Register for the 2nd Annual Tour de Newton

It’s official! Registration for the second annual Tour de Newton (June 15, 2014) is now open. Celebrate Father’s Day this year on wheels! More details.


The Nonantum riders at the end of a fun, wet ride

The Nonantum riders at the end of a fun, wet ride

In spite of the fun a number of hardy folks had biking on a cold, rainy day last October, we decided to move the Tour de Newton to a warmer month. (But with weather acting like it is, who knows!) The route and idea are the same: bike as much or as little of a 20 mile route through all 13 of Newton’s villages as you like, stopping at each to experience a little of each village’s hospitality. Get a free, unique pin at each village! Get a free brightly colored Tour de Newton t-shirt! Meet other Newtonites!

The only change this year other than the date is a registration fee. In the fall, Bike Newton assumed most of the costs associated with the event and ran their budget into the red. This time, we’ll have to ask participants for a modest fee: $5.00 for children, $10.00 for adults, or $25.00 to register a whole family.

We need ride leaders! If you are an experienced ride leader, please contact Lois Levin, Newton’s Bicycle Coordinator, via email or cell:  617.283.5077.

Hope to see you there!

American Biking Began in Newton


Columbia bicycles ad circa 1890

Yes, an arguable case can be made that it all started in Newton. According to Bruce Epperson’s Peddling Bicycles to America: The Rise of an Industry (local libraries), some important firsts having to do with bike manufacturing occurred here in Newton:

1. First “ordinary” bicycle–aka “penny farthing”–made on American soil: credit goes to an Englishman by the name of R. H. Hodgson, who had a small shop in Newton. He made a “small number” of bicycles in 1878. Another Newtonite, a man named A. M. Gooch, may have been even earlier, but his operation was even smaller, little more than a repair shop.

2. First (and biggest) American bicycle manufacturer: Newton resident Colonel Albert Pope began importing, and then quickly thereafter manufacturing bicycles under the brand name Columbia in 1879. Pope Manufacturing would have to be called the first American company to manufacture bicycles on a large scale; it also went on to become the largest and most successful bike manufacturer in America for at least two decades, and led the “bicycling boom” of the 1890′s. Though production took place at a factory in Hartford, CT, Pope himself was a Newtonite and remained in and around Boston. He was a founding member of the first bicycle club in America, The Boston Bicycle Club, and he founded the Massachusetts Bicycling Club, which became something of a marketing organization for Columbia bicycles.

portrait of albert a pope

As he was putting his manufacturing deals together in 1878, Pope occasionally raced through the streets of Newton on a horse, trying–and failing–to beat his friend Alfred Chandler on an imported English bicycle. David Herlihy, in his illustration-packed and remarkable book, Bicycle: The History (local libraries), describes Pope’s first encounter with Chandler on a bicycle in Newton as a key moment in Pope’s decision to embark on manufacturing bicycles. It’s a charming story, though it may be apocryphal: it seems from Epperson’s meticulously researched book that Chandler didn’t acquire his “wheel” until after Pope had already begun inquiries at factories in Hartford. Still, it would make for great cinema, wouldn’t it? A horse and a bicycle charging up Heartbreak Hill on a summer Sunday, past the astonished looks of families strolling in their Sunday best.

Pope went on to be an influential member of the League of American Wheelmen (precursor to the League of American Bicyclists) and a major figure in the Good Roads movement at the turn of the century, which resulted in thousands miles of roads being paved for use by bicyclists.

Being first and foremost a manufacturer, he also later manufactured electric automobiles under the same brand name–Columbia–as his bicycles. One even carried President Roosevelt in the first Presidential motorcade.

If anyone has any tips or leads about more information about Pope and early bicycles in Newton, drop me a line in the comments. When I have time, I intend to poke around in the archives at Jackson Homestead. Who knows? Maybe I’ll turn up a photo of Pope himself on an ordinary, racing down Comm. Ave.

Glaciers Receding

Listen to the sound of spring! It’s the sound of the crusty old snowplow piles finally shrinking. For someone who’s been biking as many days as I can all winter, that’s a welcome sound. The cold doesn’t bother me that much, but glaciers are partially or wholly blocking bike lanes on Beacon. I’ll be very happy to see them shrink.

Volunteers Needed for Two Events

Mapping Party!

Tuesday, January 21, 6:30-8:30pm City Hall Cafeteria

What the heck is a mapping party?

It’s a quick and fun way to add data to digital maps. In this case, parking spaces. Why? Because every time we want to plan a bike lane, Newton has to undertake an expensive parking study. With all the data in a digital map, there’s no need for a study!

Organized by One Hwang, the party is open to any city resident or interested community member. Bring a laptop/tablet with wifi capability and a browser. WE will map all of the car parking spaces. There will be easy data entry tasks and hard ones; we will make sure that anything given to you is at a level you’re comfortable with.

Sign up here.

Here’s the map to which you’ll be adding data.

