MassBike Urges Bicycle Access On The Whittier Bridge

February 25, 2010
The Whittier Bridge crosses the Merrimack River between Newburyport and Amesbury in the Northeast corner of Massachusetts. The bridge, which carries I-95 across the river, is one of five "mega-projects" in MassDOT's Accelerated Bridge Program, with a projected cost of $285,000,000. So why is MassBike fighting to get bicycle infrastructure on an interstate highway bridge? The answer is connectivity.

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The communities adjacent to the Whittier Bridge - Newburyport, Amesbury, and Salisbury - are popular areas for biking and walking. On both sides of the Merrimack River, there are growing networks of paths as well as popular bike routes. To MassDOT's credit, they have thought about ways to improve these networks as part of the project. This is good news, and will certainly make biking and walking in the area even more attractive. But when asked by MassBike whether the bridge itself will accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians, the answer was "We haven't thought about that." That might be a reasonable response if you are talking about an interstate highway where there are other safe options for bicyclists and pedestrians. The problem here is that there is no safe option, and this is the last available opportunity to create one.

Just east of the Whittier Bridge (literally a stone's throw away), there is another way across the river. The Chain Bridge runs from Newburyport to the tiny Deer Island, and the Hines Bridge continues from Deer Island across to Amesbury. These bridges carry busy local roads, only one lane in each direction. There are no shoulders, and narrow or nonexistent sidewalks, so bicyclists have no choice but to take the lane and mix with car traffic. And there is no hope of modifying these bridges to safely accommodate bicycles - the Chain Bridge was already renovated several years ago, and the Hines Bridge is about to be completely replaced but the design does not improve conditions for bicycles. These were missed opportunities. Further downstream is the Route 1 bridge, carrying a multi-lane highway across the river - not suitable for bicycles.

Now we are left with one option for a safe bicycle and pedestrian route across the Merrimack River - the Whittier Bridge. The bridge is going to be completely replaced, and the design is still in the conceptual stage, so there is plenty of opportunity to create a new bridge that works for all users.

David Watson, Executive Director of MassBike, testified about these issues at the recent public hearing in Amesbury, and local bicyclists also spoke up. Several bikers thanked David for coming to the meeting, and one decided to make his own public statement after speaking with David.

We will continue to follow this project closely and fight for including bicycle access on the bridge. We strongly encourage bicyclists to speak up at meetings about local projects. Check our calendar for the latest information about upcoming meetings statewide.

Need help representing bicyclist interests in a project near you, or want to request that MassBike attend a meeting? Contact David Watson, [email protected] or 617-542-2453. While we don't have the resources to take an active role in every project, we're always happy to talk with you and see if there is a way we can help.
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Save The Date: Bike Night 2010!

February 25, 2010

MassBike's annual gala event will be on Saturday, May 15, 2010, at The Greatest Bar, 262 Friend Street, Boston. Leading into Bay State Bike Week (May 17-21), this is one party you will not want to miss! More details to come soon.
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Cycle For Shelter Charity Ride

February 25, 2010
The 22nd annual Cycle for Shelter will take place on Sunday, July 25, 2010 at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, MA. The ride benefits Emmaus Inc. a non-profit that has been providing shelter, services and affordable housing to homeless men, women and children since 1985.

  • Cycle for Shelter has been ranked one of the top rides in the United States by Bicycling Magazine.

  • Century, Metric Century, Half Century and Weekend Warrior (20 mile) scenic routes. The day is planned by cyclists for cyclists and is fully supported.

  • Modest registration fees and fundraising.

  • Cycle for Shelter is a popular first century or metric century whilst still offering many challenges for more experienced riders. The well-marked routes are sprinkled with checkpoints and roving support vehicles and covered by radio communications.

  • A delicious barbeque, complimentary massages, foot treatments and shower facilities await cyclists at the finish on the scenic Haverhill campus of Northern Essex Community College.

  • Emmaus is recognized as a model for providing long term solutions to homelessness. 90 cents of every dollar goes directly to the programs. With homelessness on the increase the funds raised help Emmaus increase the number of shelter spaces for people with no where else to turn.

  • For more information and to register go to: or e-mail [email protected]

  • This ride participates in the MassBike charity ride partner program.

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Ask MassBike: Alewife To Seaport

February 24, 2010
We get a lot of questions here at MassBike, and we like to think we also give some pretty good answers. We realized that sharing these questions and answers on our website would be a valuable resource to others looking for the same information.

