MA Representatives Support Bicycling in the Federal Transportation Bill
Our representatives in Washington have been busy working to make sure bicycling concerns are included in the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee approved the INVEST for America Act. MassBike has been working with our advocacy partners and our friends in Washington to make sure Congress authorizes transportation dollars that don't leave out folks on two-wheels. The bill is likely to be voted in the House within a week, so stay tuned for action alerts to reach out to your congresspeople!
Big THANKS to Congresswoman Pressley (MA-7) for co-sponsoring the Bicycle Commuter Act and to Representative Neal (MA-1) for clearing its way through the Ways and Means Committee to have bicycle benefits included in the House Infrastructure Bill. With a little nudge from MassBike and our partners at the League of American Bicyclists, LivableStreets Alliance, Boston Cyclists Union, and Lyft (which is the operator of Bluebikes bike sharing system owned by the municipalities around Greater Boston), they were able to help shepherd the commuter benefit back into our transportation bill after it was suspended under the 2017 tax cuts.
Additionally, Representative Lynch (MA-8) led the inclusion of a National Road Safety Assessment that focuses on bicyclists and pedestrians by requiring the Federal Highway Administration’s district offices to identify and catalog roads and intersections that are unsafe for bicycling and walking. This will create an important tool for state and local governments--and for advocates--to identify priorities to target our advocacy where it's most needed.
We're proud to say bicyclists in Massachusetts are well represented in Washington, but we're still keeping a keen eye on this crucial legislation, and we'll be sure to reach out when we need help asking for support from our elected officials as this bill makes it way through the House of Representatives and onto the Senate!
A message from MassBike Board & Staff
All of us at MassBike have been moved and challenged as overwhelmingly peaceful protests against racism have swept our nation's cities. The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery, just the most recent among so many black Americans, and the people who are taking to the streets to express their outrage, have once again shown how we as a country are suffering from the unjust and racist power structures in our society. We whole-heartedly stand in solidarity and commitment with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and we affirm ourselves as an organization dedicated to enabling and empowering freedom of safety and movement.
Getting around on a bike often has added layers of complexity and societal dangers for people of color, be it from law enforcement or traffic violence. MassBike recognizes the unacceptable fact that, along with prejudicial police practices, generations of discriminatory housing, urban development, and public transit policies disproportionately hurt minority communities, and that these structures of racism are interconnected. People from Black and Brown neighborhoods have the longest commutes, the highest air pollution and asthma rates, and the least amount of bicycle infrastructure and greenspace. We find this unacceptable, and we must think deeply about how our work challenges systemic racism.
Though the bicycle advocacy space has a reputation as being historically white, and MassBike is a majority-white organization, we strive (and sometimes struggle) to always view our work through the lens of Equity & Inclusion. So many people of color depend on their bicycles for transportation, livelihood, and physical activity to build healthier, more connected lives. MassBike’s mission is to create safer bicycling for everyone, and we need to focus where the inequities and dangers are the strongest. Especially in the major urban centers of Springfield, Worcester, and Boston and the Gateway Cities of Holyoke, Brockton, Lawrence, New Bedford, Lowell and beyond, we see the stark racial inequalities prevalent in people’s ability to access safe and active transportation.
Yet we are bolstered by our partners and allies working to reform racist practices in transportation, public health and safety, and law enforcement. We proudly join, fund, and amplify these efforts taking place in Black and Brown communities, and we at MassBike are actively creating spaces to discuss issues regarding unequal distribution of safe infrastructure, racial profiling, and interactions with police forces across the commonwealth – especially related to youth. MassBike must build ourselves as an organization that harnesses the power of “coalition.” Together, we all can make a difference.
How can those of us with white privilege raise racial awareness to better our communities by serving as allies?
We must lead all our conversations by acknowledging the historical and current-day racism, and ask ourselves how we can help undo racism everyday through our work. As evidenced by the voices taking to the streets, we remain resolute since much work remains to be done.
