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Weekend bike ride to raise money for Leeds bridge

  • The Hotel Bridge in Leeds.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • The Hotel Bridge in Leeds.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

On Sunday, the Leeds Civic Association will hold its Fourth Annual Hotel Bridge Bike Ride to raise funds to preserve the bridge. Proceeds from participation fees will go toward restoring the bridge, according to the group.

The bike ride is organized by Alice Badecker, vice president of the association, and Stephy Cho, who serves on the organization’s board. Badecker, who lives across the street from the Hotel Bridge, launched the ride in 2010.

In a phone interview, she described herself as an “avid cyclist” and said she has participated in many organized bike rides over the years. When she learned that the bridge was about to be shut down, she thought a bike ride would be a fitting way to raise money to save it.

Since that first ride, Badecker said, the Hotel Bridge Bike Ride has raised about $5,000. Between 60 and 70 riders have participated each of the past two years, she said, and she hopes to see more participants this year.

The Hotel Bridge Bike Ride is a part of MassBike’s Bay State Bike Week, a series of annual statewide events to celebrate bicycling. Badecker said holding the ride during Bike Week helps raise its visibility and draw riders.

Badecker said cyclists of all ages and abilities participate. The ride has 10-mile, 25-mile, and 50-mile routes. The atmosphere, she said, is decidedly noncompetitive.

“It’s a good, friendly event,” said Badecker. In previous years, riders have come from as far away as Rhode Island, so Badecker said “it’s a nice way to get to know other people from other areas who come to ride.”

Badecker designed the courses to be well-paced, but the longer routes also offer some challenges for more experienced riders.

Built in 1889, the Hotel Bridge is the oldest standing bridge in Northampton, according to the association. Its name refers to the Leeds Hotel, which served guests and industrial workers during the area’s industrial heyday.

The bridge was closed to vehicle traffic in 2004 due to safety concerns. Barriers have been placed in front of it and a sign says it is closed to pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

But, said Badecker, “I guarantee you, everybody still rides their bikes and walks over it.” The bridge serves as a path for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross the Mill River, and as a connector to the Roberts Hill Conservation Area.

She noted that the Department of Public Works received $35,000 from Community Preservation funding to do an engineering study of the bridge.

The ride begins at 8 a.m. on Sunday, May 19, in the parking lot of ChartPak Inc., 1 River Road, Leeds (across from the Leeds Post Office). Registration is $30 for individuals and $40 for families of 3 or more. Participants can register in advance at www.leedscivic.org, or at the start location on the morning of the ride.

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