Kennedy Calls For More Bikes
Flanked by half a dozen city officials and five cyclists in full protective gear, U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy (D-Mass) urged Cambridge residents Monday to hit the streets with bike pedals instead of gas pedals as part of a new Congressional drive to promote safer and cleaner alternatives to driving cars.
"We're establishing a program where everybody wins," Kennedy said from the steps of City Hall. "It's good for the environment, it's good for our bodies, and we can make a real difference in our communities."
Kennedy said that although statistics show that more than half of U.S. citizens live within five miles of work, only six percent bike or walk. The problem, he said, is that people are not convinced that the roads are safe for bicycles.
In addition to styrofoam helmets and racing gloves, the bikers who accompanied kennedy wore tee-shirts saying in bold black letters, "BACK THE BIKE BILL HR-2101." The slogan refers to a recent bill, drafted by Kennedy, which would earmark three percent of the Federal Highway Trust Fund for building bike routes across the nation.
Kennedy fired off volley after volley of statistics, pointing out that 140 million bikes already sit in garages across the nation, that every year a car produces its own weight in pollutants, that traffic problems cost the country more than $41 million annually and that 25 to 40 percent of the Japanese employed population bike to work.
"It's time to get administrators' heads out of the smog and into clean air," he said.
After Kennedy stepped down from the lectern, officials from Waltham, Somerville, Arlington, and Boston voiced their wholehearted support for bicycle transportation.
"It's good for your head. It's good for your heart. It's cheap. It's good for the environment," said one city councillor. "I just wonder why it has taken us 25 years to do something."
Cambridge Mayor Alice K. Wolf, who introduced the speakers, said in an interview after the conference that the city's new Bicycle Committee is planning new projects dealing with bike safety and road development. The committee met for the first time on April 2.
"If we keep going like we are, Cambridge will be just one big parking lot and traffic jam," said Don Allen, one of the bikers flanking Kennedy and president of the Charles River Wheelmen, a local biking club.
"It's not just a question on bike routes, but a question of education." he said. "We have to teach people to ride bikes safely and drivers to drive safely with bikers."
An elderly passerby offered a different perspective.
"I'm a pedestrian, not a bicyclist," she said. "I think this is great. There are too many bicycles on the sidewalks. This will get them off onto the streets."
Another biker, Doug Kline '77-79, who was sporting a red racing cap and red sideburns, said he remembers biking from the Quad to Harvard Yard.
"The biking conditions at Harvard are deplorable," he said. "The only way we can go is up."
When asked whether she had any advice for Harvard students in particular, Wolf said bluntly. "Get on your bike!"
Monday, May 20 is National Bike to Work Day, when Kennedy will join hundreds of pedaling commuters on a ride to Boston City Hall Plaza, where he will speak again at 8:30 a.m.
Kennedy also invited Cambridge residents to join him for a 20-mile bike tour of the 8th congressional district on May 18, sponsored by the Charles River Wheelmen and the Boston Area Bicycle Coalition. The ride will start at 10 a.m. near Herter Part in Brighton.