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By RICHARD FRIES
When I saw to my right the wheel-chaired quadriplegic making his way towards the ramp and the crosswalk on Cambridge Street I knew mayhem was not far behind. When I saw to my left the young lady wearing a snorkel hood, talking on her phone, and striding into the crosswalk from Government Center I realized chaos would undoubtedly ensue.
I had unclipped at this light, less than a mile from my office at MassBike, where I would finish my first week as the non-profit’s new executive director. I had met with the Department of Transportation, helped my predecessor file bike legislation, discussed cycling with the Office of Travel and Tourism, worked with staff, met with assorted executives, communicated with our Board of Directors, strategized on marketing, membership and sponsorship all towards making Massachusetts THE best bicycling state in America.
I have huge footsteps to follow. The outgoing leader, David Watson, took over this disheveled non-profit eight years ago and built – brick by heavy brick – a solid foundation. Pardon the car metaphor but spending the last two months “under the hood” of MassBike revealed to me how powerful this organization has become. The first week on the job, however, was an alphabet soup of agencies and consultants and accountants and planners and professional organizations all of which had been carefully navigated by David on behalf of MassBike.
We spent much of that first week with David on the front and me sitting on in the draft. He has positioned MassBike to do things that are truly nation-leading. Colorado and California are not close to pulling off some of these programs we’re about to finalize. He has galvanized police departments statewide to comprehend and embrace both the letter and spirit of laws pertaining to bicycles on the roadways. And his catalog knowledge of lawmakers and legislation on Beacon Hill is profound. The winds of change at the state and federal level are about to turn to our favor.
David did much of this prep work. He had taken a mighty pull. Now I had to pull through, into the wind, with a small staff and a small membership.
But all I could do for bicycle advocacy at that moment at that crosswalk was put out my gloved right hand in a downward, patting manner, hoping in vain to avert disaster.
Fortunately my new job allows me to continue my Lexington-to-Boston commute along most of the same corridor I had used for the prior eight years while I worked for Best Buddies. My commuting style could be described as politely assertive. I always yield down to pedestrians, I stop for red lights, I stack up in line behind other cyclists until it is considerate to pass, and I restrict my comments to errant motorists, jaywalking pedestrians, and scofflaw cyclists to a single word: “Careful!”
That January morning had proven a delightful experience down the Minuteman, along Mass Ave, through Porter and even the choppy Beacon Street experience into Inman Square had been pleasant. The sheer number of winter commuters, some of us chirping like happy birds in the morning sun of Kendall Square, gave me great confidence for my work at hand.
But having raced at a fairly high level I confess to commuting at a high rate of speed. Rarely am I caught, let alone passed, by another cyclist. So when a single-speeder on a salvaged mid-1970s Raleigh blew past me in Kendall, I lit the fuse and reeled him in as we approached the Longfellow Bridge. I sat on a bit and then pressed pass him, kindly complimenting him as I did so. He cheerfully obliged and sat on as we passed a string of other cyclists and descended into the Mass General circle, where we both stopped for the red light along with a half dozen other cyclists.
Mayhem arrived. He wore no helmet but ear buds strung down his thick beard. He rode a single speed, hand painted purple, salvaged from some hellish dumpster of parts akin to the dolls cobbled together by Sid in the movie Toy Story. He flew full speed through the red light into rotary traffic.
“Careful” I said.
As the light turned green I quickly retrieved him and took a fast line through traffic and rolled up hill to the red light at Bowdoin Street, a chaotic intersection with four lanes of traffic crossing. Mayhem flew through this light too, flopping the machine back and forth to get through the chopping patterns. Again the light switched green and again I caught him within 10 seconds and passed him with ease.
“Careful” I said.
And then I approached the crosswalk, where several cyclists commonly blow through the red light and crosswalk. I view it less as being legal and more about being courteous. But then I saw the wheelchair to my right working to beat the flashing countdown on the pedestrian signal.
He came full speed by my outstretched hand only to see the wheelchair emerge squarely into his path. He screamed an epithet at the quadriplegic – a quadriplegic, no less! – and dove to the left to avoid the collision. But that correction put him squarely into the path of the woman, who shrieked in fear.
In that instant he had put all of the hard work David had poured into improving cycling at risk. In that blink of an eye he had turned every motorist and every pedestrian witness and every voter in that intersection against every bicyclist, noble or otherwise. Regardless of the environment, the public health, the energy savings, the economics and all the important reasons we have to promote cycling, in that moment we had become simply “them.”
