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Bay State Bike Month is Off to the Races with Kick-off at Aeronaut Brewing

May is Bay State Bike Month, and Boston-area bike advocates gathered at Aeronaut Brewing in Somerville for a Bike Month Kick-off Event last Sunday afternoon. 

People gathered at Aeronaut Brewing. Large hall with exposed ceiling and string lights across it, picnic tables with people sitting and talking, people standing around bike organizations' tables, talking to tabling staff and observing materials on the table.

Bay State Bike Month is a celebration in the cycling community across Massachusetts, where communities and organizations collaborate to bring bike joy to cyclists of all ages and experience levels. The month includes dozens of events like group rides, happy hours, trivia nights, bike repair pop-ups, and educational workshops.

The event on Sunday, hosted by MassBike, Somerville Bike Safety, Cambridge Bike Safety and the Somerville Bike Committee, had a packed schedule of live music and tabling from over 35 bike organizations, remarks from elected officials State Senator William Brownsberger and Representative Ayanna Pressley, a Lifetime Achievement Award presentation to outgoing city of Cambridge Transportation Program Manager Cara Seiderman, a panel with representatives from local businesses, non-profits, and city government, and opportunities to connect as participants in bike joy.

Cambridge band Hillbilly Holiday performed early in the afternoon, and was followed by a series of speakers.

A black poster titled "What's your favorite place to walk, bus stop, T stop in Somerville?" filled with colorful sticky notes containing public comments on favorite places to walk and bus/subway stops.

Senator Brownsberger opened the speaking portion of the event emphasizing the importance of building a movement where everybody feels safe, acknowledging cyclists who have been killed by drivers. 

Brownsberger also expressed the need for not only more bike paths and bike lanes, but a connected bike network, so that no one “suddenly finds themselves in six lanes of traffic with nowhere to be.” 

Before passing the microphone to Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, the state senator praised the coalition building of organizations, elected officials from the local to the federal level, and everyday people who all work towards a bike network that is safe for everyone.

Congresswoman Pressley’s remarks centered around how we must see humanity in one another, and how policy choices, both good and bad, are intentional.

“Every inequity, every disparity, every racial injustice, was codified as someone's budget or law, and really was a policy choice. Anyone who was hungry or unhoused, these are policy choices. Choices that are made because people do not see the humanity of every one of us.”

Rep. Pressley, co-founder of the Future of Transportation Caucus with Congressman Mark Takano of California and Congressman Chuy Garcia of Illinois, and co-chair of the Congressional Bike Caucus alongside representatives Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Vern Buchanan of Florida, also addressed the intersectionality of transportation and bike justice with environmental, racial, economic, public health, and reproductive justice.

She pointed out the highways that “divide and decimate communities”, citing Chinatown and Roxbury as areas with some of the highest asthma rates in the United States. 

She also made an impassioned connection between women’s rights and independence and their freedom to move.

“In the 19th century, the bicycle, what that meant for the emancipation and independence of women was at root. Some people are shocked when I speak to this history, because it seems unreal that women were not able to socialize, to congregate, to build community, to move freely… What this meant for the emancipation, the independence of women. So to me, the transportation and bike justice movement is also a movement of bodily autonomy, of reproductive rights, of maternal justice and abortion justice.”

Event organizers also presented Cara Seiderman, retiring from her role as Transportation Program Manager for the City of Cambridge after 34 years of service in the community, with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her advocacy and support of cyclists.

The event closed with a panel discussion titled “The Intersection of Bikes and Businesses", moderated by Somerville Councillor at Large Willie Burnley Jr., with panelists Court Vanderhaalen, CEO of Diesel Cafe, Pooja Paode, Associate Director of Cambridge Local First, Jennifer Rowe, Transportation Planner for the Boston Transportation Department, and Chris Cassa, a Cambridge Bike Safety volunteer.

The panel tackled questions regarding the impact of increased bike lanes on businesses, designing cities to be equitable and inclusive of people of all abilities and ages, and how to collaborate with public and private entities for the community’s benefit.

Ironically, the very next evening, the Cambridge City Council passed a controversial 5-4 vote to delay the expansion of bike lanes and other pedestrian safety improvements to avoid a "loss of significant parking”, despite testimony from hundreds of people who asked the Council to move the projects forward.

Chart paper titled "What do you want to tell the Cambridge City Council?" filled with public comments about the importance of increased bike lanes written in different colors. Some comments include: "Cars don't shop. People shop", "Protect bikes! They make for transportation equity and healthy recreation!", and "No one's free until we're all free!! Allow everyone the freedom to move!"

Following the programming, participants were able to converse, visit organizations’ tables, and enjoy food from local Venezuelan food vendor Carolicious and drinks from Aeronaut as the sounds of Boston band Lunatic Neighbor began to fill the room.

Pressley noted that bike justice and joy could help heal an increasingly polarized and segregated United States. 

“If we can learn how to share our roadways, [I’m hoping] that means we'll also be willing to share our neighborhoods. It means that we'll be able to share our country. It means that we'll be able to share space,” said the Congresswoman. “Which, in this moment, seems like a radical idea.”

For more Bay State Bike Month information, please visit Mass Bike’s website where you can buy merchandise or learn how to plan your own Bike Month activity in your community, join their mailing list, or check out their events calendar.

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