Questions? Email One Hwang at

NNHS PTO – Just Think Expo

Wednesday, January 22, two times:
11:15am – 1:15pm (for students)
5:00pm – 7:30pm (During Junior Parent Night, for parents and teens)

Volunteers are needed to staff the Bike Newton table at the Just Think: Teens Making Smart Choices expo. The expo showcases Newton’s many community resources. In addition to explaining why it’s important to wear a helmet and obey traffic laws, Alicia will show the famous “Things not to do on a bike” YouTube video. Come help her show kids how to ride safely!

More Information from the NNHS PTO

When the Snow Flies

When snow threatens to keep me off my bike, I reflect on how I’ve been able to bike to work for a remarkably high percentage days in late fall and winter this season, with minimal investments in gear. This capability depends on three things:

1. Alternatives to driving: my commute is short (2.5 miles), and moderately convenient to the T. That is, on days when I’d rather not bike (rain, snow, ice), I can walk 1/2 mile to the Highlands station, take the T two stops to Chestnut Hill, and walk another 1/2 mile to BC, making my commute a pleasant 25-35 minutes. “How nice for you!” you might say. Well, yes, it’s quite convenient that I live and work on a T line… but that’s no accident. One criteria for moving out to the ‘burbs for me was that we’d live within a half-mile radius of a T station, so I wouldn’t have to spend every day in a car. And in job searches I’ve prioritized positions near (ish) to public transportation, and luck did the rest. I know I may be in the minority, and I don’t expect people who have 5+ mile commutes to keep going all winter… but I can, so I’m taking full advantage.

2. Two warmth items specific to biking: a skull-cap to wear under my helmet, and serious gloves. I should call them gauntlets. Dad just sent them to me for Christmas. (Thanks, Dad!)

heavy winter bike glove

These gauntlets kept my fingers toasty the other morning at 11 degrees. B.G. (Before Gauntlets), my lower limit was 15 degrees, and that was pushing it. A.G., I’m pretty confident I can go pretty close to zero. Of course, I’ve only got a 2.5 mile ride; if it were longer, I don’t think I could go below 10 without adding a neoprene face-mask to my wardrobe.

3. Lights. Lots of lights. I have one powerful headlight on the handlebars, a smaller headlight on top of my helmet and a flashing red on the back of the helmet, and another flashing red below the saddle. And a reflective vest. And reflective ankle-straps. I briefly balked at the prices of headlights, and then reminded myself that aside from brakes, it’s probably the most important safety feature on the bike. I set my front headlight on flash during the day. Why? When I drive in Newton and I’m stopped or going slow in traffic, I frequently am startled by the sudden appearance of a bike to my right – right where I often am on my own bike, and right where even I, veteran biker that I am, might fail to see a bike as I turn right. Once, something in my passenger side-view mirror caught my eye: it was a flashing bike headlight about 100 yards behind me. From that day onward, I set my headlight on flash during the day.

And that’s it! Alternatives to driving, a few warmth items, and lights.

Aside from the skullcap and gauntlets, none of my warmth gear is bike-specific: sweaters, tweed jackets, an LL Bean jacket, a scarf for those below 20 days, and I always have the option of wool socks and thermal underwear, though I haven’t needed them yet.

People think I’m nuts, biking when it’s under 20, but it really isn’t: nobody blinks about skiing in those temperatures, so why not bike? To be honest, now that I’ve done it, I much prefer biking when it’s 15 degrees to biking when it’s 90. If I get the layers right, I’m not even sweaty when I get to work.

Nuts? I’ll show you nuts: the guy I saw on a skinny-tired road-bike the day after a snow, when shoulders were still snowy and icy, in dark clothes, with no lights. Now that’s nuts.


Newton, a Bicycle-Friendly City

Early on at Bike Newton at one of our monthly steering committee meetings, Nathan Aronow set the tone for one of our big priorities as an organization: “Get people out on their bikes on the road. They’ll have fun, and they’ll keep biking.” Sparked by that wisdom, we hosted a number of Rally and Rides in 2008-10, put together a number of 7-8 mile rides that we host each Monday evening from May to early October, and did what we could to help out with the two annual Christina Clark Genco Foundation rides (and will again in the future!)

And of course, Bike Newton was deeply involved from top to bottom in the recent Tour de Newton, which became an instant hit, with over 300 participants even after a rain-out and frantic rescheduling that became known affectionately as the reTour. The popularity will definitely bring it back next year and hopefully for years to come.

But we do a lot of less visible, behind the scenes work, too, to pave the way (so to speak) for safer, more convenient biking in Newton.  In 2009 we applied to be awarded the League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Community award. On the first application, we didn’t get it. So we lobbied for more bike racks in more convenient locations, and helped arrange dozens of low-cost installations partly funded by the MAPC, we worked with Dr. Peter Furth and his Northeastern University highway engineering students to create bikeway designs for several major arteries, we resuscitated long-shelved but worthy plans for citywide bike accommodations that were revised according to actual road use as revealed in a detailed survey and several bike censuses,  we created (and have continued to revise) the Newton Bicycle Map, we got bike instruction into the middle schools, and we lobbied for–and got–a City Bicycle Coordinator position. In that role, Lois Levin has been able to help the city begin to adopt more bicycle-friendly policies and get more bike lanes painted, and helped create the City’s Transportation Advisory Group.

