History of the Boston Area Bicycle Coalition

by Doug Mink, BABC Archivist

The Boston Area Bicycle Coalition (BABC) was the forerunner of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition and worked on many issues we continue to deal with today.

1977-8 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993


In the mid-1970's, the need for a bike advocacy group in Boston was recognized by the founding of the Boston Area Bicycle Association and the first(?) Cambridge Bicycle Commission. These groups seem more to have ridden a wave of popular acceptance of bicycling than to have accomplished anything lasting. The first Sunday closing of Memorial Drive in Cambridge was on May 18, 1975. The Paul Dudley White Memorial Bicycle Path opened from the Science Museum to Watertown on the Cambridge side of the Charles on June 7, 1975. Senator Bulger sponsored legislation, which did not pass, to set aside 1% of Massachusetts gas tax revenue for bicycle programs, and the 1975 state transportation bond issue was the first to include money, $1 million, for bikeways. The BABA seems to have passed away during 1975.

1977-1978: The First Years

The BABC was founded in February, 1977, by Anita Brewer, Cathy Buckley, and Jonathan Fine. The organization grew through 1977 and Bob Williamson coordinated a major event, Bike Week '78, in April of 1978. By the end of 1978, the BABC had affiliated with the League of American Wheelmen and helped publish the first Boston Bike Map. That was also the year that Boston's first bike messenger service was founded and Claire Saltonstall bike route from Boston to Cape Cod was mapped and signed. The BABC's membership reached 500, and a tabloid newspaper, entitled "boston area bicycle coalition", was published several times. At the end of 1978, Rich Withers took over the presidency from Anita Brewer.

1979: Bike Day and More

1979's Bike Day on Sunday, June 3, started with a rally on Boston Common featuring then-Senator Paul Tsongas and several local bicycling experts. Cyclists then rode en masse to Memorial Drive in Cambridge, where they participated in a bike fair on the banks of the Charles River. A "Commute to Work Day" was held the following day with rides from Porter Square in Cambridge and Cleveland Circle in Boston converging on Boston's City Hall Plaza. Four BABC riders won first and second places in the annual Commuter Marathon when Kent Davey and Jim Melcher (on a tandem) beat Dean LaCoe and John Allen (on folding bikes and the T) from Wellesley town hall to the State House. The BABC's education committee ran commuter workshops at Beth Israel hospital and elsewhere, and a fact sheet on winter riding was the beginning of a tradition of BABC pamphlets. 491-RIDE was established as the BABC Bikeline, and the BABC may grew to more than 500 members. A bimonthly newletter, the "Spoke 'n Word", was started under the editorship of Nancy Witham.

Working With the State

Legislatively, 1979 was not a good year for bicyclists, as Governor King vetoed the Bottle Bill and a bill to establish a state bicycle commission failed. Again in 1980, bills to establish a State Bike Coordinator, a State Bicycle Commission, and an MBTA study of bikes on the T failed to pass. The bike coordinator position was added to other legislation which did pass. Senator Carol Amick and her aide, Sarah Heartt, established a legislative bicycle commission to bring together people from government and the cycling community to plan what the hoped-for bicycle coordinator could do. In September, Bike to Work Day featured speeches by two cabinet secretaries, John Bewick of Environmental Affairs, and the King administration's bicycle commuter, Eileen Shell of Consumer Affairs. The BABC helped the state install bike racks at the Saltonstall Building by buying them and reselling them to the state. The Cape Cod Rail Trail was opened in the fall.

1980: Burning out on Bike Day

Bike Day 1980 was sponsored by Star Market, Hood, and Coca Cola and run by Mallory Digges and Andrew Laband of the BABC. Despite rain on the Boston Common rally and ride, the sun came out for the afternoon fair on Memorial Drive in Cambridge, where the BABC had booths on legislation, local politics, and commuting, among other things. Backed by a US Department of Energy grant, the babc" tabloid was renamed the Boston Cyclist. John Allen's "Complete Book of Bicycle Commuting", with a title page acknowledgement to the BABC was published by Rodale Press. Though out of print, it remains the best source of information on bicycle commuting. In 1980, the BABC attained 501(c)(3) status with the IRS as an educational institution and reached its peak of almost 1000 people on its mailing list. The number of dues-paying members probably never topped 600.

