Safe Routes To School - Wait, Did You Say FREE?

Did you know that MassBike offers free bike safety trainings to children grades 4 - 8? That's right, I said FREE. Each school year, MassBike teaches thousands of elementary and middle school children how to ride their bikes more safely. Since beginning our youth education outreach, we’ve brought our school-age workshops to schools in Worcester, Cambridge, Salem, Franklin, Framingham and dozens of other communities around the Commonwealth. We want your community's school to be next.

If you are interested in bringing a trainer to a school in your community, or if you have any questions, email

Typically, the biggest obstacle to organizing these trainings is time. Kids' school days are chock full of required curriculum, and so arranging for a 45-minute bicycle safety class can sometimes be difficult. We can help the teachers or schools brainstorm ways to arrange the schedule so that it works for them.

The MassBike Safe Routes to School curriculum reviews basic maintenance (Air, Brakes, Chain & Quick Release), rules of the road, proper helmet fitting and overall visibility. Our instructors tailor the message to age-level to ensure that these critical safety lessons are most appropriate, effective and empowering. Classes are made possible through MassRIDES, a program of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation that promotes biking, walking, and transit use.

Making The Cape Great For Biking

We all knew the Cape was great for biking. All you have to do is go to the Bourne Bridge in the summer and take a look at all the bikes strapped to cars to know that the Cape is a destination for bicycling. But advocates on the Cape are actively working to make bicycling easier, more comfortable, and more convenient for tourists and year-rounders.

To discuss this effort more fully, Mass in Motion Barnstable County, in collaboration with MassBike and others, hosted the Cape Cod Bicycle Summit: Healthy Cyclists, Healthy Communities on Friday, November 8th. With 150 participants, this summit was a smashing success. There was a great conversation among residents and local, regional and statewide transportation and economic development experts.

The day started with remarks from State Senator Dan Wolf, a long-time Cape resident and founder of Cape Air (pictured right). He described his personal affinity for bicycling (it's always great to hear from elected officials who bike!) and the importance of bicycling on the Cape.

Speaking to statewide issues, Steve Woelfel of MassDOT and David Watson, MassBike's Executive Director, discussed how bicycling connects to statewide goals. David, in particular, described the excellent work in our communities that MassBike has been able to do through the Bikeable Communities Program, supported through statewide initiatives like Mass in Motion.

Speaking to the regional perspective, Thomas Cahir (Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority), Wendy Northcross (Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce), and Martha Hevenor (Cape Cod Commission) discussed the importance of bicycling to the local economy and ways in which the region is supporting bicycling. The three organizations represented were eager to discuss a new initiative which provides bike lights to the seasonal workers, who often ride after dark without any lights, and new signage that will go up on the Cape's myriad of bicycle routes.

Richard Fries from People for Bikes provided the closing remarks for the morning program. He spoke about the importance of branding (or re-branding) bicycling to get more people out there on bikes. His key message: take a cue from the car companies. We need to sell biking as cool, fun, and sexy - in short, as a lifestyle.

The day wrapped up with a basic bike advocacy training from Programs Director Price Armstrong (me). The presentation dealt with how to be effective in advocating for change at the local level, including building and maintaining relationships, staying focused, and not getting discouraged or burned out. Effective advocacy includes a balance of personal stories and data to convince decision makers that the pro-bike choice is the right choice.

Several initiatives emerged out of this, including the above-mentioned seasonal workers bike lights initiative and also a bike safety information direct mailing in two towns. A big thanks goes out to the conference organizers, including the Barnstable County Department of Human Services, the town of Barnstable, the Cape Cod Commission, the MassBike Cape and Islands Chapter (and especially Rob Miceli, chapter president), and the Office of Senator Dan Wolf. We are looking forward to continuing the good work on the Cape as these initiatives move forward.

As part of our Bikeable Communities Program, we offer a number of services, such as Bicycle Planning Assistance to facilitate a strategy for implementing bicycle-related projects, Bikeability Assessments to evaluate a community’s current state of bike-friendliness, and Bikeable Communities Trainings to help local advocates engage with key stakeholders and understand how to improve local infrastructure conditions.

Lights: See and Be Seen!

Halloween’s come and gone, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are fast approaching, and Christmas is just around the corner. Tis the season for lights! See and be seen on the roadways all year round by installing both a front white light and a rear red light on your bicycle. Massachusetts law is a great guide to visibility at night (link here).

There are a number of different types of bike lights out there -- USB or battery-powered, low-watt or double-watt, etc. The critical part is to make sure that your lights are visible. Bikeyface had a great post (check it out here) that illustrates the importance of light placement: make sure that your long coat, groceries, or many layers don't cover up the lights. And don't forget your lights and batteries at home alongside your forgotten lunch!

