Beginning more than three years ago, MassBike has been working with Chelsea Creek Action Group/E3C in East Boston to improve the biking (and walking) environment and encourage more people to bike, with the support of the Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness, and Communities Putting Prevention to Work. More recently, MassBike, along with WalkBoston, has been assisting Madison Park Community Development Corporation in Roxbury working on Complete Streets and bicycling. Our experience in these neighborhoods has taught us is how to more effectively support community-based activities and goals, creating a model for community engagement we can use around the state.
East Boston, for example, is a geographically isolated area of the city, connected primarily through tunnels under Boston Harbor. When we started working with the East Boston community, people in the neighborhood were not particularly excited about bicycling because of the lack of bicycling facilities and the difficulty of getting anywhere outside the neighborhood. We worked with the community to better define the problems and identify potential solutions. This led to community-driven efforts to increase bike access on the Blue Line, improve bike parking, redefine East Boston’s Central Square as a Complete Streets project, and propose other improvements to bike facilities.
This approach fundamentally supports the goals of the community groups themselves. We have learned over the past few years in East Boston and now in Roxbury that just as important as the outcome of particular advocacy efforts is the process that achieves it. By supporting the local vision with a youth-focused, community-based approach, MassBike has seen significantly more effective and long-lasting advocacy in these communities.
As we continue to work in neighborhoods and learn more, we look forward to taking our knowledge to new communities. Whether it is our membership or local community advocates, we depend greatly on the voices of others in order to make MassBike even more effective and to make Massachusetts a better state for biking.