MassBike Revamps Educational Programs for Fall 2015: Skratch Labs, Pro Legend Tim Johnson Push Classes “Beyond the Pamphlet”

As the kids head back to school this fall cyclists can too with the launch of MassBikeU. A total redesign of the MassBike educational program, classes will now be offered on a wide variety of topics of interest to riders ranging from beginner basics to advanced skills taught by MassBike staff, local professional athletes, Tour de France mechanics, and other experts on their chosen subject matters. Class will officially be in session this fall leading off with Tim Johnson’s Cyclocross 101 course September 22 and Skratch Labs Women’s “Bike and Brunch” cooking class at Trade October 18.



“For years we've had success offering a lot of basic bicycle skills classes. But we had some requests - from both members and retailers - for a broader spectrum of course offerings,” said Richard Fries, MassBike executive director. “While tennis is just, well, tennis, a bicyclist can embrace so many elements that include travel, commuting, mechanical expertise, fitness, on-road, off-road, urban planning, diet, and much, much more. We want to show people this entire world.” This broader range will enhance the traditional class offerings of bicycling basics that MassBike has taught for years and will continue to offer.

[caption id="attachment_23963" align="alignright" width="200"] MassBikeU Dean Brian Murphy[/caption]

Heading up the program is newly appointed MassBikeU Dean Brian Murphy. “I am delighted to be working with Richard Fries and the staff of MassBike on our exciting educational initiative. The launch of our Fall semester courses represents the beginning of what we expect to be a broad curriculum of innovative courses offered to a diverse audience of cyclists.  Our mission is to position MBU as a leader in cycling education, while actively engaging our current individual, business, bike shop and bike club members as well as recruiting new MassBike members.”

Unique and innovative courses will be offered alongside the existing curriculum of bicycling basics to round out a calendar suited for a wide range of interests, both on and off the bike. Tim Johnson’s cyclocross class will be a seasonally well timed, on the bike course for those who are looking to learn some new skills. According to Fries, Johnson “is one of the most articulate teachers for cyclocross in the English language. Any cyclist - from a commuter to a tourist to a charity rider - will vastly improve their cycling abilities with this class.”

The Skratch Labs class at Trade is expected to fill quickly. The October 18 class will feature a cooking class taught by Biju Thomas and Lentine Zahler, a two hour ride coached by local professionals, and a delicious brunch. The opportunity is unique as Skratch Labs founder Allen Lim has truly changed the athlete and food relationship. Lim stated “I like real food or food made from scratch better than prepackaged alternatives, because in my professional experience, when athletes are on the rivet, real food is less likely to come back as vomit. While real food is not as easy or convenient than opening a packaged laced with excess ingredients and food additives, neither is living an active and healthy lifestyle.”

On MBU guest professors Thomas and Zahler, Fries commented “With their amazing cookbook for athletes The Feedzone Allen Lim and Biju Thomas changed how nearly every professional cyclist views food and nutrition. To have these guys with Tour de France pedigree offering classes on cooking is a unique opportunity.” MBU will bring in guest instructors for special events supplement their regular roster of local instructors.
For more information on MassBikeU and classes being offered please visit massbike.org/education

Art Auction to Benefit MassBike with Michael Valenti

World Famous Poster Artist Offers Rare Opportunity to Purchase Signed Art

Boston, MA - (Aug. 25, 2015) - On Monday, Oct., 5, in Lexington, Mass., MassBike will host a benefit art auction featuring the work of Michael Valenti.  New England native, Valenti will be in town for the KMC Cyclo-cross Festival presented by Maxxis in Providence, RI as the festival’s featured artist.

Bicycle poster art has a long history as a fun, accessible art form. “There is something almost mythical about bicycle poster art, dating back to the late 19th Century,” stated Richard Fries, executive director of MassBike. “But capturing the zeal of those Gladiator or Michelin posters is rare in today's digital world. We believe that great poster art still holds power. And finding that large format poster is nearly impossible today.”

