Thanks to David, Thanks to Ride Studio Cafe!

January 28, 2015

The Ride Studio Cafe hosted a thank-you party for outgoing MassBike Executive Director David Watson, right, on Jan. 25. Patria Lanfranchi, left, and Rob Vandermark, presented David with a huge donation of more than $1,300. The funds were raised by their customers who participated in Rapha's Festive 500 during the Holidays. Special thanks to  Harpoon and Chipotle for helping out with the food and beverage!
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Boston Strong: Why Beantown Can Soon Be America's Best Bike Town

January 28, 2015

[caption id="attachment_23813" align="alignleft" width="225"] Tracks from the local wildlife - the Boston cyclist[/caption]

Folks in Portland, Boulder, and San Francisco would be well-served to keep an eye in the rear view mirror. For I predict one city, with help from People for Bikes and MassBike, will soon be spoken of as THE shining example of a great cycling city.

As my hometown, there is undoubtedly some bias. But Boston also possesses unique attributes that will distinguish it from those other municipalities that boast relatively high bike mode share.

One key element of my rationale is that the godly line used in the film Field of Dreams of "Build it and they will come" is pretty much bad advice for marketing and public works. With just 1 percent of all trips in America taken by bike, any massive spending - justified or not - for such projects will spark a bonfire of an anti-tax, anti-government furor. We cyclists can ill afford to squander any hard-fought political capital on white elephants that go unused.

I firmly believe that demand must precede supply.

And for that primary reason, Boston rocks as a bike town.

Here are my 10 distinct reasons Boston is about to become America's best bike city:

  • "IT'S NOT MUCH OF A COLLEGE TOWN." I often cite one of the funniest lines of the film Spinal Tap when I describe why Boston has such a vibrant bike scenes. When mapping out their tour, the bumbling members of this hair band decide to focus on college towns and choose not to include Boston on their tour. "Boston's not much of a college town," is the reason stated. Arguably the world's largest college town, Boston's Suffolk County alone has 24 colleges and universities, almost all of which officially discourage students from using automobiles. Across the Charles River sits Cambridge with Harvard University, Tufts University, Lesley College, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and countless other schools. With low incomes and strong bodies, college kids ride bikes and often develop a lasting cycling lifestyle.

  • COMPACT DESIGN. Settled in 1630, Boston was not developed for the automobile but for the pedestrian. The streets are narrow and buildings are clustered closely together. Driving is difficult enough; parking is an entirely different challenge. Traveling a single mile by car can be a 20-minute hassle but a joyful four-minute spin by bike with door-to-door parking.

  • Boston registers in the top 10 of American cycling cities. And Boston registers in the top three of American walking cities. But when one combines both walking and cycling, Boston climbs to number one according to the Alliance for Biking and Walking. Places that are more walkable tend to be more bike-able.

  • SUPERIOR TRANSIT. Having installed the first subway system of any American city, Boston's network of subways, commuter trains, and buses enables residents an affordable and efficient means of getting to and fro. Transit is also important in fostering a bike culture as it creates a back-up plan for bike commuters who may have a mechanical issue, stay out too late with friends, or shy away from some harsh weather.

  • THE NORTHEAST CORRIDOR. All four of the prior reasons are woven together in all the major metro areas of the Northeast Corridor, running from Washington DC to Boston. Only three U.S. cities report more than 50 percent of their population regularly commuting via transit: Washington, New York, and Boston. And Philadelphia is not far behind. What this fosters is a physical, mental, and spiritual car-free transit paradigm that becomes a contagion throughout the entire region. Mayors, cops, and public works administrators develop a shared sense of best practices that normalizes the use of bikes. Should Amtrak ever embrace roll-on access throughout its Northeast trains as it has in California, transportation inter-modality throughout the Northeast could approach that of European cities.

  • NICOLE FREEDMAN. Like other American metro areas, the Boston area has fostered some fantastic bike advocacy through three organizations: the statewide group MassBike, the Boston Cyclists Union, and the Livable Streets Alliance. But Mayor Thomas Menino's installation of former Olympic cyclist Nicole Freedman as the city's "bike czarina" has proven particularly effective. Her personal experience as a cyclist combined with her education in urban planning gives her a unique perspective rarely found in such professionals. But her deft political skill, knowing when to be patient and when to be pushy, has proven most effective. Her continued support (at least verbally) from newly elected Mayor Marty Walsh bodes well for continued improvements.

