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A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts

by Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition
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A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
Riders at Tim Johnson's Wachusett Fondo
Riders at Tim Johnson's Wachusett Fondo

July was a whirlwind of a month for MassBike, as our new executive director settled into the swing of things at your statewide bike advocacy HQ. We spent July expanding our clinics and classes, promoting biking to events with our bike valet program, and working with local police departments to distribute free blinkie lights for communities on Cape Cod. Amidst this work, we were stunned by the death of recreational cyclists in Nantucket and in Gill, and joined in round-table conversations with everyone from law enforcement to bike shops up to the mayor to deal with tack attacks in Newton’s bikes lanes. But along with the daily ups and downs of bicycle advocacy, I’d like to highlight three important components to our work which showcase some of the successes and challenges we face:

In the middle of the month, the MassBike team joined fellow advocates and planners in Fall River for a meeting of the Massachusetts Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board. After presentations on the strong work being done by the Fall River Bike Committee and the South Coast Bikeway Alliance, we gathered for a ride along the surprisingly impressive Quequechan River Rail Trail, which is currently a finalist for the Urban Land Institute Open Space Award, an international recognition!

Later in July, we co-hosted Tim Johnson’s Wachusett Fondo with the Minuteman Road Club at Wachusett Brewery. MassBike staff, board members, and volunteers from the newly formed Central Mass Chapter were on hand to grind some gravel and tackle a few monster hills, all in pursuit of a good post-ride beer. Thank you to all the riders who registered for the ride, which raised funds to support MassBike.

On the final day of the month, we were disappointed to learn that the legislative pursuits we’ve been tracking did not make it out of the House of Representatives in a formal session. Both An Act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities and a bill to ban handheld cell phone use while driving cleared their way through the Senate, but got held up in the House (along with many other worthy efforts this session). These powerful pieces of legislation are still alive and could go through an informal session this summer – or be picked up again in January. As one Representative told us, “the path of bills through Legislature is often unpredictable,” so we’re keeping our eyes on the prize here, we will continue to work with our friends to move through the channels of Beacon Hill. Please stay tuned for future updates and action alerts from our communications team!

Going forward, we have much to look forward to in August. We’ll be out celebrating biking in the North Berkshires BikeFest, out on the shimmering Cape Cod Canal, and in rolling hills of the Pioneer Valley. We’ll be running on-bike classes to teach safe and legal riding in communities that have instituted dockless bike sharing. And we’re gearing up for our Safe Routes to Schools work which will kick off again this coming fall.

And since we certainly cannot do this work as just a statewide coalition. Please visit our website to find out more about what our chapters are doing around the state.

See you on the roads and trails!

Teaching kids basic riding skills in Lawrence
Teaching kids basic riding skills in Lawrence

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May is one of our favorite times of year. More people are out on bikes. Some folks break them out after a long winter as temperatures warm up while some are deciding to try riding to work for the first time. The excitement and positivity of National Bike Month leads into Bay State Bike Week, where Massachusetts is the only state in the country with a statewide bike week!

With the exciting momentum of bike month, MassBike also heads in an exciting new direction. With the departure of Executive Director Richard Fries, MassBike's board of directors is hard at work to find a new leader for the organization. This person will be responsible for carrying the excitement and positive energy of Fries and moving the organization towards new achievements. Fortunately, we have Tom Franics on board, who has stepped in from his role as our business membership coordinator to that of interium executive director.

In the interim, the staff has worked hard to keep things moving forward while planning events for Bay State Bike Week, like a people protected bike lane.

What on earth is that you might ask? Just as it sounds! MassBike and other advocacy organizations want to see more protected bicycle infrastructure on our streets to encourage more people to bike who might be too afraid to otherwise. Protected bike lanes are like sidewalks but for bikes. They keep the cars out and give bicyclists a dedicated place to be. A people protected bike lane, while seemingly is a little bit dangerous, highlights the need for a protected bike lane in a given area. It's one part art, one part political protest, one part street party and community event. It's a unique way of showing a need for this type of infraastructure.

The goal is to get things moving, to stir thoughts and ideas, and to encourage change. MassBike will host a people protected bike lane during Bay State Bike Week, amongst many other community events as we continue to push the organization forward on behalf of bicyclists in the Bay State!

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This past Saturday, our Executive Director Richard Fries embarked on the 2018 Perambulation, the start of a New Year’s Resolution to ride every bike path in Massachusetts. Turns out, there are thousands of miles of paths! This was to be the start of quite the adventure. To launch this effort on the Cape Cod’s Shining Sea Path, America’s first rail-to-trail project, seemed appropriate. So off to the Cape we went.

Packed in tight while sitting down for coffee before the ride, our group picked up on a conversation commenting on current events. Within seconds we all realized the subject. They were talking about the tragic death of a surgeon killed while bicycling in Boston by a large truck and our video that had been released earlier that week entitled 16 seconds.

We've heard it once and we'll hear it again. We expected to hear the victim blamed in this incident. But we were surprised. They all lamented how many times they had been threatened or startled by reckless drivers operating large trucks. A common problem on narrow roads of the Bay State.