1981: High Hopes

At the beginning of 1981, the BABC had a new president, Peter Campagna, and a paid editor, Jack Ashmore, putting out the Boston Cyclist. A Bike to Work Day on May 1 didn't draw the crowds of previous years. After failing to attract adequate volunteers, Bike Day was hooked on to the (last, as it turned out) annual Yoplait 50K Challenge held on a closed-off Memorial Drive. A BABC-organized "Bike Fair '81", coordinated by Sarah Heartt and Miriam Kadansky, was held after the ride on Briggs Field, with sponsorship from Yoplait and Eddie Bauer. The Real Paper, Cambridge's alternative paper which carried a weekly column on bicycling by BABC treasurer Marshall Presser, put out a special supplement for the event. Design plans the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway were first presented to the public by Cathy Buckley of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council's Central Transportation Planning Staff (MAPC's CTPS) and the process of getting approval from the communities along the right-of-way was begun. The BABC's first program of monthly rides was begun by Doug Mink, with outings to the Blue Hills, Sherborn, and Bedford. Dissatisfaction with the declining quality of the Boston Cyclist led to its resurrection as a volunteer project led by Sarah and Miriam, who wanted something to do after the Bike Fair. A debate over the desireability of bikepaths raged in its pages. At the end of the year, Peter Campagna moved to Worcester, and the board elected Doug Mink to replace him.

1982: A Year of Change

It seemed at the time that the BABC was reaching an ebb in 1982, with the demise of the tabloid Boston Cyclist and our cancellation of Bike Day due to the fact that no one wanted to coordinate it. The June Spoke'n'Word announces the resignation of the President, Vice President, Secretary, and Newsletter Editor (the office of Treasurer had just gotten a new occupant). After the BABC had talked about getting bikes on the MBTA and putting out a pamphlet series for years, Sarah Heartt, the new president, began a "Bikes on the T" initiative and assigned pamphlet writers.

Doug Mink moved from president to newsletter editor, where he began to develop the bimonthly Spoke'n'Word into a low-budget replacement for the quarterly Boston Cyclist. He also served as vice president where he developed ties between the BABC and other bike groups through activities such as the first Big Event flea market and rides. Because of the MBTA's lack of progress toward bicycle access, the legislature required that they study such access by 1983. Other major issues included a Boston area bicycle study led by Wendy Plotkin of the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission and the beginning of a fight for legal bicycle access to Logan International Airport, the first issue addressed by a statewide group of cyclists. BABC members bicycled with the environmental activist group, SPOKES, for nuclear disarmament and whales, with MassPIRG to save the bottle bill, and with Congressman Barney Frank for his reelection.

1983: More Change

Webb Sussman took over as president when Sarah left town, twisting the arms of various authors to write the text for four pamphlets for Sarah to produce from exile in New Haven. The BABC supported legislation to require headlights on bikes at night, which passed, and legislation to create a bicycle advisory board, which didn't. Bimonthly meeting topics included human-powered vehicles, the MAPC accident study, bicycle traffic counts, John Allen on the inadequacy of the Charles River Bike Path, and author Howard Stone on bike rides in the Boston Area. A few rides, a meeting with the MBTA, and a group trip to the play, "Key Exchange", rounded out the year. The LAW State Legislative Committee, with BABC involvement, worked actively on legislation and tried to work with the Dukakis transition team to obtain a bicycle-friendly state government.

1984: Action

Pamphlets on the BABC, biking to Logan Airport, bikes on buses, bikes on ferries, and bike advocacy in Boston were finally released to the world in early 1984. A committee, made up of Jeff Axelbank, John Dombroski, Charles Hyde-Wright, and Doug Mink, spun off to become separate activist organization, "Bikes on the T", which held a "Boston T Party" and race across the harbor in October (the canoes won). The BABC again worked with other bike groups on the second Big Event and a picnic in Breakheart Reservation where plans were begun to revive Bike Day in 1985. A January presentation on mountain bikes by framebuilder Chris Chance (and a later test ride) convinced editor [and historian] Doug Mink to fork over his life savings for a custom-built bike which he could ride on Cambridge streets without destroying it.

