What's With All The Hate?

I wasn't really surprised by the recent screeds against bicyclists in the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald. These seem to come in flurries every once in a while, first one media outlet, then others not wanting to be left out of the resulting mayhem. Generating controversy is a common tactic for the media, and challenges to the status quo, like increasing interest in bicycling, are an irresistible target. But what does it really mean for bicyclists?

The greatest injustice the Herald and other haters are perpetrating is that they dehumanize us. We end up nameless, faceless "bicyclists" - not who we really are, like mothers on bikes, grandfathers on bikes, or neighbors on bikes. When motorists are driving next to that nameless bicyclist, it's easier not to pay attention to or care about that bicyclist's safety. Last year, we did a campaign called "And I Ride" to put a human face on people who ride bikes. It's worth taking another look and sending to your non-bicycling friends.

There is also lack of perspective in all this reporting. Yes, there are bicyclists who don't follow the law or who act like jerks, but you can say the same of many motorists and pedestrians. Motorists routinely speed, fail to stop, and make illegal turns, and many pedestrians cross mid-block and against the light. We've got a cultural problem on our streets, where some people have given up on being considerate to others. These recent stories on bicyclists ignore the fact that bicyclists make up a tiny percentage of road users, along with a tiny percentage of users breaking the law.

But the truth is, bicyclists are being noticed because our numbers are growing. More bicyclists are out on the streets than ever before and that is a great thing. More and more people are finding out that bicycling is good for the environment, good for their own health, good for their wallet, and it's fun, too. It's no wonder that bicyclists are getting more attention.

So what can we, the bicycling community, do to end the vitriol? We're doing our best at MassBike to foster change in our transportation culture, to educate motorists how to share space with us, and to get more police enforcement against dangerous motorists. Bicyclists can do their part, too. That means speaking up at public meetings, being a good bicycling ambassador wherever you go, and yes, following bicycling laws, too. MassBike strongly advocates that bicyclists should follow the rules of the road (see Same Roads, Same Rules, also urging motorists to respect bicyclists). Whether you agree with us or not, please consider how your actions might affect public perception of bicyclists and the safety of others on roads, paths, and sidewalks.

As more stories about bicycling make headlines, the media needs to be reminded of its responsibility to report fairly on issues of public safety. Bicyclists can do their part, but unless the media reports more responsibly, the negative perception of bicyclists won't change.

Bike Classes Abound

After getting up and running over the past two months, skills and safety classes are taking place around the state with enthusiastic reception. Take a look at the class offerings coming up, and RSVP or register while there's still time!

[caption id="attachment_5846" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="August On-Bike Class In The Seaport District"][/caption]

Basics of Better Biking

This is a four-hour on-bike course, we go over tips on how to stay safe on city streets, a quick way to make sure your bike is functioning properly, some very basic bike mechanics, and on-bike drills. After this class, you will know how to quickly avoid that pothole, why your bike has a front and rear brake, and what a “Copenhagen Left” is. To register, visit our Adult Education page, or email Price at price@massbike.org. You can also call us at (617) 542-2453.

Saturday, September 10
9:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Alewife T Station, under Alewife Brook Parkway
Register by Wednesday, September 7

Saturday, September 24
10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Worcester, MA
Worcester Unitarian Universalist Church Parking Lot
90 Holden Street
Register by Wednesday, September 21

Free Commuter Workshops

Biking for Everyone Commuter Workshop
Wednesday, September 14, Noon - 1:00 PM
Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC)
60 Temple Place, Boston, MA
RSVP: Price@MassBike.org or (617) 542-2453

Hubway Bike Safety Workshop
Wednesday, September 21, 5:00 - 6:00 pm
Boston City Hall, Conference Room 933a
Register: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/KH7RV7Y

Hubway Bike Safety Workshop
Wednesday, September 27, 6:00 - 7:00 pm
Boston Public Library, Conference Room 6
700 boylston st.
Register: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/KH7RV7Y

Hubway Offering Subsidized Annual Membership Rates

Hubway, Boston's new bike share program, in partnership with the Boston Public Health Commission, is now providing subsidized annual Hubway memberships for low-income Boston residents.

This is a great opportunity for those who may be interested in biking but aren't able to invest in the needed equipment. As we all know, biking is a great transportation option for people looking to save money (up to $7,600 per year!). This subsidy, reducing the fee to $5 per year and providing a free helmet, gives lower-income households the chance to experience bikesharing, and may even convince a few folks to start riding more regularly on bikes of their own!

This is just another example of the City of Boston trying to make Hubway as accessible as possible. MassBike has been working with the city to provide free Bike Safety Workshops geared toward Hubway users, so that people can get where they're going feeling comfortable and safe. We are looking forward to continued efforts to make this convenient bike system available to as many people as possible.

