As MassBike welcomes in the New Year, we first must acknowledge what this past year meant for us and for so many people who faced loss and tough challenges. We have all been forced to look at the world with new eyes, and to ask hard questions about how we treat each other and build a better world together. For MassBike this meant continuously pivoting our work to face the headwinds and manage each moment to maintain momentum for bike advocacy across the state. Through it all, we kept rolling. Below are a few notable inflection points that defined our year.
In March, we quickly needed to change the way we advocate. Beginning the week before our scheduled lobby day in Washington D.C. at the National Bike Summit we decided to go all virtual, and in the following months we discovered how the power of Zoom allowed us to shrink the geographic distance, giving constituents from across the state direct access to their elected officials and their legislative aides. Together we connected on countless webinars featuring all sorts of bike-themed topics: bike authors, legislation and bike lawyers, bike-packing, and basics of bike maintenance; keeping you engaged even as we were all apart behind our own screens.
We weren’t sure how to respond to COVID, but we did know we had to be there to keep you riding – for essential workers getting to their jobs, and also for everyone’s physical and mental wellness. Unfortunately, Governor Baker’s decision to close bike shops as part of COVID restrictions meant MassBike’s role was to convince the highest power in the state that bicycles are also essential vehicles for transportation. By rallying you, our members, we engaged legislators in all corners of Massachusetts from the Berkshires to PTown, who successfully reversed the State’s decision, and bicycle repair is now considered an “essential service” and your local bicycle shop can stay open to serve riders in the current bike boom.
This year we leaned on our coalition partners, who were doing the real wheels-on-the-ground work for social justice and transportation equity. We partnered with the Mass in Motion program to offer mini-grants to six partner organizations and supported cities and towns as they worked with MassDOT to implement open streets, so people could ride, walk, and visit their downtowns free from cars.
In September, we finally celebrated Bike Month after pushing back the festivities from May. We paired with MassCommute to run bicycle challenges and rallied hundreds of riders, dozens of advocacy groups, and employers from across the state to encourage bicycling and host mostly virtual bike “events” to keep us rolling together.
Along with the advocacy work, MassBike also grew as an organization. With the help of our committed board of directors, we brought on two new staff members, hosted a robust annual meeting, and revised our mission statement and rebranded our Connecticut River Valley Chapter based on a new vision brought into focus by this tumultuous year.
I heard a line in April that has stuck with me: “Everyone is talking about getting back to normal. Well, normal wasn’t that good for us, and frankly we were on a track that was pretty awful for everyone. So, coming out of this, let’s build a new normal, a better normal, one that is more just, more equitable, more resilient, and makes a healthier world.”
So, here we stand, looking toward 2021 with a vision of hope that is forged through this work. In a hard year, we discovered a newfound appreciation for bicycling and its ability to engage all people to create a better world. And we have momentum, but we have to keep pedaling into the headwinds.
Here’s to a new and better year!