1985: Success!

In 1985, displays were made and the pamphlets were at last put into bike shops The MBTA, being unable to counter our arguments for bicycle access and realizing that it would be painless good PR, proposed a trial period for bikes on rapid transit on Sundays. The Boston Globe featured the program in a page 2 story. Charles Hyde-Wright moved from "Bikes on the T" activism to the BABC presidency and MBTA bicycle pass #2. 1984's discussion of a Bike Day turned into the Grape Nuts American Bicycle Festival/Boston under the direction of Jeff Axelbank and Mark Spain with the cooperation of the Charles River Wheelmen and the Greater Boston Council of American Youth Hostels. The Spoke'n'Word became the reborn Boston Cyclist as Mark Spain and a laser printer spiffed up production quality. Mark also organized monthly focus rides to emphasize the usefulness of bicycles as transporation to interesting places. State Secretary of Transportation Fred Salvucci approved funding for the construction of the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway, though certain legal issues would continue to stall this project for years into the future. A group ride to Littleton in December successfully viewed Halley's comet.

1986: Stabilization

The legislature included funding of the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway in the Transportation Bond Issue. The MBTA, after much letter writing by the bicycling community, made the Bikes on the T program permanent. A second Grape Nuts Bike Festival was held, with Webb Sussman and Doug Mink co-coordinating it, helped by a paid staff of 3. The coordinators burned out, but the BABC made enough money to continue to rent the office it had found for the festival. The state produced the first Massachusetts bicycle map, but distribution was held up. The year ended on a positive note when a State Bicycle Advisory Board was mandated at the end of the year's legislative session. BABC treasurer Tina Salowey was elected to the AYH Greater Boston Council board to representative bicycle activists as a further sign of cooperation between local bicycle organizations. Paul Angiolillo took over as president when Charles Hyde-Wright moved to Paris.

1987: Bicyclists Break Loose

Forty-five people, including one who skied across the frozen Charles River, traveled through a blizzard to attend the BABC's first event of the year, a slide show about Glen Margolis' bike trip around the world. Bike to Work Day returned in May with a less than thrilling attendance, but cyclists were cheered by the trial expansion of the MBTA's bicycle program to commuter rail in July. After a meeting with Peter Harnik of the Rails to Trails Conservancy, a group, including Doug Mink and Dan Bloom of the BABC, tried to start a Massachusetts chapter of the national organization. After many meetings, two hikes, and two issues of a newsletter, the principals burned out. After some disagreements with the sponsoring corporation over money and responsibilities for another Grape Nuts Bike Festival, The BABC, CRW, and AYH decided to have their own Bike Day in September with T-shirts (designed by former BABC president Sarah Heartt) and 5 rides of varying lengths. It poured, but everything went smoothly (and no one got hypothermia). Secretary Jeff Axelbank and Treasurer Tina Salowey both left Boston to go back to school, and 5-year Cyclist editor Doug Mink resigned to become president of the BABC. Public meetings were held to show the construction design of the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway, and the Southwest Corridor Linear Park bicycle and pedestrian paths were completed. BABC members John Allen, David Gordon Wilson, and Ed Gross were appointed to the Massachusetts Bicycle Advisory Board, which first met September 10. Doug Mink took over Tina Salowey's position on the AYH Greater Boston Council board.

1988: More Visibility

Bike Day 1988 was moved up to July 31 to avoid hypothermia in the inevitable rain. The rain stopped before the day ended, and by the end of the day, 150 cyclists participated. Bike access to commuter rail on Sundays was begun earlier in July. Sarah Heartt developed a safety poster for the BABC with the theme, "Share the Road", with a grant from the Cutler West Foundation. Mark Spain brought cartoons by Jeff Danziger and a lot of style to the Boston Cyclist after a shaky start. The BABC tried to become more visible by volunteering at WGBH during the spring pledge drive. Doug Mink and Paul Angiolillo appeared on a cable network program about bicycling in Boston. The MDC started to think about regulating mountain bikes at a heavily-attended public meeting in November.