  • REGIONAL INDUSTRY PRESENCE. Col. Albert Pope, the Bill Gates of the 19th Century bike boom, of Boston spawned the first American bicycle craze. And New England served as an engine of the American bike renaissance, which hit in two successive waves: the early 1970s bike boom in which the tinderbox of an environmental movement and counter-culture was touched off by a match that was the Arab Oil Embargo; and the mountain bike craze of the 1980s. While folks in Colorado and California may have been riding, the folks in New England were tinkering: Richard Sachs, Chris Chance, Rob Vandermark and their contemporaries spawned countless innovative products and companies. Cannondale, Seven Cycles, Fat City, Independent Fabrication, Kryptonite, Firefly, Circle A, Pedro's, and others all came from, and remained in, New England. And with proximity to European time zones, such major brands as Mavic, Thule, Craft, Vittoria, and Selle Italia run their U.S. operations out of this region.

  • Several U.S. cities have launched bike share programs with a variable degrees of integration and adoption. Boston's Hubway system, however, has been rapidly embraced and expanded like none other in America. And don't forget that the successful car sharing company, Zipcar, was founded right here in Cambridge, Mass.

  • GREEN LANE PROJECT. Boston's selection by People For Bikes as one of six cities selected in the second round of support for the Green Lane Project bodes well. All of the above factors will play a key role in ensuring that where and when dedicated and separated bike lanes, cutting edge urban engineering, and supportive programs are created, this could prove to be America's most fertile environments for a revolution in transportation.

  • BOSTON STRONG. OK, this is totally subjective and anecdotal. But nearly anybody from this region will concur that Bostonians have a unique communal character like no other American city. The world witnessed this during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and ensuing manhunt. Locals understand this. To be in this town during a snowstorm gives one true hope for humanity. Whereas most Eastern cities are stalled for days by such storms, Bostonians harden up. Everyone respects a brief but comprehensive parking and driving ban and the entire place is plowed curb-to-curb within hours of the storm ending. Your walk gets shoveled. Then your neighbor's walk gets shoveled. And through that the heartiest of cyclists keep rolling. (This writer missed just one day of commuting last winter due to snowfall.) And Boston, like so many great cities, is a font of progress. What happens in Boston - be it in medicine, bio-tech, high-tech, engineering or even rock 'n' roll - does not stay in Boston, but spreads to the world. Get ready Portland....Game on.


Richard Fries is the newly appointed executive director of MassBike. A passionate cyclist for more than 35 years, he has raced professionally in Europe, toured throughout the world, commuted year round for most of his adult life, and worked as a bicycle advocate. Trained as a journalist, he co-founded The Ride Magazine, which he helped run for 14 years. As an advocate he served for several years as a development adviser for People for Bikes. He also co-founded the Providence Cyclo-cross Festival. But Fries is best known as a race announcer, having provided English commentary for the UCI World Championships in both cyclo-cross and road. He lives in Lexington, Mass., alongside - you guessed it - a bike path with his wife and three children.
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MassBike Is Hiring a Communications Coordinator

January 26, 2015

MassBike is hiring a part-time Communications Coordinator. Are you enthusiastic about promoting bicycling as a mode of transportation around Massachusetts? Do you have excellent communications skills, especially with social media and blogging? Would you like a flexible working schedule? If so, this opportunity might be right for you!

We want to continue generating excitement and interest in the great work we do to encourage more people to ride bikes in Massachusetts, with the goal of increasing our membership, donors, volunteers, and event participants.

The responsibilities of the Communications Coordinator will include taking primary responsibility for MassBike’s day-to-day social media presence, producing blog posts about our programs and events in consultation with other staff members, producing our email newsletter Quick Release, and promoting MassBike events widely to increase participation.

Please read the full job description and how to apply here.

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Action Alert: Help MassBike Get Sponsors For New Bike Safety Bills!

