They rode their recreational bicycles, folding bicycles, racing and even Citibikes, meeting up at Cooper Square on what would be a very hot Sunday.
“We knew it was going to be an unreasonably hot day so we were surprised to see over 150 people show up at the start,” says Etsu Taniguchi who runs the Veselka racing team. Taniguchi helped prepare a New York City bike ride —open to all— in solidarity with Ukraine. For 10 years, the iconic East Village Ukrainian restaurant Veselka has sponsored the 16-year-old Veselka cycling team of amateur men and women racers.
Team member Lucie Vagnerova explains that not everyone wearing the yellow and blue jerseys and ready to ride are part of the racing team. The actual team jerseys are green and white. Half the Sunday cyclist crowd are wearing a special Stand with Ukraine jersey designed by Alex Ostroy and produced by a local cycling clothing manufacturer. The identifiable colors of the Ukrainian flag shout solidarity.
Many other Sunday cyclists sport a black Veselka tee-shirt that reads on the back: Our hearts beet for Ukraine. (Restaurant proceeds from all beet borscht orders go to Ukraine. Also, Veselka wearables including the $100 special edition jersey are available from its website.)
“We’ll ride to the bull downtown where the Ukrainian flag is raised, head up to the UN Mission to Ukraine on E. 51 St. and then return to the Ukrainian festival on E. 7th Street,” reports Vagnerova who cycled from Flatbush to get here.
Veselka owner Tom Birchard thanks riders for showing up and encourages the crowd. The ride, organized for a good time, is planned to be a leisurely pace. Two motorcycle cops wait to accompany it.
Allan Friedman helped organize the event and offers words to inspire. “I appreciate the freedom that I have, in this moment, in this place, to ride my bike and enjoy it in relative safety. People of Ukraine had to live through a hellish invasion from Russia, and no longer for the moment have this freedom and more serious freedoms that have been stripped away by this war. As we ride today, we keep that in mind.” He asked people to be patient, ride slowly, politely, “It’s not a race. It’s intended to be a simple solemn bike ride.” He reminds folks to: Raise your arm in solidarity with people in Ukraine.
Voicing his respect for the crowd, non-bike rider Arthur Zgurov of Razom notes how the cyclists are proudly spreading the bright colors of blue and yellow all around New York, making people see that Ukraine is not alone. “Ukrainians no longer have freedom to ride a bike only because of crazy thoughts of one little crazy man. That will change. What we see today is a unity of people and nations.”
Ready to roll, cyclists left Cooper Square at 9:30 am. After the ride, Taniguchi summed it up. “Along the route we were cheered on, honked at, waved at —all in great spirit. Though we gathered from different backgrounds, it was a lovely sight to see us all share the morning in harmony. We have about a dozen racers from the team helping manage the traffic or chatting up making new friends. It wasn’t a race but we all won that day. The support for Ukraine must continue and we hope there will be other opportunities to get together in solidarity.”
Returning cyclists joined the E. 7th Street Ukrainian block party celebrating the culture of Ukraine. There, vendors sold embroidered blouses and artisan wares and traditional baked goods and other eats that were enjoyed by all.