And they hated us. Because of him, they hated me.
Thanks only to the woman’s adroit pirouette and certainly not to this man’s skills as a cyclist aboard this junk pile of a bike nobody was struck or injured.
Then the light turned. And I went. I came up to him as his head began to swivel in anticipation of my next and third passing of him with an admonition. We were then dead center in the three lanes of Cambridge Street.
“WHAT THE F….. IS YOUR PROBLEM?!?!” he screamed. The flush of color in his cheeks revealed the adrenaline and endorphins of the near-miss remained in full bloom within his bloodstream. “I MEAN WHAT THE F…..IS YOUR PROBLEM?!?!?”
I had purposefully advanced in such a fashion to come off his wheel with just the right proximity.
“Unfortunately,” I replied, “Guys like you ARE now my problem.”
I turned left on School Street and quietly went to work.
When we are out there riding, let’s all try to be the good guys, OK?
Thanks for reading.
By Lauren LeClaire
The roads were a sheet of ice. The morning sunshine – a welcome sight after this historic winter – made the entire road glisten. Caution was the word of the day. I rolled steadily, confident in my knobby tires and Geekhouse cyclo-cross bike. I rode with caution, but not unusual concern along this route, my normal commute from Somerville to downtown Boston. My boyfriend rode right behind me as we chatted about our upcoming week.
We pedaled down North Point Boulevard in Cambridge. Things appeared fine until the intersection with Leighton Street. There an 18-wheeler blew a stop sign to make a left hand turn onto North Point directly in front of us. I hit the brakes and of course, my wheels went right out from under me and I hit the ground. I heard my boyfriend slide out right behind me. For a seasoned racer the fall did not scare me. But the rapid slide across the ice, straight towards the wheels of the truck, terrified me. I scraped at the ice-covered ground trying frantically to slow the slide. As I approached the truck – almost in slow motion – I thought of the recent tragedies in Metro Boston involving trucks. I heard myself saying “Oh my God, I’m next!”
I stopped sliding about 50 feet later, closer to the truck than I would have liked. Then my boyfriend slid into me. Rattled, I quickly got to my feet.
The crash did not astonish me. But what happened next did.
The truck had rounded its turn, without stopping, without rolling down a window to see if we were both OK. The three cars behind us, who had witnessed the scene, stopped briefly, until we were out of the middle of the road. They just slowly drove past us. The half a dozen pedestrians on the sidewalk? They just stared. Not a word was spoken. No voice of concern. No “Are you ok?” Some didn’t even look, and just continued about their business, despite my shrill scream as I hit the ground.
We got back on our bikes, shaken up, but thankfully in one piece and I spent the remainder of my route to work contemplating the utter disregard shown for the wellbeing of other human beings. The truck driver, the motorists passing by, the pedestrians, maybe twelve people all together and none of them said a word.
There’s a lack of accountability. There’s a lack of responsibility. And there’s an enormous lack of compassion. With all of the truck-related incidents we have seen in recent years, there needs to be more education and more enforcement to make the roads safer for all users. We get what we tolerate when it comes to behavior on the road. If a vehicle, bike, or pedestrian breaks a law, when was the last time you saw them get pulled over? For every blown stoplight or ignored sign, how many of those receive citations? We are tolerating the misbehavior that causes Massachusetts to be in the top ten in the country for pedestrian and bicycling fatalities. We cannot continue to tolerate the disregard and disrespect of our neighbors.
By RICHARD FRIES
Executive Director, MassBike
I arrived at Thursday’s National Bike Summit reception forlorn. For I had just experienced exhilarating success on Capitol Hill.
Seems ironic, eh?
In this 15th edition of the Summit, every Congressional leader of Massachusetts had pledged full support for everything the Massachusetts delegation had asked. Markey, Neal, Warren, Capuano, Moulton, Kennedy, Keating, Lynch, Tsongas, Clark, and McGovern had all opened each meeting positively: “Whatever you want we are behind you.”
But by day’s end the elation I had felt from this overwhelming stance of support soon turned to dread as my predecessor David Watson reported the following:
“They would support everything we wanted but noted that not one thing would pass,” he said ruefully.
The Vision Zero bill in the House? Dead on Arrival.
TAPIAS in the Senate? No freakin’ way.
Dead. Done. Morto.