“Sharing my cycling art with supporters of MassBike at the fundraising auction this year is ‘wicked pissa’. I grew up in Massachusetts so I’m allowed to say that,” quipped Valenti, who today lives in Chicago where he rides and races bicycles. “And having a small part in helping make streets safer for cycling is a wonderful opportunity for which I’m very grateful.”

A mix of 20 large format and smaller hand screened prints will be up for auction at Vine Brook Tavern in Lexington, MA. Doors open at 6:30pm and bidding will begin at 7:30pm. The event is free for MassBike members, $10 for non-members.
For more information on Michael Valenti please visit michaelvalenti.com. For details on the auction, please visit massbike.org.

Finding Marie Antoinette in Plainville

A Route 1 Bike Lane Puts 20th Century Policy in a 21st Century Lens

By Richard Fries, Executive Director

Like many cyclists, I'm also a motorist. Our family of five gets by fine with just a 2006 Subaru which comes in handy for hauling things about the suburbs. Whenever I find myself idling in traffic alongside one of those lifeless commercial strips I try to find those other signs of life. For there, amid the wrappers and bags and cups strewn from us engorged citizens in our cars, we see the dirt path.

These traffic patterns are always there. They are not laid down not by civil engineers, funded by the state, or given the approval of Boards of Selectmen. The foot traffic there pounds the earth into cement density that could never yield grass. The route may go over a guard rail designed only for the safety of the motorist. The line may continue through a peeled-back corner of fence, down an embankment, and behind a loading dock.

The user of this path is one of the suburban shadow people. This person is neither a conservationist nor a bird watcher nor an "avid" walker. This is a poor person trying to get to a job filling and emptying a Fryolator for the person that strews trash on that same path from the window of their Escalade. This is the shadow economy of the suburbs that receives no accommodation from the engineers, town officials and architects who devote all sorts of thought and resources to getting customers into the front door but give almost no consideration to getting their staff to the back door.

This path gets no ribbon cutting, no free buffet for reporters, no grand opening.

This shadow person is paid $9 per hour to do dishes for folks like me who don't want to pay more than $6.99 for a lunch. This person may also have a job earning tips at the Cheesecake Factory. For that the hourly pay may be as low as $3 per hour.

This shadow person also does not live in a vacuum. Like me, she needs to live near family, schools, medical care, super markets, and drug stores.

So working full time at this wage this person may make less than $19,000 per year. Given suburban design and policy, this shadow person is compelled to get a car. But the $10,000 in annual expenses to legally operate a car - fuel, car payments, insurances, registration, maintenance, etc. -  would cut that income in half. Read your local police log. A great number of arrests are folks driving without a license, suspended licenses, without insurance, and without registration.

Should they use the bus? You try the bus. In suburban areas they run infrequently, deposit passengers alongside unsafe retail strips without sidewalks, and they don't run very late for folks working in food service.

Circumstantial logic drives this shadow person to one solution: the bicycle.

Mind you, this shadow person is NOT an avid cyclist who wants to ride a bike; this shadow person is somebody who needs to ride a bike....with the intent of doing so only until they can get a car.

When I took this job in January I had grandiose notions of merging hipster urban bike advocacy with the powerful market of the suburban club riders. Sure I took in the importance of Safe Routes to School and childhood obesity. I understood the significance of rail trails and intermodality. And I could snuff out any delightful back-yard conversation to a stultifying halt with talk about peak oil, the diabetes epidemic, carbon footprints, diesel particulate counts, etc.

But in my work to date I have come to the sober reality that cycling's most important constituency does not even want to be on a bicycle. They don't give a crap about l'Alpe d'Huez or filet brazed frames or their lactic threshold. They just need to get a few miles down the road to work or a community college or a supermarket and back. So they ride bikes. Often the tires are under-inflated. The brakes barely work. And the chain is loud.

It ain't all that sexy. I don't have a whole lot in common with these folks. And if I found myself at a barbecue with such folks they likely would not care to hang out with me.

This situation came to light for me recently when The Attleboro Sun Chronicle called for a reaction to the Board of Selectmen in Plainville, Mass., howling about their town being forced to include a bike lane on Route 1 where the new Plainridge Park Casino had just opened. The MassDOT required certain traffic improvements along U.S. Route 1 when the casino went in. These included bike lanes.