1989: Into the Future

Andrew Fischer and Doug Mink testified in January 1989 against a ban on bicycling in the Downtown Crossing pedestrian zone. The ban was passed by the Boston City Council but not signed by Mayor Flynn because it was against state law. The BABC protested another ban by leading a ride to Logan Airport, where bikes are banned from all internal roads. "Bikes on Planes" pamphlets were left with various airlines after we were ordered to leave by the State Police. After the death of a cyclist in a car door accident in May, the BABC started working on getting legislation to require car occupants to look before opening their doors. It was finally sunny on Bike Day; 250 people attended and everyhing went so smoothly that the coordinators, Doug Mink, Doug Kline, and Steve Blatman decided to retire the event and rest. The BABC helped Don Simenson of the Metro Police start up a cops on bikes program. After a variety of political and financial delays, a bikepath parallelling the Jamaicaway from Brookline Village past Jamaica Pond was completed in October. At the end of the year, Doug Mink turned the reins over to long-time activist John Allen and joined Bill Taylor in beginning to think about long-range goals for Boston bicyclists in a series of monthly meetings.

1990: Renewed Environmental Awareness

1990 was a year of renewed environmental awareness when the BABC's message that bicycles are an environmentally benign form of transportation began to take root. A series of long-range planning meetings begun in 1989 at the suggestion of Bill Taylor led to events and work with more levels of government than in even the early days of the BABC.

To celebrate the 21st Earth Day on April 20, the BABC was involved in organizing New England's celebration on Boston's Esplanade and seven rides to it. BABC president John Allen spoke to the assembled crowd of over 200,000 people. We had a booth there as well as at fairs at UMass Boston and Cambridge, where we distributed a Bike to Work pamphlet produced by John Allen, Elisse Ghitelman, and Doug Mink.

At the behest of BABC members, state representative Barbara Gardner filed a bill which would require people to look before opening their car doors into traffic where they all too often hit cyclists. We also worked to modify a proposed law requiring helmets on child bicyclists to make it meet national standards. Neither passed.

On September 7, the BABC held a Bike to Work Rally on Boston Common with help from Earthworks, Bikes not Bombs, and Greenpeace. Representative Joe Kennedy and several state and local officials spoke. Following Bike to Work Day, we discussed cheap ways to make state highways and bridges safer for bicyclists and a system of bike routes with some of those officals. The BABC was involved with the environmental impact process for the Third Harbor Tunnel/Central Artery project and worked with the Metro Police Cops on Bikes program, awarding our first annual Public Service Award to Don Simenson, who organized it.

Editors Scott Stevens and Mark Spain continued to improve the Boston Cyclist. Andy Rubel became volunteer coordinator, and Doug Mink, coordinator of long-range planning.

The BABC participated in several local transportation fairs and held several video nights in our office and a slide show at MIT. With the Broadway Bicycle School in Cambridge, the BABC held monthly bicycle repair workshops which are free to all members. A Macintosh Plus computer with a 20 megabyte hard drive was donated to the BABC this year. It was followed by a modem and printer, allowing us to lay out our publications in our office for the first time. An additional $500 donation helped us to better equip it.

1991: The BABC Reborn

Bill Taylor and Andy Rubel, with the help of numerous phone calls and letters from cyclists, got the state legislature to amend the $5 billion Transportation Bond Issue to include bicycle transportation. None of the 7 bicycle bills before the legislature passed, however. The BABC also worked with state officials on a bicycle transportation policy for the state. After 17 years of work, ground was broken for the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway from Arlington to Bedford on November 26.

On May 20, proclaimed by Governor Weld as Bike to Work Day at the BABC's instigation, about 200 cyclists heard Representative Joe Kennedy, Boston City Councillor David Scondras, and several state representatives at the BABC's Bike to Work Rally at Boston City Hall Plaza. Two days earlier, 150 riders joined Congressman Kennedy on a BABC- and CRW-organized 20-mile urban ride through the 8th Congressional District to publicize legislation to allocate 3% of federal highway funds to bicycle and pedestrian projects. BABC members were involved in setting up bicycle committees in Cambridge and Boston.

