is ideal for cyclists.
Story by Brandon Lowe
Photo by Courtesy of Michael L. Kirk