Lights are too expensive, you say? Well, if you are a MassBike Member, be sure to check out our bike shop partners who will give you a discount on bike gear.

But why stop at just lights? It’s equally important to be visible from the sides and most light systems are not equipped to do so. Here are some ideas:

  • Pedal reflectors or reflective ankle straps (old-school pedals come with reflectors, ankle straps do double duty by keeping your pants away from your dirty chain, and some very stylish cycling shoes have reflectors built in).

  • Reflectors or reflective material visible from the side (lots of options, including wheel reflectors, reflective tires, jackets, vests, and reflective tape and stickers that can go on almost anything).

  • For instance, check out this nifty product from a Pittsburgh-based start-up, Fiks:Reflective: reflective rim stripes

You wouldn’t drive a car after dark without lights, so why would you ride a bike that way? Remember, you don’t get extra points for being a bike ninja. Be seen and stay safe!

Guest post written by MassBike's Programs Intern Barbara Jacobson. For more info and a good read, check out our previous posts about lights, visibility, and the law: It’s Time To Light Up! | Light Up The Night!Bicycling at Night? Use Lights and Reflectors!

Gateway Cities, Bikeway Cities Presented At Moving Together

Last week, bicycle, pedestrian, and transit advocates gathered in Boston for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation's annual Moving Together conference. Plenary speakers included the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of Housing and Community Development, the Director of MassPort, and the Secretary of Energy and Environment. In all, it was a great opportunity for advocates and professionals to reconnect, learn about the most recent transportation initiatives in the state, and sharpen knowledge of cutting-edge best practices to further non-automotive transportation.

MassBike's Program Associate Jimmy Pereira presented at the conference on the work MassBike is doing in the Commonwealth's Gateway Cities. His presentation, "Gateway Cities, Bikeway Cities" went over the projects in Springfield, Holyoke, and Barnstable (among others) that MassBike is undertaking to promote bicycling in these redeveloping communities.

Gateway Cities, as defined by MassInc, are older mid-sized communities in Massachusetts which have an industrial legacy and serve as regional centers outside of Boston. Importantly, many key indicators for these cities indicate a sharp decline in the post-war period. Rates of poverty, low educational attainment, increases in crime (property crime, in particular) and a straining of the tax base define the issues many of these communities face. However, these communities are also among the Commonwealth's most diverse, and both long-time residents and newer arrivals in these communities have worked hard to keep them vibrant, despite these obstacles.

MassBike is committed to equitable investment in bicycle facilities around the state, not just in the Boston area. As Jimmy pointed out, the fundamental requirement for this work is that we help these communities realize their vision, not provide a vision for them. We firmly believe that our role as statewide advocates is to give local bike advocates tools to further their own priorities. In the end, this approach has been more sustainable, successful, and appropriate. Because the work of changing the built environment has a long timeline, significant community engagement is critical; the key to the long-term success of this work is having buy-in from the community.

Springfield Installs First Bike Lanes

MassBike's work in Springfield is paying off! Over the weekend, Springfield installed its first continuous bike lane in the city on Plumtree Road, in the East Forest Park neighborhood. The striped bike lane is one mile long and provides a connection from Western New England University to destinations such as Sixteen Acres Center, a commercial district with restaurants and shopping, and a number of parks and ponds.

Last month, MassBike and the City of Springfield hosted a public meeting and information session to give neighborhood residents the opportunity to learn more about the bike lane project on Plumtree Road. It proved to be a productive meeting, and the end result is the implementation of a quality bicycle facility—the first of its kind—in the City of Springfield.

This exciting project would not be possible without the leadership of two key individuals: Al Chwalek, Executive Engineer of Springfield Department of Public Works, and Chris Cignoli, Springfield's City Engineer.

This work has been made possible through MassBike’s involvement in Live Well Springfield, a coalition of community organizations, including Partners for a Healthier Community, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, and the City of Springfield. The city's first bike lane is a direct result of that work. Read more about our efforts here.

We're Crowdsourcing The State!

Help us capture the best of Massachusetts biking in video! MassBike is in the midst of producing a new police training video, working with the Boston Police Department and several other police departments. We've been busy filming the actual training scenarios, but we could use some help from every corner of Massachusetts to lend a statewide flavor to the production. We want ocean, mountains, historic buildings, and more recognizable Massachusetts places.

What we need:

  • Very short video clips of bicyclists passing iconic places all over Massachusetts

  • More short clips of cyclists passing the "Entering ..." signs outside Massachusetts cities and towns

  • Shots can be first-person (on-bike) or third-person perspective

Technical specs: We're using GoPro 1080p, 60fps, medium FOV. Try to keep each clip to no more than 10-15 seconds.