We got this question from James about riding from Alewife to Seaport district in Boston. We are not always able to answer route questions but we chose this one because so many people use the Minute Man Bike trail and it ends at Alewife.

At the transportation event today a work I was told by that someone at your office rides from Alewife to the Seaport area. Is it possible to get the names for the streets used?
Many Thanks,

Hello James

I don't ride from Alewife to the Seaport area exactly, but I do ride from Arlington to the Financial District. So most of this route is what I do every day. It's almost all on-road, in traffic, but there are bike lanes most of the way between Porter Sq and Boston.

From the back of Alewife Station (the side where the elevator exits near one of the bike cages), follow the path through Russell Field to the Linear Path (it's a little confusing so you may have to look around a bit). Take the Linear Path out to Mass Ave. Take Mass Ave to Porter Square. At Porter Sq, bear left onto Somerville Ave (to the left of the T station). If you don't want to merge into the left turn lane at Porter Sq, stay in the bike lane and there is a ramp on the right onto the sidewalk to wait for a bicycle signal to cross the intersection. From Somerville Ave, take the first right onto Beacon St, which immediately curves to the left. Beacon St turns into Hampshire St at Inman Sq. Follow Hampshire St to the end, then take a left at the light onto Broadway. Take Broadway through Kendall Sq to the Longfellow Bridge. At the end of the Longfellow Bridge, go straight onto Cambridge St and follow to Government Center. Cambridge St turns into Tremont St. At Park St station, turn left onto Winter St, and continue straight onto Summer St. You can take Summer St all the way into South Boston, or turn left at South Station onto Atlantic Ave, then right at Congress St or Northern Ave to go directly into the Seaport area.

Hope that helps!
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In-Office Bike Parking

February 24, 2010
Most everyone here at MassBike rides to work every day, this is made easier because we have some sweet in-office bike parking.

As you can see some simple hooks put into the ceiling transformed a little corner of our office into some very nice bike parking. Having something as simple as bike parking inside that keeps your bicycle out of the weather can encourage employees to ride to work much more.

If you would like more tips for how to make your office more bike friendly contact us.
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I Am A Woman, And I Ride

February 22, 2010
A while ago we asked you to send in your bicycling stories and you didn't disappoint! We are trying to make sure everyone out there realizes that cyclists are real live human beings, not just anonymous people on wheels. Your stories put a face on cycling. These stories are part of a larger campaign to make cycling safer for everyone in Massachusetts, stay tuned for more information about this campaign.

We are still accepting entries, so be sure to read below to find out how to send in your story.

Our first story comes from Emily:

Where I Ride: grocery stores, library, post office, town schools, friends' houses, local farm
How Often I Ride: most days, except when there's too much snow/ice

My Story:
I'm 61, healthy and able to ride my bike for most of my errands. We live about a half mile from the center of Weston, our land abutting the old Mass Central rail line. Though the Mass Central is not yet an official rail trail, I'm able to use it to get to the three stores where I buy my groceries, in Weston, Wayland and Watertown. I go out my door to the trail and ride west toward Weston's Omni Market or to Wayland's Whole Foods, or east toward Waltham, where after a short bit on roads I can pick up the Charles River Way at Prospect Street. From there, I follow the river to the Heron Bridge in Watertown, then cut through parking lots to Russo's. It takes me about 5 minutes to ride into Weston Center, and between a half and three quarters of an hour to Wayland or Watertown. I also ride to the Weston Library and to Land's Sake Farm, both about 10 minutes from our house.

My bike is one I inherited from our third son. We gave it to him about 15 years ago when he was around 12. My husband, Dave, took it to Frank's Spoke and Wheel for a thorough overhaul a couple years ago and it works well, especially with the "new" tire Dave salvaged from a bike he found at the Weston transfer station. I have a couple old saddle bags on the rear wheel in which I can put up to about 45 pounds of groceries.

My biking carries on a family tradition, which continues with all four of our kids. My parents both rode their bikes into their 80's. When my mom was in her mid 70's, she took her 2 longest rides, one from Weston to the Cape, the other from Weston to Peterboro, NH. Here's hoping I'll be able to do the same!

Thanks Emily! Cycling is a wonderful family tradition.