January 23, 2015
[caption id="attachment_23798" align="alignright" width="300"] Massachusetts State House Photo by Coralie Mercier licensed under Creative Commons.[/caption]

This month marks the start of a new two-year session in the Massachusetts Legislature, and MassBike has filed two bills designed to protect bicyclists and other vulnerable road users.

MassBike’s bills are the “Act To Protect Vulnerable Road Users” and the “Act To Protect Bicyclists In Bicycle Lanes." Thanks to Senator Will Brownsberger and Representative Dave Rogers, the bills have been filed in both the House and the Senate to get maximum exposure on Beacon Hill.

The Vulnerable Road Users Bill (pdf) (SD273 in the Senate and HD2137 in the House) defines “vulnerable users” to include pedestrians, bicyclists, wheelchair users, motorcyclists, road workers, emergency responders, horseback riders, and others who are at greater risk on our roads. Beyond giving vulnerable users legal status, the bill sets minimum safe distances for passing vulnerable users, starting at three feet and increasing with speed. The bill also emphasizes that motorists can and should use other lanes to pass vulnerable users safely.

The Bike Lane Protection Bill (pdf) (SD284 in the Senate and HD2130 in the House) addresses a common problem: It makes it a ticketable violation statewide for a motorist to park or stand in a marked bicycle lane or other on-street bicycle facility. When a motorist parks or stands in a bike lane, it endangers bicyclists by causing them to merge into traffic or squeeze between the parked vehicle and the curb or other parked cars. In most communities in Massachusetts, it is not currently a violation to park in a bike lane, but others are adopting their own rules (notably Boston). We run the risk of a patchwork of inconsistent and confusing local laws if we do not act statewide.

See a fact sheet on these bills here (pdf).

We are actively seeking co-sponsors for these bills, and the deadline is rapidly approaching on January 30th! Having a lot of co-sponsors demonstrates strong support for a bill, and can help it move forward. That’s where all of you come in.

How You Can Help

  1. Get contact information for your state legislators here. Enter your home address, then click on the name of your State Senator and State Representative to get their email address or phone number.

  1. Email or call your State Senator, and ask her or him to support protecting pedestrians, bicyclists, and other vulnerable road users by co-sponsoring SD273 and SD284. Tell them to email to sign on.

  1. Email or call your State Representative, and ask her or him to support protecting pedestrians, bicyclists, and other vulnerable road users by co-sponsoring HD2130 and HD2137. Tell them to email to sign on.

  1. Email (or cc) to let us know who you contacted.

If you have any questions, email or call 617-542-2453. Thanks so much for your help. You are our political power – we cannot do it without you!
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MassBike in Springfield - Video

January 22, 2015
In late 2014 we completed our work in Springfield. We worked on many projects to encourage cycling, including helping the city get its first bike lane and creating a Pedestrian/Bike Plan with LiveWell Springfield. To wrap up our time there, we produced this video about biking in this wonderful city. Enjoy!


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Visit with Richard Fries at the Ride Studio Cafe

January 21, 2015
Our new director, Richard Fries, will be at this Tread Labs event at Ride Studio Cafe today. Come check it out. Click the image for a PDF version of the flyer.
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You Are Invited to a Party Celebrating David Watson

January 17, 2015
Come celebrate David Watson's eight-year tenure as executive director. As he moves on to other endeavors, we would like to express our thanks for all he has done to build up the organization and promote bicycling across the state.

When: January 24, 7:00 PM

Where: Ride Studio Cafe: 1720 Massachusetts Avenue, Lexington, MA 02420


Hors d'oeuvres and drinks will be provided.


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Self-Powered Commuting

January 12, 2015
[caption id="attachment_23680" align="alignright" width="332"] Morning Commute By Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious licensed under Creative Commons[/caption]

MassBike is honored to be chosen as a recipient for Google's Self-Powered Commuting program through Global Giving.

Google's Self-Powered Commuting program encourages employees to bike, walk, or use other non-motorized methods of arriving at work. Throughout the campaign, Google employees logged their self-powered miles. Now, at the program wrap up, they have been rewarded for their participation with gift cards for Global Giving and directed to the page that highlights five organizations throughout the country that supports bicyclists. The employees then use these gift cards to donate to their favorite charity. By choosing MassBike for this program, Google doubles the impact of their self-powered commuters. We are in the excellent company of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Bike Pittsburgh, and Transportation Alternatives (located in New York City).