I solemnly shuffled towards the buffet of surrender with about 700 colleagues, all wearing our colorful lapel pins, wishing to drown our sorrows in fried food and dips. With the reception doors bolted shut, I hovered patiently with a few friends and honestly questioned why we were here. All seemed, well….tired. This would be my eighth National Bike Summit. Each year this pep-rally – three of which I pedaled 500-plus miles to attend – proved sufficiently uplifting to keep my faith for 11 more months.
But this edition proved unequivocally down.
Mind you this was an internal response. The external reaction was powerful. The speakers, organization, exhibitors, and guests and attendees were as scintillating as ever. But knowing that the red state lawmakers, in their car-only approach to transportation, were determined to scuttle each and every initiative.
Watching all the younger attendees in the breakout sessions focused on such issues as “gender diversity” and “Vision Zero” I could only hang my head. They were innocent lambs to the legislative slaughter.
But amid this flotsam and jetsam of the summit I could swim to several pieces of wreckage on which I could cling for hope.
The first would be the comments of our Tuesday night keynote speaker Mick Cornett, Republican Mayor of Oklahoma City. (The thrust of his comments made us are pretty much mirrored in his TED Talk here.
So allow me to frame this picture for you. Here is a mayor of a conservative Midwest city in a conservative Midwest state focused mainly on their oil and natural gas heritage who is proudly reporting how his commitment to bike-ped infrastructure helped his community lose a collective 1 million pounds. His tale is poignant, side-splitting humor. But it is truth.
But the wind of that speech had faded by the time I reached the end of the summit. All of the effort and preparation of our Massachusetts delegation seemed about as wasteful as military infantry training for World War I. Fast or slow, weak or strong, prepared or not, we were all simply getting mowed down by the Republican machine guns in control of the high ground.
My lamentations were not tolerated by my friend Jack Johnson, marketing director for Landry’s Bicycles and a perennial attendee of the Summit. “You have to go back 30 years and look at it like smoking,” he said, noting that efforts to ban smoking in public buildings were scoffed at for 40 years before it became the norm. Nowadays one could not light up in a school, an office, or a restaurant without drawing the wrath of others. They shifted the paradigm.
I sniffled that he was right…but I did not truly feel any better. I felt like quitting.
Then I encountered Caron Whitaker, a native of Beverly, now serving as Vice President of Government Relations for the League of American Bicyclists, which hosts the Summit. I whined a bit. But she stopped me mid-sentence.
“Did you see Inhofe’s quote in Politico?” she asked. I said no. She pulled up her phone to reveal the quote from Senator James Inhofe.
She texted me the quote from the Oklahoma Republican who heads up the Environment and Public Works Committee and is widely considered to be the number one opponent to having any federal funds directed towards bicycling. Some of you may have seen Senator Inhofe when he pulled a snow ball out of a Ziploc bag last month to show his Senate colleagues proof that global warming was a hoax.
So one can imagine how hysterical his views may be against bikes. But word is out that he is personally quite friendly with California liberal Barbara Boxer, a Democrat who is strongly aligned with bike advocates, and Mayor Cornett is a dependable supporter for Inhofe during election years.
Perhaps those two political leaders are softening him up.
Here is the clip:
UPHILL BIKE BATTLE UNLIKELY: National Bike Summit attendees can breathe a sigh of relief. Kevin (Robillard) caught up with Senate EPW Chairman Jim Inhofe, who says while he would prefer not to have bike/pedestrian programs in the transportation bill, he also knows how to keep it real. “I would be one to fall into that category, but I’m also a realist,” Inhofe said when asked about calls from conservative groups to remove the programs. “And I know that in this environment we have right now, we won’t be able to do what I would like.”
MORE FROM THE MAN: “The argument conservatives are using – and some of the conservatives are running for a higher office, so they’re motivated a little differently than I might be – is that anything that doesn’t directly relate to gasoline shouldn’t be part of this. You can argue that about mass transit and a lot of other things.” But Inhofe said he didn’t see “any danger” of the bike programs being removed from the bill as a result of the conservatives’ talk.
Sometimes by simply not going away, we go forward.
I had to recall the mantra of the Delta force assembled to find, capture and/or kill Osama Bin Laden. While most people would lean towards a strategy of fire, they deployed a strategy of being like water: strong, fluid, and constant.
I realized we in bike advocacy need to adopt the same mentality. Many of us enter the world of bike advocacy with a strategy of fire; but after 15 years of the National Bike Summit, the polite pressure we have brought to bear on Congress – like water: strong, fluid and constant – is working.