To get your subsidy code and free helmet from the Boston Public Health Commission and to redeem your code, visit TheHubway.com. Click here to see a flyer with more details and information.

Volunteer To Evaluate The Blue Line Pilot Program

You may remember that back in March the Blue Line Pilot Program kicked off, expanding bicycle access during rush hour on the Blue Line. The change in peak hour restrictions is a victory for the communities of East Boston, local advocates like the Chelsea Creek Action Group, and for MassBike. As you may know, the only way to get to or from East Boston by bike is to go through Chelsea, a serious detour if you are traveling into Cambridge, Boston, or further south. Thanks to better access on the Blue Line, residents of East Boston can more easily get around by bike.

So far this change in bike access is only a pilot program. We need help from our members and supporters to make sure that this program continues indefinitely. To evaluate the new program, the MBTA has asked East Boston community organizations and MassBike to help count bicycles and evaluate train occupancy rates during peak hours - information that is essential to making the new extended hours permanent.
[caption id="attachment_5818" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="East Boston youth and MassBike ED David Watson make the long journey from East Boston to City Hall Plaza"][/caption]
During the week of September 12, we'll have both morning and evening rush hour shifts. Shifts run from 7:00am-8:30am, 8:30am-10:00am, 4:00-5:30pm, and 5:30-7:00pm. Volunteers will be trained on-site, so anyone can help with counting. If you are interested in helping out with a shift or two or need more information, please email volunteer@massbike.org.

Please help show the Blue Line Pilot Program's success by joining us for a morning or evening shift to evaluate the program. Not only will you be helping to gain more access to bicycles, but you can also work to earn a MassBike membership. Find out more about our volunteer program here. Thanks for your support!

Connecticut Valley Century Benefit Bike Ride: September 10, 2011

The 2011 Connecticut Valley Century Benefit Bike Ride is a fun but challenging ride offering four routes: 100, 75, 50 or 25 miles. The ride is on Saturday, September 10, 2011 and begins and ends at the Hatfield Lions Club Pavilion in Hatfield, MA.

The rides are relatively flat and follow rolling terrain on the West bank of the Connecticut River to Brattleboro, VT, crossing into New Hampshire and returning following the East bank of the Connecticut River through picturesque farmland and passing a waterfall before heading back to Hatfield. The ride is SAG supported and after the ride all riders can enjoy a baked potato with all the fixings.

This is an all-volunteer event. Net proceeds of this annual event will go to benefit the Amherst Rotary Good Works fund, which supports a broad range of humanitarian, intercultural, and educational programs and activities, including local high school scholarships and charitable organizations in Hampshire County.

Registration is $30 before 9/6/11 (plus get a free COVAC 2011 T-shirt!) or $40 day-of. Find out more about the ride and register here.

Conneticut Valley Century Benefit Bike Ride participates in MassBike’s Charity Ride Partner Program to help support MassBike’s advocacy and education program.

Advocacy Toolkit: We Need Your Help

MassBike has partnered with the Boston Public Health Commission and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program to create an advocacy toolkit. The aim of this toolkit is to enhance the abilities of Commonwealth residents to advocate for better bicycling infrastructure and programs in their own communities.

Do you have any questions/advice/stories about advocacy successes, advocacy failures, infrastructure concerns, good and bad interactions with state and local officials in the Bay State? If so, please pass them along! I want to make sure the content of this toolkit will reflect what YOU need to know and coincides with the experiences that YOU have already had. If you do not want to post your experiences and comments to the public, please send them along to me at avery@massbike.org (MassBike will respect your privacy to the utmost.)

This last weekend I conversed with a few riders on the Mass BikePike Tour (which was great!) about advocacy, infrastructure, and this toolkit. This made me realize that I have been working on this project over the course of the summer without asking for the input of Massachusetts' most knowledgeable residents: MassBike members!

Thank you, with your help this Toolkit will be a guiding document in MassBike's effort to see better bicycling in Massachusetts.

MassBike Helps MBTA Design New Bike Racks

MassBike has been working with the MBTA to evaluate bike rack designs for the new Pedal & Park secure bike parking facilities coming soon to stations including Braintree, Ashmont, Davis Square, Oak Grove, and Malden Center. (The South Station Pedal & Park, which already has racks, will also be completed soon.) These great bike parking facilities will encourage more people to take the T instead of driving, by giving them the confidence to leave their bikes at stations that have suffered from insufficient bike parking and bike thefts in the past. Pedal & Parks have already made a big difference at Alewife and Forest Hills.

To maximize the number of bikes that can fit in each Pedal & Park, the T plans to use bi-level racks. The existing racks at Alewife, Forest Hills, and South Station are OK, but those racks are either unavailable now, or have not worked that well in actual use. So the T asked for feedback from actual bicyclists on bike rack prototypes from two vendors. We reported back that all the designs had significant drawbacks.

