Friends of the Bikeway Letter from 1996-98 Chair Jerry Van Hook

Dear Friends of the Bikeway,

As winter reluctantly loosens its grip on the land and our thoughts turn to warmer weather pursuits, I would like to begin again the dialog with you about where our organization stands and how we might focus our energies in 1996 and beyond.

Some might argue that we should just relax and enjoy the status quo; the controversy with Massachusetts Highway Department (MHD) over bridge design seems resolved, the Bikeway is presently litter and graffiti free (thanks to the stewards), there have been few accidents along the path and, so far, no open rebellion between inline-skaters and cyclists. On the other hand, we know that nothing stays healthy without some care and planning; that the bridges project may be more like a dormant volcano than a settled fact, that some stewards might want a vacation (or retirement) from their responsibilities and others should step forward, that lack of accidents at intersections might be more luck than foresight, and that a war between user groups might well erupt some busy Sunday if courtesy rules are forgotten or ignored.

I think most of us would tend towards the second view, realizing that our association with the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway is more like a marriage than a relationship; short of bringing out the jack-hammers and creating a real mess, its here to stay.

So how do we begin in defining this organization and its mission for 1996 and thereafter ? We begin, I think, by acknowledging the connection with the Lexington Bicycle Advisory Committee (LBAC) and by attempting to define our separate roles. In this year's town report I said that these two groups are inextricably intertwined* with many joint meetings and overlapping interests. This, like most things, is both good and bad. Its true that we as Friends have a strong influence on LBAC decisions (in many cases we are the committee), but there is often confusion on who does what and some tasks slip through the cracks. To help remind us about the distinctions, I have included in this mailing copies of the charge to the LBAC and our charter of the FOMCB.

Looking over the two documents, we are reminded that the Advisory Committee primarily has the responsibility for the physical Bikeway and deals more directly with the Town offices, specifically with the Selectmen,

* I explain this somewhat flowery phrase as resulting from my reading a book edited by Mario Cuomo on Lincoln's Civil War correspondence. If you think I overdo it, read some of Abe's prose (or Mario's).

whereas the Friends is an organization of volunteers, also interested in preserving and enhancing the Bikeway, but having the broader mandate of dealing directly with like-minded people in nearby towns to expand bicycling in a regional sense.

There are, of course, those difficult gray areas where both organizations should be involved. One of these is safety at intersections. The LBAC has the ultimate responsibility for recommendations to the Selectmen, but the Friends, as interested parties should certainly have a voice. I have included in this mailing a questionnaire which brings out some of the of the more difficult questions that keep resurfacing and asks for your collective wisdom. If you'd like, you can send your reactions on this questionnaire to our treasurer, Alan Lazarus (2001--now Marita Hartshorn) along with 96 (2001) dues?. We will treat these responses as confidential information for internal discussions only. If you prefer, come to the Bikeway meetings on the second Thursday of each month and give us the benefit of your ideas directly. We meet at 7:30 PM in room G-15, Town Office Building.

Switching to a somewhat less troublesome subject, I'm happy to report that the emplacement of a new bike racks is starting in Lexington Center, thanks to generous donations by Tom Fortmann's family and from Jerry Slack. We all know Tom as a leading voice for cycling in Lexington. Jerry owns the Cycle Loft and, among other things, is a strong supporter of the Lexington's Bicycle Safety Program. The "Tom and Jerry" racks are now installed behind the Co-operative Bank. We thank John Frey for the considerable effort he expended in finding this sturdy design.

Not to be outdone, we of the Friends, you and I that is, have also bought two of these same 10 bike CORA racks which will soon be installed by the Town in the center. At a meeting several months ago it was agreed that the Friends treasury; i.e., some of your dues money which Alan has been squirreling away, would be used to buy one new rack. The cost was to be about $700 delivered. In the meantime the local CORA rep offered us two slightly used black racks for the price of one. John Frey and I jumped at the chance (after inspecting them, of course). The racks will have small "donated by the Friends" plaques affixed thereon. One will be placed in front of Cary Library, assuming the Cary Trustees will endorse replacing the old one when they next meet. The other, I hope will be placed at the corner of Mass Ave and station Way (East side), replacing an old ribbon rack which was trashed last winter by a snow plow.

Will we keep buying these racks ad infinitum with the Friends money? Emphatically no. These are seed installations of bike racks to show other potential donors, and especially local businessmen who a profiting from the Bikeway activity, what good will their money could buy. We must carry out these installations in the Center and elsewhere with some care and restraint.

That's where some input from all you members will be helpful. Of course we will also have the Historic Districts Commission, the Center Committee and other Town boards to satisfy, but I think the bicycling advocates should be first in the screening process. I hope to set up an ad hoc committee this summer, perhaps enticing Wendy Reasenberg to return and help us with this issue.

After the center gets some racks, there are playgrounds, play fields, and conservation areas that could have new or replacement racks.

You might ask what else your yearly dues is used for, besides the postage and copying for a mailing like this which runs about $100 per shot for the 125 membership units. One thing the FOMCB has done this Spring was to send a contribution to the Jack Cole Fund. Although Jack wasn't a member of the Friends, his unfortunate accident could have happened to any of us. I called several Friends members to see if they agreed it was appropriate, then asked Alan to send a check from our organization. I realize of course that many of us would contribute individually.

Just before this mailing, Bob Sawyer told me about a bike trip to Lexington's sister city in the Paris suburbs was being arranged for this fall They need a few more participants and we had space in the envelope so I included their itinerary for those of you who might be interested.

Thanks for your continuing support. We'll meet en passant on the Bikeway I'm sure.


Jerry Van Hook