by Sarah Braker
The Peachtree Road Race is cemented in the DNA of Atlanta. The 10-kilometer run takes place every year on the Fourth of July and attracts tens of thousands of runners from near and far. That kind of reputation is exactly what the organizers of VeloCity are hoping for their new cycling event on May 5. “We want it to be part of the fabric of sporting events in Atlanta,” says Joselyn Baker, event director for VeloCity.
In a city with a deep car culture, Baker and team are hoping to deliver “a fun and unique experience” with VeloCity, one that builds on solid progress for safer bike riding over the last few years. Four cycling routes of different lengths will begin on the field at Mercedes Benz stadium. From a five-mile city route (on streets that will be closed to traffic), to a century, there is something for hard core cyclists and those new to riding. There are also volunteer opportunities, indoor cycling sessions and bike rental options—pretty much something for everyone. All routes will be fully supported with rest stops and SAG vehicles. “We are focused on making sure it’s fun and safe and that people want to come every year,” Baker says.
VeloCity is more than just an opportunity to get on a bike. It’s also a fundraising ride for Grady Memorial Hospital. Grady, according to Baker, serves two important roles in Atlanta. “It provides care to the underserved and it creates economic development by attracting events to the city.” Baker explains that Grady almost closed a decade ago and that even though it’s doing well today it’s important to develop active engagement and support from the community. VeloCity does have a registration fee, and participants are encouraged, but not required, to raise money for Grady. The event is both a means to support a local institution and build community among bike riders. “We want to bring people across the city together,” Baker says. “To try something new and build on the growing love for cycling as sport, fitness and mobility.”
VeloCity will kick off with a party the night before the rides and there will be an all-day celebration when people cross the finish line. Local companies and brands will be on hand, cementing the only-in-Atlanta vibe of the event. “We hope that people don’t just come, ride and leave,” Baker says, “we want them to be part of the ride and celebrations, to enjoy coming together to have a great ride and support an important local institution.” The goal is that over time, the event can attract thousands of participants and become something that people put on their calendars and look forward to all year.
Though the first-year event has yet to take place, Baker says that the the team behind VeloCity has learned a lot already. To others looking to launch bike riding events in their cities, she has a few key pieces of advice. “Have good leadership at the table,” she says, “people who are excited and committed to the event.” She adds that working with a professional event planner will allow you to keep the promise of a high-quality experience. Finally she says, “Make sure you’ve got ways to reach large numbers of people, companies and organizations. It’s never too soon to start building familiarity for your event.” VeloCity’s organizers have been working with bike advocacy groups, local governments and area companies to generate interest.
The VeloCity team says their mission is simple: They want to build a network of support and engagement with Grady Hospital and also create a new cycling tradition in Atlanta. “It’s something that’s different and hasn’t been done before in Atlanta,” Baker says. “We promise to deliver a first-rate cycling experience at every level.”