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!
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.