And because of all that work, we’re now officially a bicycle-friendly community!

"Bicycle Friendly Community" sign on Beacon Street

Yay, Bike Newton membership! OK, now get back to work.

We’re still at the lowest level of bicycle-friendly community: Bronze. We can do better: Silver, Gold, Platinum… Here’s what we’re working on: painting more bike lanes and designing safer intersections, expanding Hubway into Newton, embedding bike infrastructure improvements more firmly into city planning and budgeting, getting a bike safety curriculum into all of Newton’s schools, helping the Newton police adopt enforcement priorities, and continuing to expand public bicycling events like Tour de Newton. If you want to help us, please become a member, sign up to be a volunteer, and/or make sure your Aldermen and the Mayor know that it’s not just an “interest group” that wants these improvements, but a majority of Newtonites who know that a bicycle-friendly community is a human-friendly community.

Imagine the camaraderie of Tour de Newton on Newton streets all year! That’s what a bicycle-friendly community can bring to everyone.

Newton 8-year-old Wins the Tour de Newton Raffle

The inaugural Tour de Newton, organized by Bike Newton and the City of Newton, included a drawing for a free TREK bike donated by International Bicycle Center, Newton. On October 13th 300+ riders set out to bike around the city , including 67 children.

Bike Newton group presenting Julian Phillips with bike he won in the Tour de Newton raffle

Julian Phillips of Auburndale, the lucky winner, was among the many children who completed the entire 20 mile loop.  Congratulations to Julian and to all the young bicyclists who rode that day. Julian is shown below receiving his new bike on October 29, accompanied by his parents, Nathan and Robyn Phillips, Lois Levin, Newton Bicycle Coordinator (on left), and Helen Rittenberg, President of Bike Newton (on right).
Julian Phillips receiving his Tour de Newton raffle bicycle

Registration for the Rescheduled Tour de Newton Now Open!

Tour de Newton Registration Page

So, you didn’t get to participate in the original Tour de Newton because of schedule conflicts? For you, the rain last Sunday was a welcome reprieve, because now you can register for the Tour de Newton ReTour this coming Sunday, October 13.

The weather is shaping up for a lovely fall day. Plan to arrive at 9:00 for a timely send-off. We hope to see you!

Tour de Newton Registration Page

Tour de Newton Rain-out and Rescheduling

By now you’ve probably heard that Tour de Newton was rained out this past Sunday. A few sturdy riders came out anyway and rode the circuit with a few sturdy ride leaders, showing just how committed Newtonites are to riding. But the full-scale Tour de Newton has been rescheduled for this coming Sunday, the 13th, at 9:30am, and the organizing committee is working hard to make sure the Tour can be everything it was originally intended to be.

The Nonantum riders at the end of a fun, wet ride

The Nonantum riders at the end of a fun, wet ride

Those who have already registered need not re-register, but we do need you to RSVP by Wednesday at 6pm so we have solid numbers on which to base ride leaders and to report to the Newton Police. (If you already registered, you should have gotten an email asking you to RSVP. If you didn’t, please let us know!) We also would like to open up registration to others; if you are registered and you know you won’t be able to participate, please RSVP with a “no” to free up spots for others.

Those who were not able to register originally and would like to register now that the date has changed: we ask for patience. We should have a clearer grasp of the numbers by Thursday, and will open up registration spaces to the extent that we can find sufficient ride leaders (many of whom had plans for Columbus Day weekend). Look for notices on this blog, on the homepage, on the Bike Newton facebook page, and on Twitter (@BikeNewton and/or hashtag #TourDeNewton).

Our organizing committee is working hard to find ride leaders and village greeters. If you think you could help with leading a ride, please contact Lois Levin.If you think you could help with setting up and/or staffing village greeter stations, please contact Jerry Reilly.

For those who are definitely coming: Arrive early to register, get a quick visual safety check of your bike, learn the ride route and some safety instructions, and learn a little about your village with your village’s official Tour de Newton greeters. A 9:00am arrival would be ideal.

Tour de Newton

Just 3 days away!

TdN Arrow

Sunday, October 6 9:30 AM, starting from each of Newton’s 13 Villages

13 Villages
20 Miles
325 registered bikers so far!

Online registration will close at 6:00pm Friday, October 4, to allow us time to create and distribute registration lists to village hosts. Participants will still be able to register at start locations: please arrive by 9:00am if you plan to register onsite, to avoid delays! Also note that the following locations are already quite full, and we recommend choosing other village centers for a starting point: Newton Center, Newtonville, West Newton, Waban, Upper Falls.