I’ll be back in 2016.
The Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition is saddened to learn of the tragic Cambridge accident that took the life of 65-year-old bicyclist Marcia Deihl. An accomplished musician, Deihl was struck and killed by a container truck about 1:40 p.m. Wednesday.
No charges have been filed against the driver as of this writing.
“Ironically our staff was working in Washington, DC at the National Bike Summit when we learned the news of this loss,” said Richard Fries, executive director. “We were working on Vision Zero and countless other initiatives with Congress to make our streets calmer, quieter and safer for every user when we learned within the same hour that both a cyclist and a pedestrian were struck and killed by trucks in the Boston metro area.”
MassBike, under the stewardship of its former executive director David Watson had worked with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to both educate and equip truck drivers to more safely operate in and around Bay State streets.
“Apparently we need to do a lot more work not just in changing rules but in changing the mindset of every operator of large vehicles that cyclists and pedestrians are a part of the streetscape,” added Fries.
MassBike will report on the findings of the Cambridge Police Department investigation.
Greater Boston Cycling/Outdoor Fitness Group
Bike partiers, We’re going vogue for Women’s History month and celebrating the divas, the dolls, and the drag aficionados among us! It’s time to channel your karaoke idols, unpack your vintage attire, and experiment with the joys of cycling in a dress. Pull out your feather boas and don’t go easy on the glitter! Free your mind and join us for one flawless ride, leaving from Copley at 7:30pm.
Get the latest fashion inspiration from our Lookbook.
Check out our Facebook Event Page to see who else is coming, & invite more of your friends.
It's a short Route, with a quick party stop
After party: Courtside Karaoke, 291 Cambridge Street, Cambridge MA
See you there!
Boston, MA 02116 - USA
Friday, March 13 at 7:15 PM
Greater Boston Cycling/Outdoor Fitness Group
**UPDATE** The date was changed to Thursday March 26th, 6pm-9:30pm.
Have you heard? This year's Climate Ride will end right here in Boston! Never has this amazing ride been so accessible to the New England cycling community. This is an exciting opportunity to take part in what is one of the most impactful events toward raising both awareness & funding for organizations like the Boston Cyclists Union that are committed to advocating for sustainable & environmentally responsible living.
We would be honored to have YOU to be a part of Team Bike Union. Join us for an information party where you can learn more about the ride, talk about the amazing life changing experience with last year's Climate Ride team, and meet some of the riders who have already signed up for the upcoming ride. This is also a great chance to hear all about fundraising strategies, training rides, and how sore you're hands will be after all the high-fives you will get when you roll into Boston after 5 days & 320 scenic miles & a whole slew of new best friends.
Come anytime between 6:00pm - 9:00pm, we wrap up around 9:30.
Get some basics about the ride in advance by visiting the Climate Ride website
We also have a Facebook Event Page to help you share this with your other bike friends.
This is a NO PRESSURE event. Just come, raise a glass with us & learn about the Climate Ride. If you can't make the ride, that's OK you can always support another rider, share the info with your friends, or put it on your to-do list for next year. Just get informed & get excited about this amazing ride!
See you at LIR Irish Pub & Restaurant!
Boston - USA
Thursday, March 26 at 6:00 PM
For years we’ve struggled to make the NSC site easier to use so that you are not dependent on just a couple of people to make posts, and I think we finally have it. Visit the traditional North Shore Cyclists site at http://nscyc.org. This mobile site is at http://nscrides.org
Facebook group and Facebook events
I’ve designed the mobile site to compliment the Facebook group, which has gone a long way toward making NSC egalitarian. However, we have taken very little advantage of the Facebook events tab. Any of the almost 500 members of our Facebook group can post a planned event or an impromptu invitation.
View upcoming NSC events and post your invitations to the Facebook group at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/nscyclists/events/
Events calendar on this site
On this site, I have embedded a NSC events calendar using Google Calendars. Unlike the outdated Drupal events calendar module on the traditional NSC site, our Google calendar allows users to create repeating events. For example, when Paula posts the Monday evening ride this spring, she can set it up to continue until the end date in September, and she can easily change the start times. The NSC Google calendar also makes it easier to post impromptu events.
A feed from the Google calendar creates an upcoming events list in the menu column. There is also a link to view the actual calendar on the site.
All club officers and ride leaders have been granted permission to post to the NSC calendar. Others who wish to post events to the calendar please reply to this post.