A few thoughts on how we can join together:
- Educate ourselves on what is happening regarding racial injustice. By exposing ourselves to the information being shared by racial justice organizations, writers, trusted media outlets, social media influencers, and neighbors who we perhaps have yet to familiarize ourselves with, we can learn about the policies that created and maintain racial disparities that have real impacts on our lives, including on everyone's experience of healthy, bike-friendly communities
- Have an internal conversation, reflecting on questions like “How can I participate in changing the status quo?” and “Who is not here?” then taking actions toward promoting equity and inclusion.
- Have conversations with others around us such as friends, family, colleagues, and fellow members of our cycling communities. Listen to those who are directly impacted, and encourage every voice to contribute to this cultural conversation.
- Contact our elected officials and hold them accountable so we can put an end to policies and practices that foster racism.
- Get involved. Donate your money, donate your time, donate your position to amplify those voices combating racial injustice. We can all help advance understanding and support efforts that create safe, healthy, equitable communities.
We see this statement as part of an ongoing dialogue, and we expect to follow with information and discussions to build upon these five points. We invite you to engage with us and share resources that are helping you take action. We have much work to do together.
Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition
Request for Proposals: Building Local Capacity to Improve Bicycling in Your Community, Mass in Motion Mini-Grants
MassBike is teaming up with WatsonActive to offer grants of up to $1000 to organizations for bike-related activities to support local advocacy and capacity building. Since we understand how stretched everyone is right now, we've extended the deadline by one week, and are now due by Fri, June 5. We're expecting a mix of community organizations to apply, and are asking our members to help spread the word. For more information, please see this short google form Request for Proposals, or by downloading the form HERE. and contact us with any questions or support needed to help fill out the application.Read more
If you're pulling your bike out during the spring thaw after a few months of storage, your bike likely needs some good T.L.C. MassBike recommends getting your bike checked out by a professional for a tune-up at least once a year, especially at the start of the riding season.
To help you get rolling in the Connecticut River Valley in 2020, and as as way to encourage and help grow our advocacy reach, MassBike is partnering with the mobile bicycle repair shop Speed & Sprocket Cycle Works to offer MassBike memberships to their customers with every tune-up! For each tune-up, Speed & Sprocket will cover the costs of an "introductory membership" for their customers.
Massachusetts is under a stay-at-home advisory, per notice by the Governor, until the foreseeable future in order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. This is something that has never occurred on this scale and severity, and in these unprecedented times MassBike has received a lot of inquiries as to whether it is still safe and smart to ride your bikes outdoors. (Got an indoor trainer? No problem!)
Our response has generally been to follow the directives of the Governor's Office and the CDC, which have not suggested banning bicycling or other forms of active transportation or exercise as long as folks can maintain safe distance from one another. But MassBike certainly agrees with, and wants to reiterate, the official message of #StayHomeSaveLives. We encourage you all to stay home as best you can.
Doctors in Wuhan, China enjoying a bicycle ride on their break. (ChinaDaily)
But we also recognize that bicycling is a lifeline for a lot of people throughout Massachusetts, and not just during the public health crisis. For many essential workers, bicycles are a primary mode of transport to get them to their jobs. Doctors and nurses, grocery clerks, cleaning and sanitation staff, pharmacists, journalists, and more depend on their bikes to get to work (which is why MassBike advocated strongly for bike repair to be considered an "essential service" by the Office of the Governor, read more here). Bicycles also allow for short and long distance travel while still maintaining physical separation from others, especially for those who do not have cars and want to avoid public transit. Bicycling also helps people save money, which is crucial for all of us as we unfortunately have an economy in free-fall that has millions of people suddenly out of work. And biking of course still allows for active transportation, so people can get exercise as they get where they are going. For these reasons, and more, the bicycle will be an important tool for fighting this disease by building mental as well as physical fortitude.
So how should we modify our riding to fit these uncertain times? Since the data is still changing by the day, we recommend checking with the CDC and mass.gov for latest updates, but in the past few weeks we've seen some basic guidance from riding clubs and advocacy organizations that boil down to these six points:
1. Ride solo, or with those you're already quarantined with.
2. Carry all you'll need, so you won't need to rely on interacting with other people or depend on stores that may not be open.