Sounding a lot like a panel of Fox News commentators with all the typical logical fallacies, the board mocked the inclusion of the bike lanes noting that people should never ride a bike along Route 1 and such markings would somehow lead to somebody being killed. They ridiculed this as being "politically correct."

I spoke to the reporter for about 10 minutes and about one-hundredth of what I said got in the the article, which is here.

But the reporter noted my comments on how such accommodations are going to be increasingly part of the 21st Century streetscape. He left out my comments regarding how the hired help - even if is just one person - often uses bicycles to get to their job at the casino or the Wendy's or the Best Buy.

One selectman, himself an "avid" bicyclist sent me a private e-mail incredulous that I would infer that cycling along Route 1 is safe. Whether it is safe or not is not germane to the discussion; folks are doing it any how. And giving them a bike lane - at no cost to the local taxpayers, thank you - makes it a tiny bit safer.

I welcome the interest - and opinions - of the local selectmen. The discussion is long overdue. They are right; the road they have is unsafe for bicyclists and pedestrians and motorists, too. Pointing out problems is easy. We know, according the Brookings Institution, that less than 30 percent of American 18-year-olds even have a drivers license, let alone a car. This is the labor market behind that drive-thru window giving those selectmen their Big Macs.

The Sun Chronicle, in a follow-up editorial, cited the bike lane as "bureaucracy run amok" a week later. You can read it here.

My question to the reporter, which is how do you want young people and poor people to get to those jobs, never got a response. When I asked it of Selectman Robert Rose I also got no response.

Is this a problem? Yes. But the response of the locals is a parody of Marie Antoinette. "What? They have no car? Well let them drive trucks!"

To suggest that maybe people do not have access to a car is like suggesting the sun rises in the west. They are dumbfounded.

Here is Plainville, with a per capita annual income of just over $35,000, hosting a retail strip offering low-wage jobs to local residents. Nearby towns such as Attleboro and Woonsocket, R.I., have an even lower average income. But without a car, those residents are pretty much whistled out of the labor pool (and the customer base). The local bus service run by the Greater Attleboro Taunton Regional Transit Authority  - whose snappy slogan is "We'll Get You There" - offers one bus per hour to Plainville from Attleboro and it drops folks off a long, long way from the Casino. Not that there would be a sidewalk for that humiliating schlep to the job. And the last bus is gone after 6:30 p.m. so good luck with that job in the hospitality sector.

Political leadership is not supposed to whine about problems but to develop solutions. This MassDOT policy will continue to apply to all those strip malls where our youth and our college students and our poor citizens may need to use alternative means of transit. And whenever a big developer or a casino can foot the bill instead of the taxpayer they will require such places to include bike (and hopefully pedestrian) facilities.

The New York Times recently cited two independent studies that confirmed that the number one barrier to escaping  poverty is neither crime nor education nor addiction. The tallest barrier is the lack of transportation.

The article is here.

But my revelation on the need for bike advocacy to impact the lives of such poor folks did not come about entirely by the Plainville Board of Selectmen. Nor is it a story of "those people."

This is the story of an 18-year-old kid from a coal mining town who got into college in Tampa, Fla., arguably the worst example of strip mall hell long before anybody had seen a bike lane, a rail-trail or a "sharrow." And that kid lived by bike amid that high speed traffic chaos working first as a dishwasher and later as a cook while he got through college. That bicycle, which he rode through darkness and rain, helped him graduate debt free. And while his classmates gained weight and gathered up debt, he continued to live mostly by bicycle through a wide variety of jobs in a wide variety of locations for decades.

The money he saved living by bike enabled him to purchase a home in Lexington, Mass., and raise three college bound kids. And that crazy bicycle lifestyle kept his body in such good health that 35 years later he still wears the same size jeans he wore in high school, gets by with no medications, and out dances all of his nephews and nieces at weddings.

This is the ultimate example of how to abide by Republican fiscal values.

That kid is me.

