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!
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.
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!
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