3. Take the path less traveled, and find places that have open space.
3. Ride with caution, since our medical community is already overburdened you really don't want to end up in a hospital.
4. Wash your hands, you've likely got some grease on them anyway.
5. Wear a mask even if you're not feeling sick, since we know there are many asymptomatic people out there and we should all be mindful that we may be carrying the disease.
6. If you're sick, stay home! Do not ride if you are ill or experiencing symptoms of Covid-19.
In reaction to balancing the needs for both getting outside to take necessary trips and enjoy open space while providing physical distance, we have seen various agencies take steps to provide more room for people on foot and on bike to get out for both travel and exercise. The Department of Conservation and Recreation has taken steps to limit the numbers of people at parks by closing parking lots, while simultaneously opening up adjacent parkways to people for walking and biking. The Brookline Select Board voted to open up some travel lanes nearby locations that draw crowds such as the Trader Joe's grocery store and near the hospital centers, and both Brookline and Cambridge have adjusted their pedestrian crossings to not require people to press a button to activate the signal.
MassBike is keeping an eye on these developments as they change day by day. Below are two statements released by MassBike and our advocacy partners related to how State agencies and Massachusetts municipalities may want to approach these tricky times. With our partners at the Vision Zero Coalition, we have a five-point letter for Keeping People Safe While Making Essential Trips During COVID-19 Crisis. With our fellow parks and transportation advocates, we thank the DCR for their proactive measures to open up parkways.
As the stay-at-home recommendations may extend throughout spring and into the summer months and beyond, car traffic volumes will remain low which affords us the ability to re-think how our public space is serving the people in Massachusetts, especially in those communities most affected by the virus.Read more
The Social Distancing Ride!
Though we were planning on an awesome ride with MassBike + Harpoon Brewery in June, we need to pivot the event in order to keep our distance. So, we invite you to join the cycling event that you can do anywhere, anytime, and support local craft breweries & MassBike!
Join anytime, start riding, log your miles, and get your Rider Appreciation Package (see below!), now through the first week in June!
How It Works:
1. Join now and enter the virtual ride!
2. Ride anywhere, any way, anytime!
3. Access the Virtual Pro platform to record weekly rides, and WIN PRIZES!
4. Sign up to receive your Rider Appreciation Package and support our local breweries!
As part of this ride's mission, we're offering a $5 discount code "MASSBIKE". For every registration using "MASSBIKE", Bikes & Beers will discount that registration by $5, we're also giving MassBike $5 per code used.Read more
National Bike Summit 2020
As the newly elected Chapter President of MassBike Pioneer Valley I was excited to attend my first National Bike Summit. The Summit is hosted by the League of American Bicyclists and brings bike enthusiasts from around the U.S. to the nation’s capital. I couldn’t wait to attend the workshop on Developing a Dutch Cycling Culture after having spent a few days in Amsterdam last fall and being blown away by the amount of folx biking in the city. I was also looking forward to getting on two wheels for the Womxn Suffragist ride around the capital celebrating the 100th Anniversary of womxn right to vote. Most importantly, I was excited to connect with people who love bikes from around the country.
As it got closer to my departure date the Coronavirus started to spread in the U.S. The League wisely made the decision to cancel the conference and moved it to a virtual format. I was still able to attend the workshop on Dutch Cycling Culture and many others. I was impressed with how quickly the League was able to transition to an online format. Little did I know that a few weeks later all of my work would transition to Zoom video conferences.
Then it was time for our lobby day. Instead of running around in our professional garb, speeding across the capital lawn from the House to the Senate we coordinated 20 – 30 minute conference calls with congressional staff. I have spent much of my career as a environmental lobbyist so I was looking forward to advocating for better and safer cycling. I was impressed at how well the calls went and the time we were able to get with staffers, given the chaos erupting in Washington, D.C. All of the staff were engaged and supportive and I once again felt lucky to live in a state with such great representatives. The 2020 National Summit will be one to remember and I look forward to attending the 2021 summit and biking around the U.S. Capitol celebrating the 101st Anniversary of womxn’s right to vote.