Here we are in Massachusetts, the world's largest college town, where 17 percent of those young job creators we cherish live by bicycle. They are working in your restaurants, your stores, your cafes, your taverns, and your casinos. Perhaps making their commutes to and from those jobs a touch safer, even just a touch safer, is worth the pittance of an investment.

This endeavor, however nominal, is certainly not deserving of ridicule. We all deserve better leadership.

A Tale of Two Cities

Are We Getting Bikes to Everybody? 

By Richard Fries, Executive Director

I'm going to make a hideous assumption here that many of you readers actually drive through the Boston metro area on occasion. So the next time you are stuck in traffic on the Zakim Bridge, itself an architectural accent to the Boston skyline, look down towards the Science Bridge. There you may notice an equally attractive, albeit more modest, bridge.

Behold the North Bank Pedestrian Bridge which connects Paul Revere Park in Charlestown to Cambridge.

I first noticed this bridge only recently after attending a meeting at the Department of Conservation and Recreation. The entire East Cambridge landscape has unfolded for me as of late. The streetscape and infrastructure is a honeycomb of bike paths, lanes, cycle tracks and signals for bikes and pedestrians.

Victory has a thousand mothers. Boston and Cambridge have been blessed with a great network of government and non-government organizations all working to improve access and intermodality.

This shock to my senses came not from the plethora of innovative infrastructure. The shock came from my re-entry to Cambridge after a day spent in Brockton on a bicycle.

In Brockton there is not a single inch of bike infrastructure. My inspection of the MBTA Commuter Rail station, where I had hoped to find some semblance of accommodation for bikes proved deflating. One lonely bike stood locked to the fence. And on the way out of the lot a misaligned, tire-eating storm drain grate awaited that ride.

Physically everything about Brockton is currently designed to make a cyclist feel un-welcome.

Since taking this job I have discovered similar environments in Pittsfield, North Adams, Worcester, Fall River and Springfield.

My company in Brockton also struck me. While our tour was led by Paul Chenard of the Old Colony Planning Commission, we were joined by some local cyclists. Aboard a fixed-gear rode Ryan.

With a sinewy body, Ryan had been riding for about four years. A native of Brockton, he got into cycling while living in Jamaica Plain, one of Boston's most progressive neighborhoods. When he lost his job in Boston, however, he moved back to Brockton.  Whereas in J.P. he felt aboard his bike as if he belonged. But in Brockton one feels as if they simply do not matter.

All the bike-ped stuff happening in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge and Newton is working to improve the streetscape and the quality of life there. And more and more people wish to live closer to this fountain of convenience and health. Neighborhoods once avoided by the well-to-do - from the South End to the Seaport, East Cambridge to Savin Hill are being transformed. Some call this gentrification; others call it displacement.

But what is tragic is that folks like Ryan, who can least afford the expense of a car, are being shoveled into communities that have engineered them into an automotive corner. Here is a city with inexpensive housing where the largest employer is the city itself. Folks in the city are there often to take advantage of the affordable housing. But to get around they then have to annually carry a $9,000 bag of financial cement in the form of a car.

There are buses and the commuter rail but those are extremely restrictive to one's schedule. Simple access to supermarkets, drug stores and schools via such transit requires a rather complicated logistical process. And heaven forbid one misses that last bus at 9 p.m.

There is hope. MassBike is targeting these communities with the support of the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Health to identify simple low-cost solutions to make cycling a safer and healthier option in places such as Brockton. And folks like Paul Chenard, who showcased to me the wide plains of Brockton's geography which could easily accommodate bike lanes and cycle tracks with minimal impact on motorists, see nothing but hope.

Communities such as these have been orphaned by bike advocacy. Perhaps the time has come to create a cycling lifestyle for folks who most need the benefits.

Call to Action - Complete streets and Amtrak roll-on service - Votes on Wednesday!

From the League of American Bicyclists:

This Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee is voting on a number of amendments to the transportation bill, including amendments to support complete streets, and standardized roll-on service for bicycles and wheelchairs on Amtrak.

Please join us in asking your Senator to Support both of these key Amendments.

