On Aug. 10, a total of 340 cyclists, young and old, gathered at the Long Beach Recreation Center to begin an 11-mile bike ride around the barrier island to honor the memory of James P. Conlon, a man who dedicated his life to helping the physically challenged live a life free of barriers.
Serious cyclists rode side-by-side with recreational bikers to participate in the 10th annual Citizens United to Remove Barriers (CURB) Bike Ride, raising money and awareness for CURB, a local non-profit organization that works to build ramps, supply equipment, and raise community awareness of the ongoing needs of the physically-challenged.
Long Beach residents Matt Demerest, Casey Kantor and Billy Papetti organized the first CURB bike ride, with Conlon’s help, when they were just 14 years old, gathering a group of 26 friends to cycle around Long Beach Island. Jim died unexpectedly a few days before that first event, so they have dedicated the ride every year to his memory. Over the years, through a combination of word of mouth and social media, the event has grown, attracting locals and out-of-towners alike.
This year’s event began with a moment of silence to honor Peter Zarba, former vice-president of CURB who passed away earlier this year. Demerest, Kantor and Papetti also took a moment to acknowledge participants and sponsors who have supported all 10 CURB rides.
With the help of a full police escort, hundreds of bikers safely meandered through the West End, the Canals, the West End, the boardwalk, the Westholme area and West Bay drive, as onlookers honked, waved and cheered them on.
For many the event was a real family affair. Young families rode with babies in child seats, or towed them in trailers. The Chu family of Glen Cove attracted the attention of riders and spectators alike on their bicycle built for four. They rode as part of Team Viscardi, representing the Henry Viscardi School and the Viscardi Center for adults and children with disabilities in Albertson, N.Y.
Looping around the barrier island, the riders finished up at the Long Beach Recreation Center for complimentary food and a chance to win raffle prizes. Over the years, the event has raised a total of nearly $65,000 to help CURB continue its mission. This year’s event alone raised over $12,500.
In the past year, CURB has funded the building of six ramps, the installation of railing at two separate homes, repaired an accessible van after damage from Sandy, assisted three homes obtain wheelchair lifts, and supported physical therapy for an injured high school wrestler. CURB has also lent support to the Long Island Center for Independent Living, Nassau County Empire State Games for the Physically Challenged, the Viscardi Center and the Wounded Warrior Project in Long Beach.