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Westchester Residents Roll in First Bicycle Sunday

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – The 38th Annual Bicycle Sundays program kicked off as families of young and old riding on bicycles and Rollerblades took to the Bronx River Parkway in White Plains.

Heidi Bernhart, who plays roller-derby in Yonkers, was rollerblading and had forgotten the event was going on until she met a bicyclist on her route.

“I actually picked up the trail from Kensico and I ran into him right over here when I was looking for the path, so I decided to jump over,” said Bernhart. “It should be interesting.”

The program was on the brink of being cut from the 2012-2013 Westchester County budget, but due to the combined $40,000 provided by co-sponsors, Con Edison and Friends of Westchester County Parks, it survived.

“It wouldn’t have happened and it’s been an ongoing program since 1974. It’s very popular. Thousands of Westchester residents from here all the way down to Tuckahoe participate and can access this fabulous parkway,” said Liz Bracken-Thompson, chair of the board of Friends of Westchester County Parks. “What we did is Friends of Parks, set up a matching grant of $20,000 and Con-Edison matched that grant. So, for the $40,000 we were able to restore it to the budget.”

Sandy Miller, director of public affairs for Con Edison in Westchester County, called it “a real example of a successful public-private partnership.” She is also on the Friends of Westchester County Parks board.

“I was at a board meeting, we were talking about it, and Friends was going to be able to fund part of the program,” said Miller. “They really needed to have a private donor step up. We’re part of the Westchester community more than anyone else – we’re the pipes and wires that keep the county together. We thought it’d be a great project to take on.”

Deputy County Executive Kevin Plunkett said Bicycle Sundays was an important “institution and tradition,” but that taxpayers needed help funding it.

“To help our taxpayers, who were funding Bicycle Sunday, we reached out and it didn’t take us too long to reach out and find partners who were very willing to step up to help the county, to help the taxpayers of this county and to make Bicycle Sunday continue as a reality.

The costs cover staffing and safety, said Kathleen O’Connor, county parks commissioner.

“It’s something we constantly try to do with families,” said O’Connor in describing the event. “Teenagers can do it along with their parents, children, grandparents, boyfriend, girlfriend, whatever the combination is. That’s what we try to encourage – free programs that the whole family can enjoy.”

Sunday’s event, which was scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., is one of 11 through the end of September. On Bicycle Sundays, a section of the Bronx River Parkway is closed to cars so that bicyclists, joggers, and others can utilize it. The 13.1 mile round-trip starts at the Westchester County Center in White Plains and goes south to Scarsdale Road in Yonkers. Participants can enter and exit through many different parts of the route.

Bicycle Sunday are also set for the following dates:

May 13 and 20 June 3, 10, 17 and 24 Sept. 9, 16, 23 and 30

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