We want to hear your story. Tell us about yourself and how bicycling is a part of your life. Just copy and paste the form below into an email, fill it in, and send it to [email protected]

  • Name:

  • Email:

  • Where You Ride:

  • How Often You Ride:

  • Your Profession/Relation/Title (lawyer, nurse, Grandma, son, etc):

  • A picture of you on your bicycle, or you in your daily life (be sure we can see your face):

  • A paragraph or two about your life and your bicycle:

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MassBike Supports Mountain Biking In Middlesex Fells

February 22, 2010
The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is currently conducting a planning process for the trail system in the Middlesex Fells Reservation. In connection with the process, the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA) is proposing a comprehensive plan for mountain biking in the Fells. MassBike supports NEMBA's efforts to create more opportunities for riding bikes in the Boston area by expanding mountain bike access in the Middlesex Fells Reservation. We applaud NEMBA's commitment to building and maintaining sustainable trails and to sharing those trails with all users.

Please consider submitting your own comments in support of mountain biking in the Fells. Click here for more information. Comments must be submitted by February 28, 2010.
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New Stickers!

February 22, 2010
MassBike is busy every day working hard to make sure bicycling is better for everyone in Massachusetts, but sometimes we take a break to have a bit of fun. Which is why we are happy to announce our new stickers! These fine yellow beauties are the perfect adornment to any bicycle, and let the world know that you support MassBike.

You are probably asking yourself "Self, how can I get one of these sweet stickers!" Well tell yourself to relax because it is super easy. The best way to get one of these fine bike stickers is to become a member of MassBike! We will be sending them out with all membership packets from now on (new members, and renewals).

If want one, but don't want to wait, send a self addressed stamped envelope to:

171 milk street, suite 33
Boston, MA 02109

We can send you one or both stickers, so let us know what you want. If you want more than a handful contact us.
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MassBike Speaking Up For Bicyclists In Your Community

February 19, 2010
Here are some of the public meetings we've participated in recently to make sure bicyclist needs are included in transportation projects around the state.

Amesbury: Whittier Bridge (total bridge replacement, but MassDOT had not considered the need for bicyclists to get safely across the Merrimack River)

Allston: River Street and Western Avenue Bridges (these critical connections between Boston and Cambridge must include bicycle facilities, and maintain safe bicycle and pedestrian access during construction - also an opportunity to fix the dangerously narrow section of the Charles River path near River Street)

Cambridge: Anderson Memorial Bridge (this vital commuter link between Harvard Square and Allston must include bicycle facilities, and maintain safe bicycle and pedestrian access during construction)

Boston: South Bay Harbor Trail (this path from Ruggles to the Fort Point Channel area is a fantastic opportunity to get more people in the city biking and walking, but the design has some potential safety issues that could be improved)

Need help representing bicyclist interests in a project near you, or want to request that MassBike attend a meeting? Contact David Watson, [email protected] or 617-542-2453. While we don't have the resources to take an active role in every project, we're always happy to talk with you and see if there is a way we can help.
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What MassBike Is Doing To Get More Kids Biking To School

February 18, 2010
Pretty much everyone agrees it would be a good thing if more kids were biking (or walking) to school. Something like 75% of US schoolchildren are driven to school by car, and parents dropping kids off is the single biggest source of traffic around schools (see report). In the space of a single generation, the percentage of kids biking and walking to school has dropped from 41% to 13%, while at the same time childhood obesity rates have skyrocketed (see report). So how do we reverse this trend?

One response to the problem is the federally-funded Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program, which here in Massachusetts is managed by the Department of Transportation. The program provides infrastructure improvements, education, and encouragement to schools statewide, including bicycle safety training by MassBike (click for more details about our youth education programs). About 70% of the funding is targeted for improving the physical infrastructure around schools (like sidewalks, crossings, and bike lanes), with the remaining 30% available for education and program administration. Over the past two years, we've taught more than 4000 kids about biking and safety.

We also participate in the state SRTS Task Force, an advisory group of biking, walking, education, and safety experts that provides guidance for the MA program. We ask a lot of questions at Task Force meetings. At the most recent meeting, we asked :

  1. Why can't the annual "Walk to School Day" be "Walk & Bike to School Day"? (We've raised this issue a few times.)

  2. Which schools getting bicycling improvements as part of their infrastructure projects?

  3. Where were needed bicycling improvements identified but not included in projects?

  4. Which participating schools encourage bicycling, and which schools prohibit bicycling? (Believe it or not, a significant number of schools actually do prohibit kids from biking.)

We got the answer to Question #1 this week: From now on, Massachusetts will have "Walk & Bike to School Day", thanks to MassBike keeping up the pressure on this issue.

We've been promised answers to our other questions at the next quarterly Task Force meeting, so we will keep you posted.
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