*UPDATE, Monday, March 30, 5p: The Essential Service FAQ page has been updated to specifically say bike shops ARE essential if they provide repair services. We are grateful to the Governor's team for reassessing the status, and to many legislators who helped elevate the conversation to the right folks, and to the shop owners who filled out the designation request form and who are taking impressive steps to ensure there is no risk of contamination or spreading the virus."
*UPDATE, Wednesday, March 25, 9:30p: We have just learned that the bike shop prohibition language has been removed from the Governor's FAQ page, and though we are still asking for bike repair shops to be named as "essential," this gives us confidence that the State is not prohibiting bicycle repair as a necessary service during these this Emergency Order. We advise all shops that choose to stay open to also check with their local municipality.*
*UPDATE, Wednesday, March 25, 8a: Per the Governor's FAQ published after this blog, bike shops are NOT included as essential, however many municipalities are contacting shops and letting them know they consider them essential. We will be working with the administration to get this changed so there is clarity and consistency across the state from the Governor's Office on this matter.*
This week Governor Charlie Baker issued an emergency order requiring all businesses and organizations that do not provide COVID-19 Essential Services to close their locations through (at least) April 7. This is a crucial move to stem the spread of the Novel Coronavirus by limiting social interactions and preventing the contamination of public spaces. So what does this mean for your local bike shop?
Well, per the Governor's list of "essential services" one could take a loose constructionist interpretation that bicycle repair shops fall into the Transportation and Logistics category, specifically "Employees who repair and maintain vehicles, aircraft, rail equipment, marine vessels, and the equipment and infrastructure that enables operations that encompass movement of cargo and passengers."
Obviously bicycle shops are providing transportation services by repairing and maintaining bicycles, which is the primary form of transportation for many essential workers such as hospital staff, grocery store clerks, and workers of all stripes -- especially in Massachusetts' urban areas.
Over the past week, the Frequently Asked Questions page regarding Essential Services had stated bike shops as not essential. However, due to a hearty advocacy push from MassBike, our partner advocates, bike shop owners, and concerned state reps and senators, as of Monday, March 30th the language has been changed to specifically state that bike shops CAN stay open if they provide bike repair services.
We are grateful to the Governor's team for reassessing the status. And to many legislators who helped elevate the conversation to the right folks. And to the shop owners who filled out the designation request form and who are taking impressive steps to ensure there is no risk of contamination or spreading the virus.Read more
Every year in May, like clockwork, Massachusetts bike riders of all kinds come together to celebrate the joy of bicycling with events that encourage, educate, and build our cycling community. In the past, MassBike hosted events for just one week... but this year we're expanding with bike events all month long! To meet the demand, we're rebranding as Bay State Bike Month (with a new URL coming soon).
So, get out your sharpies and mark your calendars to block off the whole month, especially the key dates of "Bike, Walk, and Roll to School Day" on May 6th, "Bike to Work Week" from May 11–17, "Bike to Work Day" on May 15th!
Bay State Bike Month will be the go-to-calendar to let you know all the bikey events happening in all corners of the commonwealth. Whether you're looking to join in some the hundreds of events statewide or host your own, Bay State Bike Month will have something for you to encourage riders to get together on two-wheels (or three, or one, whatever works!).
While we're revamping and rebranding Bay State Bike Month, we're also looking to add in a Bicycle Commuter Challenge this year for the week of May 11-17. Details are in the works, and this year we want to roll it out statewide, so stay tuned!
But more work is needed to make this all happen, especially financial sponsorships and supporters. Please visit our sponsorship opportunities page to learn more about how you, your company, or your friend with deep-pockets can help keep Bay State Bike Month rolling all month long.
We hope this note gets your wheels turning about a month-long celebration, and that you're already dreaming of a packed Bike Month!