Group seeks return of downtown York's 'circuit'; city officials wary

Matt Enright
York Dispatch
A sign discouraging cruising is posted on West Market Street in York City, Friday, May 28, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Cruising downtown York City's "loop," or "circuit," was once a popular weekend pastime for young people — and a bane of residents who lived along the route.

It got to a point where city officials created a loop task force and passed a city ordinance prohibiting driving on streets past a police department control point more than three times every two hours from 7 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. 

That was in the late 1980s and '90s, and the crackdown worked. The Harrison Street-Philadelphia Street-Carlisle Avenue-Market Street circuit is no longer clogged with cars packed full of rambunctious youth on Friday and Saturday nights.

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But now there's a push to revive the tradition — and it's getting the attention of wary city officials.

A Facebook group known as "The Circuit-York PA-Hot Rods and Sweet Rides" has been growing since it was established on Tuesday. It had more than 1,700 members as of Monday afternoon.

"This group was created to bring back the famous Friday night cruise in York, PA at the circuit and surrounding areas," according to the "about" section of the page.

Administrator Ed Smith said in an interview Thursday the group isn't a formal effort, but simply a way to celebrate cars and have fun.

"I just feel that it's something that could bring a lot back to York, and there's always good views and bad views about it," he said. "It don't matter what event you go to, you have good apples and bad apples." 

A police representative said the department is aware of the group and that a balance should be struck.

The loop task force no longer exists, but York City Police spokesperson Sgt. Daniel Lentz said in a Friday interview he had informed the department's operations captain of the group.

"Right now we have not seen anything that would be indicative of it being a problem or a nuisance, but it’s on our radar. But there should be a balance there — we don’t want to deter people from coming downtown," he said.

"Obviously we want people to come down and enjoy all York has to offer, but we would remind people to be respectful of our laws and ordinances and to have a good time,” Lentz added.

Mayor Michael Helfrich said Friday that the safety of the residents comes first. 

“While I enjoyed it as a kid, I also recognize the impact that it has to the city residents and their peace and their desire to have some peace in their homes,” he said.

Helfrich, who said he used to ride the circuit when he was young, noted the ordinance was created to ensure the safety and protection of the community. Cars that ride quietly and follow the speed limit likely wouldn't be a problem; it's the vehicles that speed or are loud that would garner the attention of officers, he said.

Smith, who has a 1989 Chevy Camaro and a 1965 Ford F100, said he likes to drive and cruise but doesn't belong to any formal clubs. The group isn't intended to act as a formalized club, he said, but just to highlight an activity.

"I think it's a great thing to grow the community," he said. "Wherever it is, in the city, on Route 30, it's going to bring revenue. Whether it's gas stations, ice cream shops, restaurants."

Smith said he wasn't looking to defy any ordinance.

"I don't mean to organize something; it's just something people can do," he said. "It's just something that historically, people have done. Cars have been around forever and people want to show their stuff."