Had MassBike simply written a letter or filed a report or cited some data in dealing with this case, our voices would never have reached beyond some shelf. No news coverage. No social media. No viral conversation, such as this one unfurling nearly 100 miles from the site of the crash. But we used video in our appeal for justice. Sometimes it's better to show them then to tell them.

We felt from the day of the crash that this particular incident warranted charges or - at a minimum - a citation against the driver. We needed to do more. After more than a dozen attempts to secure an audience with the Boston Police, we finally chose to go public with our video presentation. The turnout of the media for this event proved overwhelming. All the major network television affiliates covered the story. The Boston Globe put it on the front of its Metro section; The Boston Herald went with a full front page photo. The story continues to spread globally via such podcasts as the Paceline, the Outspoken Cyclist, and Streetsblog.  

While our short term goal was to get the Boston Police to reopen the case, our secondary goal was to foster a dialogue to improve crash response protocol and improve law enforcement training around bicycle issues. But the longer goal was just what we accomplished. We wanted to alter the mainstream culture and conversation.  Moving the cultural needle is a small part of what we do as an organization but one of the most important to progressing safety on our roadways for all bicyclists.

 

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We installed lights on bikes across the state!
We installed lights on bikes across the state!

Throughout the entire month of October, MassBike went on a mission to shine bright lights across the Commonwealth.

As we approach darker months of the year and the fall time-change, rider safety can become more challenging. To combat this issue, throughout the entire month of October, MassBike worked to raise funds to purchase lights from Planet Bike, to distribute free lights to riders in need prior the end of Daylight Savings Time.

Although only 20 percent of bike rides happen after sunset, more than 50 percent of bike fatalities happen during those hours. Simply being seen is one of the most important ways to make a bike rider safer. But too often - especially during this time of year - we find people caught on their bikes with inadequate lighting. This can be a simple lack of awareness or they cannot afford lights. In either case, MassBike wants to help make sure riders are seen on the roadways and get to where they need to go safely.

Through crowdfunding efforts, MassBike raised enough money to exceed their goal of distributing 1000 light in a single day. On November 2nd teams of volunteers, bike shops, Earn-a-Bike programs, and MassBike staff fanned out across he state and not only distributed lights for free to riders in need but installed them on their bikes and showed them out to change the batteries.

We hope to install another 1000 lights when we run this new campaign again next year!

Free bike lights for folks who need them!
Free bike lights for folks who need them!

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Clearing after the rainstorm
Clearing after the rainstorm

Each year MassBike hosts an annual summer ride. This year, our staff arrived at the start on a hot, early morning in August with thunderstorms looming on the radar. 2 MassBike staffers, 2 board members, and 1 lone volunteer wait under the tent at the starting location in scenic Western Massachusetts as the dark clouds begin to roll in. We’re gearing up and getting ready to roll out on a 65 mile ride through hilly, quiet roads. It’s a nice route with just the right amount of climbing. But the mood isn’t what you might expect. The weather forecast appears especially ominous for exactly when we are scheduled to depart.

Apparently our participants checked the weather, too. The only ones to brave the potential thunderstorms for our ride? Two women, Emma and Luisa, neither of whom hadn’t biked more than 25 miles in one go this year. And neither of whom appeared familiar with what our organization is or does, they simply wanted to go for a bike ride.

Not a problem, we tell them. Come along with us. It’ll be fine, we assure them.

9:00am hits and off we go. Our troop of dedicated riders gets just a few miles in and BOOM! It downpours for a solid 30 minutes but by the time we’ve crested our first climb the rain stops. It’s humid and puddly. Everyone pulls off rain jackets and settles in for the day, soaking wet from head to toe. But things are looking up.

As we ride along, our two riders get an education. From all 5 of us. They hear tips on how to ride their bikes steadily, the easiest way to keep their balance and reach for a water bottle while rolling along, and how to shift properly when going up a steep hill. They’re appreciative of the tips and tricks and by the end of the morning and the more miles we ride, they move into bigger questions.

They ask about the work we do. What is MassBike, anyways? The who, the why, and the what. Lots of questions. We answer.

At this point, you see our staff light up with joy. The excitement is back. It’s the rainbow after the dark storm. One rider asks what she can do to volunteer. They too, are excited and want to get involved.

The end of the ride culminates with a few drinks and snacks at a local pub with good conversation amongst new allies and friends. Bonds forged over a soggy pedal on quiet roads.

It’s not always through some sort of grand impact, large statement, or statewide change that we can make a difference. It’s through one person at a time, one ride, one moment, one rainbow after a storm that we work to make change. It doesn’t always look like an easy task. Sometimes it’s soggy and daunting. Sometimes it is convincing that one person at a townhall meeting that bikes belong. Or having a conversation with a business owner who thinks that a new bike lane will take away parking and hurt his business. The most rewarding change that we can impart is one person at a time. It’s watching someone see something a different way. It’s what keeps us going. Sometimes it’s as easy as it was on this day, a simple bike ride to make an impact, that merely had to traverse a bit of bad weather.

We hope to see you on the next ride.

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Organization Information

Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition

Location: Boston, MA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @massbike
Project Leader:
Edward Thomas
Boston, MA United States

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