Angela Wu, who worked with Google on this project in her role in business development at Global Giving, said "It's encouraging to see how passionate these Googlers are about programs close to their heart."

Google self-powered commuters and others who donate through Global Giving to MassBike will be helping us make Massachusetts an even more enjoyable place to ride a bike. We are so pleased that Google has recognized our hard work and the importance of getting more bicyclists on the road - in Massachusetts and across the nation!
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A Conversation with MassBike's New Executive Director

January 06, 2015
[caption id="attachment_23650" align="alignright" width="300"] Photo courtesy of Russ Campbell.[/caption]

MassBike’s Board of Directors has named well-respected and experienced promoter, announcer, and journalist Richard Fries as our new Executive Director. Fries takes over the helm of the statewide organization as bicycling and bicycle commuting is growing in popularity across Massachusetts. He most recently worked as marketing director for the Best Buddies Challenge rides and as a development advisor for People for Bikes. (View the press release for Fries' appointment.)

MassBike Board member Colin Durrant took a few minutes to ask Richard about why he chose to take the job, how a wide variety of stakeholders can work together to create safer cycling in Massachusetts, and what he sees as the challenges and opportunities ahead for MassBike.

Colin: Let’s start off with a basic question. How do you think MassBike is doing as a statewide advocacy organization?

RF: I am going to use a racing analogy to answer this question because it fits. David [Watson], as well as the current and former staff, have provided me with a fantastic leadout.

I first got involved in MassBike in the early 1990s when it could not maintain a single paid staff member. David’s tenure has created a powerful foundation for much bigger growth. Whether we are discussing rail-trails, bike lanes, police education, pending legislation, or awareness programs like Mass in Motion, the achievements have been staggering. And, importantly, they yield enormous benefits for every resident, not just cyclists.

Colin:  What role do you think MassBike has played and must play in building better, and much safer, bicycling across the state?

RF: The biggest change mirrors changes seen elsewhere in the nation. We have altered the wiring of the planning process to include pedestrians and cyclists in not just the discussion but in the formal planning process throughout the transportation grid. We worked really hard to get a space at that table. We don’t always get everything we want but we are part of that discussion.

Going forward I believe we now need to shift our focus slightly from not just working to get a share of the public road, but also to working for a share of the public mind. Instead of bicyclists being tolerated, we need to work on being embraced as a positive element of transportation and recreation.

Colin: You have a deep history of involvement with cycling in Massachusetts and nationally. Why did you think now was the right time to lead MassBike?

RF: Many viewed my career as the dream job. I have been able to travel and ride all over the world and do a lot of meaningful work, all of which involves the bicycle. Much of it I will miss. But I have a love affair with Massachusetts, and I truly saw this opportunity to bring many of the cultural elements and physical infrastructure from places like Colorado, California, Oregon, Denmark, and the Netherlands to the Bay State.

I look at all the potential we have here - ranging from compact urban design that pre-dates automobiles to perhaps the best transit network in America - and I see nothing but opportunity. The ingredients are all here. The next step is to foster the cultural will to embrace bikes on a much larger scale.

Colin:  Do you have a few priorities you know you want to tackle right away in the coming year?

RF: The first is to increase membership. We have more than 700,000 people in Massachusetts who ride a bike at least monthly. But we have only about 3,000 members. Just one percent of those folks would put us at 7,000 members. Most of the folks I ride with every week are not members. That’s low-hanging fruit. More members means more clout. To date, bicycle advocacy has largely been led with an agenda that prioritizes legislation and engineering, which is important. One of my first goals will be to build on that by approaching bicycle advocacy from a marketing and communications angle.

Colin: Bicycling is growing in popularity, both in urban areas and recreationally. What are some of the greatest opportunities for building a stronger bicycling community across Massachusetts?

