There’s been a death in the family. I didn’t know him. He lived one town over from me. But, he rode his bike, commuted on it, a route I know well and have ridden more times than I could count. Wednesday morning he was killed by an eighteen-wheeler. The scene was gruesome, as you can imagine, and all those who ventured past were affected by it, including my neighbor, who also commutes that route daily.
Boston and the surrounding towns have made massive progress over the last decade in shifting the dominant cycling culture. Some of that has to do with the beginnings of infrastructure, painted bike lanes and sharrows, some few protected paths that keep cyclists away from cars and trucks. More than anything, these gains have been psychological. Drivers now expect to see cyclists on the road, and many, many more of them even believe those cyclists deserve to be there.
It’s not perfect, but it is progress.
I have mostly sat by and watched. As the debate raged over whether or not to paint bike lanes on the main thoroughfare through the town I live in, I did not participate in any of the town meetings. Neighbors asked me what I thought, assuming I was involved.
The truth is, I am too sensitive and maybe even too cynical to do that work. I don’t have much room in my life for conflict, and I also don’t believe many minds get changed through bureaucratic process. I am willing to be wrong about that. And I feel enormously grateful that there are people out there who do show up, do fight, do plan, do wait and bargain and realize whatever small gains are there for us as cyclists.
I think, specifically, of Richard Fries, the Executive Director of MassBike. Richard is at once the Massachusetts cyclists’ chief advocate, cheerleader and instrument for change. MassBike is important, as are all cycling advocacy groups, in all aspects of cycling life. I participate via membership. I can do this small thing, even as I seek routes away from traffic, away from those major thoroughfares and friction points.
On my way out the door this morning my wife stopped me, held me, kissed me, and told me to be safe. A death in the family affects us all.
This week’s Group Ride asks, do you belong to any cycling advocacy groups? State? Local? National? If not, why not?