Tom Francis enjoys his commute to work so much that when he was out of town for a week this February, he took the time to follow his commute on the weekend when he came back to the Boston area.
“How many drivers would do that?” Francis said.
Not many, and maybe, not even any, since Francis isn’t a driver himself. He bikes to work, from his home in Needham to the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition (MassBike) office in Downtown Boston, where he is currently the nonprofit’s interim director.
MassBike encourages people to give biking a try “for fun, fitness and transportation” and each year presents, along with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, Bay State Bike Week, a week-long celebration of cyclists around the state.
“Rather than the cyclists who wear Spandex and are all in on bikes, we’re trying to get to the people who are just real people,” said Jim Gascoigne, executive director of the Charles River Transportation Management Association, one of the groups that make up MassCommute.
“They’re not committed to bicycles, they just want transportation from point A to point B,” he continued, “and we know that cycling is really great for one to 10 miles, it’s a really quick, convenient way to get around in the congestion conditions here in Greater Boston.”
Gascoigne isn’t trying to convert anyone into a super-serious cyclist (though his wife did recently become a passionate bike commuter, and he admits he’s proud of that accomplishment). Instead, he said, it’s about reconnecting people to the fun they had biking riding when they were younger and having people try biking a few times in a row to see if it’s something they want to start up again.
“The idea is to try to encourage people to figure out how to give it a go for more than one day so they can see if it works for them, occasionally or regularly as a commuter,” he said.
There’s also a calculator on the MassCommute site to show you how much money you’ve saved and CO2 you’ve prevented by deciding to bike rather than drive. But Gascoigne knows those are secondary factors for people, and really, it’s all about convenience.
This is the 24th year of the MassCommute Bicycle Challenge, and Gascoigne has seen a lot changes when it comes to biking around Boston and beyond. Before 2008, Boston didn’t even have bike lanes, Francis noted, and though there could always be more, things are certainly better for bikers now.
Still, he knows some people may be nervous to bike around the city. But the ethos of Bay State Bike Week, he said, is just about giving it a chance.
“I remember when I first started riding again and how scary it was, about 20 years ago. I recognize, yeah it can be a little scary,” he said. “But it can also be a lot of fun and very enjoyable, and you won't know until you try.”
MassCommute Bicycle Challenge May 12 to May 20. You can register at masscommutebicyclechallenge.org. Just by logging bike trips, you’re eligible to win prizes between May 14 and 18, learn more at masscommutebicyclechallenge.org/prizes.