Doug Mink and John Allen organized the East Coast Bicycle Conference at MIT on September 27-30, attended by 60 bicycle activists. Out of this meeting arose an East Coast Bicycle Coalition and the concept of an East Coast Greenway from Boston to Washington.

The BABC regained the membership levels it attained during the late 1970's, with about 550 members at the end of 1991. The pamphlet program was reactivated with new pamphlets on Bike Paths, the BABC, Biking to Work, and Bikes on the T produced by Bob Mentzinger. BABC members Bob Quinn and Pete Knox rode across the United States with the League of American Wheelman's Pedal for Power to raise money for the BABC.

1992: Expanding the BABC

In 1992, we used the momentum built in 1991 to expand our activities on the regional, state, and local levels.

East Coast Greenway

BABC member Pat King and ten other cyclists cycled from Boston to Washington, D.C. along a tentative route for this long-distance, off-road trail. 30 cyclists, led by Doug and Sarah Mink, started from Boston Common in the rain on July 4.


After 18 years of work, the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway from Arlington to Bedford was opened as the nation's 500th rail trail on October 3. Some work remains, but cyclists can now ride from Bedford to Somerville. Cathy Buckley of the state Central Transportation Planning Staff is just beginning a federally-funded search for a connection between the Minuteman and the Charles River Bikepath.


The BABC's celebrated its 15th anniversary at a sparsely-attended-due-to-rain picnic on August 16 in Stony Brook Reservation in Hyde Park.


Bill Taylor, Andy Rubel, and Alana Dudley concentrated on one piece of legislation this year, the Bicycle Program Fund bill, which dedicates 1% of gas tax revenues to bicycle projects. With the help of numerous phone calls and letters from cyclists, it was favorably reported out of the Taxation Committee (with help from Chairman Angelo Scaccia) and the Ways and Means Committee (thanks to Chairman Thomas Finneran and his staff).

State Government

The Massachusetts Highway Department hired its first Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator, Josh Lehman, away from the US Department of Transportation.


The MDC bought the East Milton Branch railroad right-of-way along the Neponset River from Conrail for what should be a major connection in Boston's greenway network. Greg Palmer has kept the BABC up-to-date on the MDC's activities. The Mystic River bikepath was extended another 1/4 mile downstream in Somerville.


Bicycles are now allowed on commuter rail lines during mid-day non-rush hours (9:30am-3:00pm) and for reverse-commuting (out until 3:00pm, in from 9:30am to 6:30pm). Reservations are no longer required.

Bike Police

The Metro Police bicycle program effectively ended when they became part of the State Police, but the Waltham and Lexington police forces have started bicycle patrols


The BABC has been involved with the environmental impact process for many construction projects in Massachusetts, including the Third Harbor Tunnel/Central Artery project.

Cities and Towns

Cambridge now has a half-time bicycle/pedestrian coordinator, Cara Seiderman, and a bicycle committee on which several BABC members serve. Somerville also has a town bicycle committee, and Newton and Wellesley committees are forming. A Boston committee continues to meet informally.


The BABC has held its membership level steady at about 550 members. The board of directors was expanded from 7 to 10 to better represent the membership.


The Boston Cyclist has continued to be our main interface with our members and, through bike shop distribution, to the world of Boston bicycling. Maggie Stanley has taken over as editor from Mark Spain, who moved to California.


Doug Mink updated the Bike Paths pamphlet for the Minuteman opening, and wrote a new one on bicycle/pedestrian interactions.


The BABC has participated at several local transportation fairs, presenting the bicycle as a desireable commuting vehicle. Our 491-RIDE hotline provided answers to innumerable questions about bicycling.


With the Broadway Bicycle School and the Bicycle Workshop in Cambridge, the BABC has held monthly bicycle repair workshops which are free to all members.


In addition to meetings, there are now regular office hours on Sunday afternoons. The office computer is now being used for newsletter production.


The Bicycle Coalition of Massachusetts was started to draw cyclists from all over the state to legislative, construction, and educational issues. The BABC joined with other activist groups in forming the East Coast Bicycle Coalition.