AMTRAK roll on service- Please ask your Senator to support the Manchin Amendment 

Demand for multi-modal transportation options, including the increasingly popular combination of bikes with buses and trains, is growing across the country. Currently, only a handful of Amtrak stations and train services allow convenient roll-on access, and where they do, the service is popular and well-used. The Manchin Amendment would require Amtrak to report to Congress on what standardized roll-on service should look like and what it would take to get there.

 You helped us win in the House, now we need your help in the SenateThis spring we asked for your help to pass this amendment in the House. If we can win it in the Senate then its a done deal.  (If its not in the Senate version - then the two sides will have to work it out in a conference between the House and Senate).  Winning in one chamber puts us in a strong position- but winning in both is a sure thing!

Safe Streets policy- Please ask your Senator to support the Heller, Schatz, Markey Amendment 

We've called it complete streets, safe streets and uniform accomodation- now help us call it the law. This amendment would ensure that the design of Federal surface transportation projects provides for the safe and adequate accommodation of both motorized and non-motorized users in the planning, development and operation of transportation projects!

Click here to send your message.

Vote On Your Favorite Bike Rack Design for the Boston Public Market

The Boston Public Market is hosting a public vote to choose the design of two artistic bike racks that will be installed outside the upcoming local food market, ensuring access to the market for customers arriving by bike. The Market partnered with Boston teens from Artists for Humanity to design nine artistic bike rack options that represent the Market’s themes of fresh, local food and the connection between farmer and consumer.



The Boston Public Market, located at 100 Hanover Street above the Haymarket MBTA station, will be open Wednesday — Sunday, 8 a.m. — 8 p.m, beginning on July 30. The only locally-sourced market of its kind in the United States, it houses over 35 farmers, fishermen, and food producers from Massachusetts and throughout New England, selling items such as farm fresh produce; meat and poultry; eggs; milk and cheese; fish and shellfish; bread and baked goods; flowers; and an assortment of specialty and prepared foods.


Members of the public can vote on their favorite bike rack designs here. Voting ends on Wednesday, July 8, and voting results will be showcased on the Boston Public Market’s blog.


Bicycling and Personal Injury Claims in Massachusetts

By: Deanna Power
Guest Content Contributor
Personal Injury Law

Thousands of people in Massachusetts rely on their bikes for transportation to and from work, and for good reason: According to The League of American Bicyclists, MA is the 4th highest bicycle friendly state in the US, ranking high in bicycle policies, and bicycle education among the population.

Unfortunately, accidents can occur in bicycle-friendly states like Massachusetts. If you are severely injured in an accident with a motorist, there are resources available. Filing a personal injury bill can help pay for your hospital bills and any other associated expenses, giving you the opportunity to focus on recovery.

Are You Eligible for a Personal Injury Claim?

Not all bicyclists who are injured in an accident will be able to win a personal injury claim.  When handling personal injury claims, a court will determine who was at fault in the accident. In MA, a bicycle must obey the same rules motorists experience, meaning that the party at fault will be whoever committed a traffic violation. Common traffic violations include not using a turn signal, neglecting to yield, turning left without a green light, and not stopping at a stop sign or stop light (the most common bicyclist violation).

Proof of who was at fault will be very important when filing a personal injury claim, so be sure to get as many witness statements as possible when filing a police report at the scene of the accident. It is also a good idea for all bicyclists to wear Go Pros or other similar wearable cameras.

Comparative Fault and a Personal Injury Claim

When determining how much a claimant should be awarded in a personal injury claim, Massachusetts uses something called “comparative fault.” Comparative fault looks at how much an injured party was responsible for the accident, and reduces an award by however much the injured party was at fault. For example:

A bicyclist was cycling down a street in MA, while listening to music with headphones. He does not hear the car coming up behind him and is hit. A court looks at the case and decides that since the bicyclist was listening to music, he was 20% responsible for the accident. The court awards him $5,000, but reduces the payment by 20% to $4,000 to account for the bicyclist’s negligence.

