GREENFIELD — Local cyclists are using this week’s Baystate Bike Week as a platform to share the benefits of bicycles.
“There are, of course, many reasons to bike: There’s the whole issue with transportation and our dependency on the car,” said Greenfield Bicycle Coalition Member Alden Booth, co-owner of People’s Pint, who has ridden from Greenfield to Gill “probably thousands of times in my lifetime. Sometimes people forget how efficient a bicycle is. You can cover miles almost as quickly as a car — and it’s liberating to rely on a bicycle.”
“Climate change is also a huge reason to ride a bike, and it’s great exercise,” Booth said. Biking also creates “interaction with your community. It’s very different in a car, where you’re always isolated.”
This week is also a chance to ask local governments to “get behind improving road conditions — there is infrastructure work that needs to be done so cyclists have a safe place to ride,” said Bicycles Unlimited Owner Bob Perry. “There are enough people who ride year-round that it should be at least part of the conversation.”
Nationally, the annual awareness week was founded in 1956 by the League of American Bicyclists, a federal advocacy organization. It’s held each year for a week in May, which is National Bike Month.
“Whether you bike to work or school; ride to save money or time; pump those pedals to preserve your health or the environment; or simply to explore your community, National Bike Month is an opportunity to celebrate the unique power of the bicycle and the many reasons we ride,” states a press release from the cycling league.
Throughout the Franklin County region this week, local organizations have scheduled events starting with the Franklin Regional Council of Government’s annual free breakfast Tuesday from 7:30 to 10 a.m. at Greenfield’s transportation center.
Then, on Wednesday starting at 6:30 p.m. at The Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrew, MassBike PV will host “Trips, Tours and Tales,” adventure presentations by blogger Pamela Black and Joe Cruz of Bikepacking.com. Black’s talk will be on a month-long bicycle tour in Ireland last summer, Cruz’s on a backpacking trek across Cuba. Light refreshments and People’s Pint beer will be available. There’s a $5 suggested donation at the door.
Also sponsored by The People’s Pint, Bicycle World on Federal Street will host a free lunch Friday — National Bike to Work Day — at noon for anyone riding a bike, featuring giveaways and information about MassBike, a state advocacy agency, and the Greenfield Bicycle Coalition.
Capping the bike week will be Pedal2Pints, a 27-mile ride visiting three to four breweries throughout the valley, starting at the Franklin County Community Development Corporation on Wells Street at noon. The ride is free, but participants pay their way at the breweries.
Looking ahead, The People’s Pint and Til Lalezar Theatre will present “SIT ON IT! A Bicycle Cabaret” Wednesday, May 31 and Thursday, June 1 at 12 Federal St. The event will feature live music, clown, drag, shadow puppetry and unicycling, according to organizers. Admission is $28 per person, including food and a People’s Pint drink. Tickets can be purchased at The People’s Pint on Federal Street.
At Bicycles Unlimited, Perry said weekly bike rides are held throughout the year Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 6 p.m. from the shop. Ride distance varies each day.
“Sometimes we go 10 or 15 miles, sometimes 25. It depends on who shows,” Perry said.
As the region gears up for the summer cycling season, public safety and bicycle professionals shared a few safety tips.
“Number one is to have a safe bicycle,” said Bicycle World Owner Bill Johnston, who purchased the Federal Street business in March. “Keep your tires properly inflated. There’s something called a ‘pinch flat,’ caused by (low) air pressure.”
Johnston also said “most people don’t realize a helmet’s life span is about eight years,” because the helmet’s foam eventually breaks down and isn’t protective.
It’s also important for drivers to be on the lookout for bicycles, said Deerfield Police Patrolman Adam Sokoloski.
“Motorists must use caution when passing, but cyclists must facilitate the pass,” Sokoloski said. “They’re required to follow the same rules of the road, and are allowed to ride double, not triple.”
“A lot of people love to come through Deerfield on bicycles. It’s good for tourism, and we’re happy to have them,” he added.
You can reach Andy Castillo