A few weeks later, when the T asked us to try out another design, we were pleased to see that most of our concerns had been addressed.

[caption id="attachment_5702" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Executive Director David Watson tries out new bike rack"][/caption]

The T took our feedback seriously, asking the manufacturers to address the problems we identified. The new design works much better, and needs just a few more modifications before going into production for the new Pedal & Parks.

We really appreciate the T asking for our input and taking the time to get this right!

Biking The Charles With MassDOT And DCR

I spent half a day last week riding around the Charles River Basin looking at the bridges, intersections, and paths, and identifying problems and brainstorming solutions with fellow advocates from WalkBoston, LivableStreets Alliance, Boston Cyclists Union, and the Esplanade Association. We work with these groups regularly, but this gathering was noteworthy because we were all invited to tour the area by bike with MassDOT, DCR personnel and their consultants to aid bicycle and pedestrian planning.

[caption id="attachment_5475" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Advocates, MassDOT and DCR touring the Charles River Basin"][/caption]

MassDOT has been encouraging employees to ride bikes to meetings and to check out project sites, and has purchased a fleet of bikes for employees to borrow. The Secretary of Transportation, the Highway Division Administrator, the Longfellow Bridge project managers, among others, have been spotted riding bikes around projects.

We talked about a wide range of issues and projects, including Longfellow Bridge connections to the parkland, the Harvard Bridge connections between the Esplanade and the Massachusetts Avenue bike lanes, the BU Bridge (we heard that the design still includes 5-foot bike lanes), the River Street and Western Avenue bridges, the Anderson Memorial Bridge, the underpass debate, ideas for improving the paths managed by the DCR along both sides of the river, and more. It was an opportunity to talk about both ongoing projects and our collective wishlist.

On our way back, one of the MassDOT bikes got a flat. No one knew how to fix it or had a spare tube, so I was able to save the day (and suggest that all the MassDOT bikes should be stocked with spare tubes, patch kits, and pumps). But more importantly, sharing this little misadventure further strengthened our relationship with MassDOT staff working on some important projects for bicyclists.

Thanks to MassDOT and DCR for reaching out to us and for engaging in the conversation, and especially for recognizing the importance of experiencing these places from a bike saddle.

Bike Sharing Comes To Two UMass Campuses

Recently, bike share programs have received a lot of press thanks to Boston's new Hubway system. But in addition to Hubway, colleges and universities across the state are also continuing the roll-out of bike share programs. Most recently, UMass campuses at Amherst and Lowell have announced the start of new bike share programs in an effort to help students get around campus in a healthy, fun way.

UMass-Amherst's program, Dig Wheels, will give students and faculty the opportunity to get out of their cars and onto a bike when it rolls out this fall. These bikes are available for free and may be used on and off campus for a maximum of 24 hours (check out includes a bike, a helmet, and a lock).

UMass-Lowell is also starting a bike share program called the UMass-Lowell Freewheelers, opening in September. Seen as one way of creating a healthier and more sustainable campus community, the program will consist of 15 bikes over UMass-Lowell's three campuses. One major goal of the program is to provide better access between the three campus locations, and at the same time reducing pollution and increasing physical activity.

These two programs join several other programs in the state that have already implemented successful bike share programs, including:

We are happy to see bike share programs are blossoming around the state and wish all the best to the new programs. We can only imagine that this trend will continue and we'll see more bike sharing in the future!

Neighborhood Walk for New Complete Street: Dudley-Melnea Cass

Next week there will be a walk to showcase and gain feedback on the redesign of Melnea Cass Blvd. Specifically, we will look at how the redesign better serves bicyclists and pedestrians. The city is hosting this walking tour with Mayor Menino and special guest Mark Fenton, a walkability expert. Also attending are advocates and residents of Roxbury. This is a great opportunity for the bicyclist community to express the importance of bike infrastructure on this crucial connection. If you are interested in attending, please RSVP to Patrick Hoey at Patrick.Hoey@cityofboston.gov or call 617-635-2454.

  • When: Wednesday, August 24 @ 6pm

  • Where: Central Boston Elder Services, 2315 Washington Street (map)

  • What: Exploring the built environment from Dudley Square to Melnea Cass Blvd.

Complete Streets is design concept for roads that emphasizes accommodating all modes of transportation, including biking, walking, transit, and autos. The City of Boston's efforts to embrace the complete streets design is an important step forward for the city, and this project will in part determine the success in the city and around the state for similar projects.

Importantly, Mayor Menino has pledged money for the redesign and development of Melnea Cass Blvd. The walk, hosted by the Boston Transportation Department & Boston Public Health Commission and sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services is for locals and advocates alike. So come out, advocate for bikes, and give your input on the new project.

Visit www.bostoncompletestreets.org for more information.

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