No-Fault in Car Accidents in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is a “no fault” state when it comes to auto accidents, which means that a claimant cannot file a claim unless the accident meets a certain threshold. In MA, an injured bicyclist cannot file a personal injury claim unless his or her hospital bills are over $2,000, or the claimant breaks bones or becomes “seriously disfigured” or loses eyesight. To file a personal injury claim in MA under the no-fault law, a bicyclist must have already proved that he or she was also not at fault during the incident.

Because every driver in MA is required to carry no-fault insurance, a bicyclist will be entitled to up to $8,000 from the driver’s insurance. The first $2,000 is only for medical bills, while the remaining $6,000 is available for lost wages or other expenses. No-fault gives bicyclists assistance even if they were the party found at fault during the incident, or if their medical bills are moderately low.

How to File a Personal Injury Claim

Massachusetts has a three year statute of limitations on personal injury claims, meaning that if a claim is filed more than three years after the accident occurs, the claim will immediately be dismissed. To file a personal injury claim, a bicyclist will need the contact and insurance information of the driver responsible for the crash. The bicyclist will also need all medical bills, history of doctor’s appointments, and records of any lost wages. Courts in MA require a filing fee of $200 or more, depending on the jurisdiction in which you file.

Pioneer Valley Bicycle Advocate of the Year

News from our Pioneer Valley Chapter President, Sean Condon:

Fellow cyclists,

It is my distinct honor to announce the selection of the Pioneer Valley Bicycle Advocate of the Year! For the past 13 years MassBike PV, representing the bicycling community in Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden
Counties, has selected the person having the greatest impact on bicycling in the region to receive this award.

The recipient for 2015 is Mayor Dan Knapik of Westfield. MassBike PV recognizes Mayor Knapik as a friend of the bicycling community and his support and accomplishments for bicycling in the city of Westfield. During his three terms in office the city saw the completion of the Columbia Greenway into downtown, plans for an East/West connector on the city's levee, bike lane and shared lane proposals in road projects and the formation of a Bike/Ped Master Plan Advisory Committee. Mayor Knapik exemplifies the MassBike PV mission to promote the bicycle as safe, healthful, enjoyable, efficient, and environmentally sound means of transportation.

An award presentation will be held Wednesday, June 3rd at New Horizons Bikes, 55 Franklin St., Westfield at 6:00 PM. You all are invited to show your thanks, and refreshments will be served.

Sean Condon
MassBike PV Chapter President

Call for volunteers!

Calling all volunteers! We're looking for help doing bike valet, some office work, and bike assessments. Take a look at the schedule in the link below, we'd love to have you join us at our events!

Please click here to see all current volunteer opportunities in June and sign up.

Membership changes starting today.

Since its inception, MassBike has aimed to better cycling in Massachusetts. We currently represent over 3,600 cyclists in the Commonwealth and remain grateful for your continued support throughout the years. Many of you have been with us since the start; you have seen us grow and gain a seat at the table to discuss changes to infrastructure and develop new bikeways and trails. We hope you will continue on this journey with us, as we strive to be the number one state for bikes.

Starting today, membership fees will increase by $5. Individual membership is $40, dual/family $60, and student/low income at $25.

In addition, we will be phasing out our membership card feature over the next year. Anyone who has purchased a MassBike membership prior to 5/21/2015 will still receive a membership card and all benefits included with it, good for the full year of membership purchased until your next renewal. Any new members or renewing members who sign up after 5/21/2015 will receive all membership info (including their membership number) in their welcome letter. And you will of course still get great membership perks, discounts, and coupons when you join as well from some of our fantastic local and national partners. Please visit our membership page for more detailed information.

You will also be able to buy MassBike memberships at select MassBike events, and at participating bike shops and cafes. These special event memberships, will include all the same MassBike membership perks, but will also have a water bottle, blinky lights, and other goodies tucked inside! For more information on this program, or if you want to get involved, please email bikeinfo@massbike.org.

In the coming days, we'll also be announcing details regarding major updates to our corporate membership program, where businesses can elect to support MassBike, where they will receive discounted individual memberships for employees, bikability assessments at the office, classes, and much more!

Stay tuned, and thank you for your continued support!


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