Bicycles should be the vehicle of choice Saturday at the Earth Day
celebration at Green Hill Park in Worcester, for environmental as well as
First, the environmental part: In a nutshell, cars pollute. According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, motor vehicle emissions from the 4.2 million cars and 600,000 diesel trucks in the state account for about 40 percent of the hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides that react with sunlight on hot days to produce ground-level ozone, the main ingredient in smog.
Since 1960, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, automobile emissions of hydrocarbons have been reduced from 16 grams per mile to 2 grams per mile. However, the number of miles driven nationwide has more than quadrupled, from about 3 billion miles per year to 13 billion miles per year, essentially erasing the emissions improvements.
Newer cars, reformulated gasoline, and vapor-recovery nozzles on gas pumps can help put us on the road to cleaner air, the government says. MassBike, the statewide bicycle advocacy coalition, says another part of the equation is to take cycling seriously as a form of transportation -- to incorporate cycling into road and parking design and traffic safety education for all, so that driving is not the only feasible choice.
The Worcester Chapter of MassBike demonstrated the viability of cycling in the city with its Crosstown Challenge on Earth Day last year. A driver and a cyclist both set out from Webster Square at the same time, heading for Green Hill Park. It took the motorist 20 minutes, vs. 23 minutes for the cyclist.
This year MassBike plans to compare driving and cycling to the Earth Day festival from a few different starting points. To volunteer to drive or bike in the Crosstown Challenge, call MassBike at (508) 793-3438.
And the selfish reason for biking to the Earth Day celebration? Freebies! The Regional Environmental Council, organizer of the festival, and MassBike are offering free lunch to the first 50 people who bike up to Green Hill Park on Saturday. Also, MassBike will provide free valet bike parking. Bikes will be guarded in a secure area while their owners check out the exhibits and entertainment on foot.
The Willie & Joe Show, a book promotion tour featuring two authors' humorous storytelling about their bicycling adventures, comes to Boston next week. Bike travel writers Willie Weir and Joe Kurmaskie will appear at 8 p.m. April 27 at Rhythm and Muse, 403A Centre St., Jamaica Plain. Also, Lauren Hefferon of Ciclismo Classico, operator of bike tours in Italy, is trying to set up a Willie & Joe gig in Arlington.
More about Weir, author of "Spokesongs" and a writer for Adventure Cyclist magazine, and Kurmaskie, author of "Metal Cowboy" and a contributor to Bicycling magazine, is at www.willieweir.com/WJS/.
The New England women's racing series begun in 1996 continues to expand, with Agilent Technologies as this year's sponsor. The original idea was to encourage more women to race by giving beginner-level women more opportunities to compete against racers at the same level, rather than be lumped in with all other women. Promoters of existing races were persuaded to add separate races for Category 4 women, and series points were awarded toward end-of-season prizes. That worked so well that many women gained the skills to move up to Category 3.
Separate Cat. 3 women's races were added in 1997, and "women have continued to percolate up, even to Cat. 2 and Cat. 1," said series coordinator Gerri Moriarty of Hudson, N.H. New England has 50 percent more Cat. 4 women than five years ago, and double the number of Cat. 3 women, she said.
This year's "experiment," Moriarty said, is separate races for women 35 and older, with an accompanying points series. The first 35-plus women's events are April 29 at the Palmer Library Road Race and April 30 at the Monson Road Race, and those races also have other women's, men's, and juniors categories. The first race with series points for Cat. 4 and Cat. 3 women is the Jiminy Peak Road Race in Hancock on May 6. Race details are on the Web at www.sencomp.com/mcvelo/flyer.htm.
For more information on the women's series, which also offers racing clinics and training races, visit www.cyclingmadereal.com or call (603) 595-8642.
TIP OF THE HELMET to Westboro Selectman J.J. Malone for prompting the town's Department of Public Works, after cyclist Richard Schoenfeld complained, to rotate storm drain grates last fall. When the metal bars on the drain covers are parallel to the road, the grates are very dangerous because the openings are just big enough to trap a bicycle wheel. Turning the grates 90 degrees eliminates the problem. But in some communities, cyclists have found it difficult to move this simple task to the top of road workers' priority list.