I am in the process of converting the former North Shore Cyclists blog on WordPress to a mobile platform, mirroring the NSC site.
To get it going, many of the links will take you to the North Shore Cyclists site, but will soon link to minimal pages on this WordPress site.
View the prototype NSC mobile site at https://northshorecyclists.wordpress.com
Your insights and suggestions are welcome.
The Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition (“MassBike”) is deeply appreciative of each of the state legislators that sponsored bills to make our roadways safer and more convenient for bicyclists. As the newly appointed executive director of MassBike I want to acknowledge and thank them for showing the political courage to support cycling and cyclists in Massachusetts. Please join me in thanking your senators and representatives for sponsoring these important bills. You can find out how here, or look for your districts below.
Apparently things are changing for the better for bicycling here in the world’s largest college town, Massachusetts. Working with our former executive director and current government affairs advisor, David Watson, we filed two bills for the new legislative session on Beacon Hill. The first was a Bike Lane Protection Bill, which makes it illegal for motorists to block established bike lanes. Every cyclist has experienced frustration with those hard-won bike lanes being used for everything from deliveries to taxi lines to double-parking spaces.
The second piece of legislation is a Vulnerable Road Users Bill, which brings together pedestrians, cyclists, road workers, tow truck operators, police officers, and emergency personnel as vulnerable road users and defines what is a safe-passing distance. This is landmark legislation that makes our entire state safer.
We had 42 lawmakers sign on as sponsors or co-sponsors for each of these bills. This represents 25 percent of the State Senate and 21 percent of the State House. This support will not go unnoticed. For too long, bicyclists have been simply tolerated by the transportation system. This legislation, if passed, will show that the Bay State – which has so much to gain by integrating pedestrians and cyclists into its streetscape – is not looking to just tolerate bicyclists but also to welcome and protect them as an important part of the transportation grid.
These lawmakers recognize that for the Bay State to be a leader in transportation, the bicycle is an important part of the streetscape, roadways, and transportation grid.
In the Senate
Sponsoring Both Bills
Michael Barrett, Third Middlesex
William Brownsberger, Second Suffolk and Middlesex
Sonia Chang-Diaz, Second Suffolk
Sal DiDomenico, Middlex and Suffolk
Kenneth Donnelly, Fourth Middlesex
James Eldridge, Middlesex and Worcester
Brian Joyce, Norfolk, Bristol, and Plymouth
Jason Lewis, Fifth Middlesex
Joan Lovely, Second Essex
Sponsoring Vulnerable Road Users Bill
Anne Gobi, Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire, and Middlesex
In the House
Sponsoring Both Bills
Ruth Balser, 12th Middlesex
Gailanne Cariddi, 1st Berkshire
Marjorie Decker, 25th Middlesex
Daniel Donahue, 16th Worcester
Shawn Dooley, 9th Norfolk
Carolyn Dykema, 8th Middlesex
Sean Garballey, 23rd Middlesex
Kenneth Gordon, 21st Middlesex
Jonathan Hecht, 29th Middlesex
Kay Khan, 11th Middlesex
Peter Kocot, 1st Hampshire
Jay Livingstone, 8th Suffolk
Timothy Madden, Barnstable, Dukes, and Nantucket
Elizabeth Poirier, 14th Bristol
Denise Provost, 27th Middlesex
Angelo Puppolo, 12th Hampden
David Rogers, 24th Middlesex
Jeffrey Roy, 10th Norfolk
Paul Schmid, 8th Bristol
Frank Smizik, 15th Norfolk
Aaron Vega, 5th Hampden
John Velis, 4th Hampden
Chris Walsh, 6th Middlesex
Greater Boston Cycling/Outdoor Fitness Group
Join us for a couple hours of cross country skiing!
Meet at 10am
Begin skiing by 10:30am
If there are enough people, we may form two groups; one for a faster pace and one for a slower pace. While I won't be doing cross country "skate skiing" I will plan to lead the faster of the two groups.
Please note: If you attend this event, please know that you are expected to carry a trail map and recognize that to meet the needs of the group, I may need to keep the pace going.... if you are lagging behind, you may need to navigate your way through the trails yourself.
Ski Tickets are sold inside the lodge but I recommend bringing cash as it makes it faster. There are no flush toilets, just porta-potties.
If you do need to cancel, PLEASE update your RSVP on the site so I know you have changed your mind.
Look forward to seeing you!!
Carlisle, MA 01741 - USA
Sunday, February 8 at 10:00 AM