1993: Becoming BCoM

In 1993, we changed our name, but not our activities. Recognizing that the "Boston Area Bicycle Coalition" was representing bicyclists from across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in our advocacy and educational activities, we changed our name in May to the "Bicycle Coalition of Massachusetts".

Exploratory Rides

On Earth Day in April, Doug Mink and Bill Taylor led cyclists on rides examining a Charles River Bikepath upstream extension and connections between the river and the Minuteman Bikeway. On National Trails Day in June, Doug and Sarah Mink led a ride along the Central Mass. rail trail and the Minuteman from Cambridge to Concord and back. In August, we toured trail and linear park possibilities in Malden, Revere, and East Boston.

Big Rides

BCoM participated in the Manulife Bike Boston ride on June 20 and helped organize the bicycle portion of Joe Kennedy's third annual tour through the Eighth Congressional District.


On July 31, the Norwottuck Trail connecting Amherst and Northampton was opened, setting a new standard for bikepath design in Massachusetts. The Minuteman Commuter Bikeway from Arlington to Bedford was finally opened in November after numerous delays in the final surfacing. Cathy Lewis of the state Central Transportation Planning Staff is conducting a federally-funded search for a connection between the Minuteman and the Charles River Bikepath.


Bill Taylor and other volunteers concentrated on one piece of legislation this year, the Bicycle Program Fund bill, which dedicates 1% of gas tax revenues to bicycle projects. With the help of numerous phone calls and letters from cyclists, it was favorably reported out of the Taxation Committee (with help from Chairman Angelo Scaccia), but stuck in the Ways and Means Committee (thanks to Chairman Thomas Finneran and House Speaker Charles Flaherty). Work was begun on adding additional bicycle language to the new Transportation Bond bill, which already offers the possibility of significant funding for both bikepaths and bicycle commuting facilities.

State Government

BCoM worked to get bicycles included in the Boston Regional Transportation Plan which, as submitted for public review, called for more highway construction with scant mention of bicyclists and pedestrians. BCoM has continued to work with state Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator Josh Lehman and the state Bicycle Advisory Board.


BCoM board member Greg Palmer is working with the MDC to improve the Charles River Bikepaths.

Bike Police

The City of Boston started a bicycle patrol, which immediately garnered much publicity for its effectiveness.


Prompted by bikeshop owner Jeff Ferris, BCoM has worked with Earthworks to try to include a separate bike lane on the Jamaicaway overpass over Route 9, closing one of the gaps in Boston's (and Brookline's) Emerald Necklace linear park. BCoM has been involved with the environmental impact process for many construction projects in Massachusetts, including the Third Harbor Tunnel/Central Artery project.

Cities and Towns

BCoM is involved with municipal bicycle committees in Cambridge, Somerville, Newton, and Wellsley. The new mayor of Boston has agreed to appoint a bicycle task force to shape bicycle policy in the state's largest city. BCoM has also assisted the Metrowest bicycle planning effort in Boston's western suburbs.


Andy Rubel resigned as president in May to devote all of his time to producing Massachusetts bicycle maps (the first of which came out in October). Doug Mink took over for the rest of the year, becoming the first president of the Bicycle Coalition of Massachusetts. Andy Fischer became president in December.


BCom membership passed the 600 mark after a mass-mailing funded by a grant from the Bicycle Federation.


The Boston Cyclist changed its name to Mass. Cyclist, as Doug Mink succeeded Maggie Stanley for one issue. John Wald then became editor of the Mass Cyclist, as the period was dropped. It is circulated through bikeshops across the state as well as by mail to members.


Doug Mink frequently updated the Bike Paths pamphlet and one proposing a bikepath network for Massachusetts.


BCoM has participated at several local transportation fairs, presenting the bicycle as a desireable commuting vehicle. Our 491-RIDE hotline provided answers to innumerable questions about bicycling. BCoM went on-line with an account on EcoNet in July, then started the MassBike mailing list on the Internet in August.


With the Broadway Bicycle School and the Bicycle Workshop in Cambridge, the BABC has held monthly bicycle repair workshops which are free to all members.


BCoM hired Alana Dudley as part-time office manager in March, and Greg Palmer succeeded her in September. By the end of the year, BCoM was looking for a full-time executive director.