RF: Again, pardon the racing metaphor, but I intend to do what my coaches taught me: train your weakness, race your strength. We have had such success in urban infrastructure and enlisting those riders. But out in the suburbs and farmlands and orchards, where thousands of people in our target demographic are riding, we have little or no presence. These riders are not engaged at all in advocacy. They have economic strength; they have political clout; and they are often in professional positions of power. No bike shop could ever exist without catering to that market; why should an advocacy group feel they can flourish without their strongest asset?

Colin: Massachusetts has been making great strides in transit recently as well. What are some of the greatest opportunities for strengthening our coalition with transit riders?

RF: Our transit system distinguishes Massachusetts from the rest of the country. While I’m a hard-core bike commuter, having a transit option truly enables mainstream students and workers to commute by bike. Putting our effort and energy into making those critical transit lynchpins bike friendly yields perhaps the greatest return on investment. And yes, you can have automobiles as part of those systems.

The model to replicate is the Alewife MBTA station, where you have a subway connect with buses, automobile parking, and the Minuteman Bikeway. Look at the bike cages. They are filled to capacity. But when weather or darkness deters a cyclist, transit is there to help. So let’s do that in every MBTA station - let’s prioritize round-the-clock, roll-on access.

Colin: And how do you see bicycles fitting in the larger context of a transportation system that includes transit, cars, pedestrians, and commercial trucks for example?

RF: Advocates work really hard to get bike lanes put into place. And then to have them used as loading zones, drop-off zones, taxi lines, parking spots, turning lanes, is understandably frustrating. I’ll go back to what I said earlier: having a share of the road is one thing; having a share of the mind is another. Demand must precede supply.

For example, look at motorist behavior in Cambridge’s Inman Square, where the bicycle mode share matches anything we see in Portland, Oregon or Boulder, Colorado. There are so many bikes in the flow that the typical motorists and pedestrians there seem hyper aware of the bike traffic and are accordingly aware and polite. But as we build up to that level of mode share elsewhere, we need a strategy. You get what you tolerate. We need a lot more education and media outreach so every user understands the bicycle’s role in our transportation system.

Colin:  You just spoke to the public perception of bicycling, but you’ve also said your experience cuts across the “disparate tribal elements of bicycling: sport, industry, culture, and advocacy.” What can be done to bring these elements closer together to encourage collaboration and setting of common goals?

RF: I’ve always been a “big-tent” guy. We are too small of a market to separate into correct and incorrect cyclists. But look at the bicycle industry, which ranges from the bicycle retailer all the way up to the manufacturer. At issue is the enormous pressure they face to either make that month’s payroll or that quarter’s sales goal. That pressure is important to appreciate. There is the choice to either focus on selling that $400 bike to a student, which may be the first of say 20 bikes purchased in her lifetime, or focus on selling that plastic surgeon the last bike he’ll ever purchase for $13,000. But I see it less as a choice and more as a question: how do we as advocates help the industry to develop BOTH customer bases?

This is also where I believe the racing community is really important. Advocates have been unwise in failing to recruit them to their ranks. Those riders are the alphas who are spending upwards of 30 hours per week on the roads interacting with motorists and pedestrians. They also impact the behavior and purchasing decisions of other cyclists. Most of them evolved through the purchases of equipment and apparel to foster a true cycling lifestyle that involves training, touring, AND commuting. Improve their conduct and you improve all cycling conduct.

The club ride is arguably one of the most important things we do as a recreational cyclist. A club ride in the Netherlands is a modicum of proper cycling to be emulated with every ride. Ride with a pro, a real pro like Tim Johnson, and your group will churn along smoothly without ever hearing a car horn. But a lot of group rides are run with a Lord of the Flies attitude. This is something bike shops and clubs need to discourage - it sets us all back.

Colin: On a related note, many might not know that Massachusetts has a strong and growing bicycle industry. What role do you think they can play in supporting statewide bicycle programs?

RF: Had you told me in 1978 that Italians would fly to America just get a bike made in New England I would have pulled over laughing. Just look at Seven, Parlee, and Firefly to start. This is like having Ferrari and Lamborghini in your backyard. Then consider that Craft, Todson, Kryptonite, Vittoria, Pedro’s, and others are anchored here and you get a sense of the power we have. But they have not been as engaged with local advocacy as they could be. These brands may not have a lot of disposable income but they have considerable energy and impact that we need to engage. Our job is to tell their story as part of our story. Look at what Trek has done in Wisconsin. That has worked for both the state and the company.