How to get involved: Email and let me know what you plan to shoot. We'll figure out the best way to get the files to us.

We can't promise we'll use everyone's clips, but if we do we'll credit you in the training video!

Remembering Jeanne Henry, 1956-2013

Please join us in remembering Jeanne Henry, whose quiet support of the Massachusetts bicycling community meant so much to so many of us. Read more about Jeanne here.

Berkshires to Boston: What A Blast!

A huge thank you goes out to all the supporters, volunteers and riders of our inaugural Berkshires to Boston Bicycle Tour, which took place during Massachusetts Car-Free Week (September 18-22). This epic, four-day adventure from one end of the Commonwealth to the other brought together riders from all over the world and nation. Almost 100 riders rode some of Massachusetts' picture-perfect roads just as the Fall foliage was starting to emerge. Add to that the highlight of the Hub on Wheels Festivities and riding on a car-free Storrow Drive!

Proceeds from the event support MassBike's advocacy and education work, including youth and adult bicycle education courses, legislative action, and our Bikeable Communities Program, plus fun rides and events that support safer and more accessible bicycling throughout the Commonwealth.

Special thanks to our gracious sponsors, without whom this event would not have been possible. And even more gratitude to Gary Briere - the founder and visionary of the Berkshires to Boston Bicycle Tour - without whose years of commitment and persistence the tour simply would not have happened.

If you missed out this year (or simply want to re-live the glory of the Tour), all event photos are posted on Facebook. Riders, please like us on Facebook and tag yourselves!

Thanks again for riding, and we hope to see you again at future MassBike events!

Recapping the New England Bike-Walk Summit

"What do you want your streets to look like?" League of American Bicyclists President Andy Clarke asked over 200 advocates at the New England Bike-Walk Summit in Providence, RI on Friday, October 4th. If we want our streets used primarily by cars, with a few fearless cyclists (if any bicyclists at all) riding with the traffic, then we don't need to do anything differently. But if we want streets with a diverse group of bicyclists, ranging from grandmothers to small children, we need to drastically change our roadways. Separated pathways, cycle-tracks, or buffered bike lanes are good starting places. This "Advocacy 3.0" must focus on attracting new users of the system, and we've known now for a long time that most people want separation from motor vehicles.

MassBike staff joined others from around New England for the conference. Organized by Eric Weiss of the East Coast Greenway Alliance, the Summit featured over 15 breakout sessions and multiple plenary addresses by the likes of Providence's Mayor, Angel Taveras and Keith Laughlin (President of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy). The Summit was well-organized and a wonderful opportunity to  hear about all of the great work that our peers throughout New England have accomplished!

MassBike's mission is to get more people on bikes throughout the Commonwealth, and one of our flagship efforts is the Bikeable Communities Program (BCP). Programs Director Price Armstrong presented our work with the BCP to Summit participants. As more decision-making is devolved from the federal government to the states and localities, building the local capacity of advocates in our communities is crucial to projects being built right. We accomplish this through multiple specific services, including bicycle education and training offerings, bikeability assessments, bike network planning, research, mapping projects, and public outreach assistance. For more information, contact

2013 National Bike Challenge: MA Winners Announced!

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the 2013 National Bike Challenge! The National Bike Challenge is a national competition among states, communities, workplaces, and individuals from May through September, put on by the League of American Bicyclists and sponsored by Kimberly-Clark. It's a fun way to demonstrate that bicycling save money and the environment! MassBike is the local sponsor for Massachusetts, and we were happy to see almost 450 riders sign up from the Bay State this year - our first participating in the National Bike Challenge.

Everyone who participated is a winner in our book, but here is the official "podium" for MA:


  1. Len "Rubber Legs" Irving, Plympton (7388 points)

  2. Cynthia Zabin, Roslindale (6250 points)

  3. David Rioux, Swansea (5791 points)


  1. Somerville (26,870)

  2. Cambridge (24,066)

  3. Roslindale (20,871)


  1. Boston Museum of Science (26,088)

  2. Toole Design Group (19,741)

  3. Visible Measures (17,336)

Each day you rode was worth 20 points, and each mile you rode was an additional point. This gave more weight to consistent biking on a daily basis, while still recognizing those who travel greater distances.

This was the first year that Massachusetts participated in the National Bike Challenge, so we have a bit of catching up to do to move up in the national rankings. Next year, we look forward to making an even stronger showing, with more people, more cities and towns, and more businesses participating! Be sure to sign up again in the Spring!

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