Friday Group Ride #332

Friday Group Ride #332

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?

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  1. John Kopp

    I belonged to the League of American Wheelmen when they were the still the Wheelmen, way back in my 40’s. I have not been very active lately, but confess that I should be. Too many deaths around here to not be!

  2. Aar

    I’m on my city’s BiPed advisory committee. We meet quarterly with the Metropolitan Planning Organization to identify areas of opportunity for cycling infrastructure improvement and help refine plans before and after they are submitted to the public for review. I’m comfortable with this level of involvement because it is the only local committee citizens may get involved in where results are real. I simply wish the timeline was as fast for governments as it is for businesses. Even one fifth of the pace of business would be welcome.

    I found that this level of involvement works for me after spending time as a board member and officer of both the local advocacy group and bike club. I also went to a LAB National Bike Summit and some state-wide advocacy events. I don’t want to belittle the results those dedicated organizations and individuals achieve. However, my experience with them has left me with the impression that they spend lots of time, effort, energy and money talking about improvements, spreading misinformation and congratulating themselves and taking credit when governments make changes – regardless of whether those changes aligned with their requests.

    Color me a cynic if you’d like. Again, I respect the efforts of all cycling advocates. However, I tire quickly of organizations that don’t align intentions with results that they own. I feel fortunate to have found a place where I am helping shape future changes in cycling infrastructure without much time investment and I’m glad its completely behind the scenes (unless I choose to share it on public forums ;).

  3. Les.B.

    I don’t actually belong to a group, however I follow a local cycling blogger who organizes meet-ups at city meetings to encourage signage and other infrastructure for bicycles.
    The blog is Cycling in the South Bay, by Seth Davidson.

    1. Troy

      Isn’t he the total douchebag who body shamed a fat member of Big Orange and called Padraig the enemy? The Helen’s guys say every ride he touches gets ruined. From what I’ve seen it was Big Orange who did all the real work to get the signage up in PV not “the wankmeister.”

  4. Rick Tan

    Someone check to make sure the dead cyclist wasn’t the target of an assassination. I read somewhere on RKP that the simplest way to commit murder is hit a cyclist with a motor vehicle.

  5. Don Jagoe

    On the Board of Bike Newport, a Rhode Island corollary doing great work. But man it is slow and the gains are marginal.

  6. Winky

    I belong to the bafflingly named “HUB” which used to be called (much more usefully) the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition. They do good work, campaigning for quality, separated cycling facilities that serve the needs of recreational, commuting and utility cyclist in the city.

    I’m a member, so have the opportunity to influence their activities, policies and style, but my contribution thus far is essentially just offering my opinion. Which is, on the main issues that are addressed, in no particular order…

    They (HUB) emphasise the need for physically protected bike paths to increase ridership (agree), but my selfish view (as a confident cyclist in traffic) is that I’d actually rather the money be spent on more km of un-protected bike lanes (just give me some more room) than on shorter lengths of protected lanes.

    For my taste they’re not strong enough in their condemnation of fundamentally sub-standard “shared use” foot-paths, but at least they are clear on the notion that bicycles and pedestrians don’t generally mix. I saw a great comment from a member the other day on a proposed new shared-use foot-path, that the “success” in terms of providing a decent solution for users both on bike and foot is predicated on them not being used very much. Once they’re busy they work for no-one.

    There is also not currently enough attention paid to the issue of turning motor vehicles where bike lanes are installed. This is especially problematic in the case of two-way cycle lanes, and exacerbated further where those two-way lanes are installed on otherwise one-way streets.

    They are prominent in many discussions in the media, presenting a calm and rational pro-cycling opinion. I’d score them 8/10 in terms of effectiveness as a cycling advocacy group.

  7. Ransom

    I do belong the main local advocacy organization (the Bicycle Transportation Alliance). It’s a small contribution and I feel that it’s important to generally have that presence and representation, even if I don’t agree with everything they do. I feel *more* underrepresented without them.

    I do feel like the infrastructure changes aren’t all well thought out (likely not the BTA’s fault, or at the very least, not alone). I feel like the biggest problem is education. For years, living in Portland, as an avid cyclist, I didn’t know what sharrows were or what they meant. This was underscored, several years after finding out, when my office was discussing cycling and car/bike relationships (few cyclists in the office), and I gave my lack of knowledge about sharrows as an example of the education problem, and the universal reaction was “share-what?” This was easily ten years after their introduction, in an office in downtown Portland.

    Meanwhile, we’ve got separated lanes starting to pop up which, in some places, make my job of watching for cyclists harder when I’m in a car. A bike lane separated by a lane of parking means I can’t see the cyclist I’m trying not to hook when I turn… As an avid cyclist, at least I know to stop if necessary, but see the point about education… Many drivers won’t even really notice there’s a bike lane on the far side of those parked cars…

    Apologies for the length: The upshot is that it’s clear that there’s work to be done. Until I can rummage the intestinal fortitude to be at the town meetings myself, I’ll contribute to those groups who are attempting, whether or not I agree with them completely.

  8. bill cochran

    I have been on our local Bike Advisory Board for the last 10 years. Been a League of American Bicyclists member as an individual and a shop owner for at least 20. Belong to Bike Walk Montana, and to IMBA as well. Very little of what we want and need as cyclists is accomplished by chatting about it on group rides, or over a beer. We have to show up, stand up, and speak up if we want things to change. Is it difficult and time consuming? Absolutely, but it is also essential if we want to make things better.

  9. Cyril

    Mass Bike. I ride because it is who I am and fear can not stop me. I just try to obey the law and to be courteous on the road regardless. I ride 5k miles a year and I am sure we ride the same roads. Just staying focused, alert, and positive out there.

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