Colin: Speak for a moment about what originally drew you to bicycling and what keeps you coming back for more?

RF: The bicycle is the world’s most perfect invention. I grew up riding bikes but I truly embraced cycling at age 17 when I started commuting during college. I’ve been a passionate cyclist for nearly 40 years. That includes racing at the pro level, year-round commuting, charity rides, some epic touring, and my coffee shop rides on the weekends.

I often say that every cyclist, myself included, is a work in progress. We each enter this lifestyle through a variety of doors. For some it may be a charity, for others it may be fitness or recreation. But I believe the biggest draw to cycling - especially in Boston, the world’s biggest college town - is the economics. I go door to desk from Lexington to Boston in as little as 37 minutes without ever running a red light. No parking. No insurance. No gas. No traffic jams. And at age 54 I still wear the same size jeans I wore in high school despite my fondness for sausage and craft beers.

Colin: Let’s wrap up with what advice you would tell someone who is considering getting on a bicycle for the first time.

RF: Invest in a good bike that fits properly and buy stuff at real bike shops. Then ask questions. Too many cyclists quit learning way too soon. I still learn something every time I ride.
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MassBike Names Richard Fries as New Executive Director

January 06, 2015
JAN. 6, 2015
CONTACT: Beth Rodio,

[caption id="attachment_23650" align="alignright" width="300"] Photo courtesy of Russ Campbell.[/caption]

Experienced Promoter, Announcer, and Journalist Will Lead Statewide Advocacy Group As Bicycling is Growing in Popularity.

BOSTON (Jan. 6, 2015) – After an extensive search and interview process the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition (MassBike) has named Richard Fries to serve as its new executive director. His appointment comes as new investments in infrastructure and education have encouraged more people than ever to explore bicycling as a safe, healthy, accessible transportation option.

“I’ve never been so excited about a professional opportunity before. From its compact urban centers and world-class transit system to its beautiful countryside, Massachusetts has all the ingredients we need to build a truly first-rate bicycle culture,” said Fries. “Whether you’re starting a new bike business, riding for the first time, or logging your thousandth mile, we can all work together to build a state where everyone has access to a safe, smooth ride.”

Fries’ experience in the bicycling community is both broad and deep. For the past eight years he has served as the marketing director and later the cycling experience director for Best Buddies International, where he helped promote as many as four charity cycling events per year. He has also served as a development advisor for People for Bikes, where he helped launch Tim Johnson’s Ride on Washington, and he spent two years as the director of the Bicycle Leadership Conference.

“Richard comes to MassBike with the perfect blend of advocacy, leadership, and industry experience that, combined with his passion for cycling, will help us continue to make bicycling better in every corner of the state,” said Jim Bradley, President of MassBike’s Board of Directors.

Fries is co-founder of the Providence Cyclo-cross Festival, which has grown to become the largest cyclo-cross event in America and one of New England’s largest cycling events. Fries will stay on as director of that event, now known as the KMC Cyclo-cross Festival.

Having raced at the pro level both in America and Europe, Fries left racing to become a journalist. He co-founded The Ride Magazine, a regional cycling publication that focused on all facets of bike culture in the Northeast. He also developed a reputation as both a live announcer and a television commentator. Fries has called countless national championships and several UCI World Cups and the UCI World Championships in both road and cyclo-cross. He has been an event consultant for the past five years.

Fries will join MassBike on January 15 and succeeds David Watson who held the post for eight years. “I am honored to be joining MassBike at such a critical time, and that excitement only grew when I dug into the details of how well David Watson ran this organization,” said Fries. “I could not have received a better lead-out. This board, this staff, this membership, and many of our strategic partners have set Massachusetts up to become the gold standard for bicycling in the United States. ”

A native of Pittsburgh, Fries received a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of South Florida, and a masters degree in journalism from Northeastern University. A passionate bicycle commuter, Fries lives alongside the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway in Lexington, Mass. He and his wife, Deborah, have three children.

Read a Q&A interview with Richard Fries about his appointment.
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