Six years ago a Boston student unwittingly started one of the region’s most popular traditions amongst cyclists. With no leader, no registration, and no fees, Greg Hum instigated the annual Boston Midnight Marathon Bike Ride. This year the tradition hits a snag as the Boston Athletic Association and Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency ask riders not to participate, calling it "a public safety issue."
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"In 2009 I was talking with some friends about the marathon and suggested it might be fun to take the train to the start line and bike back… apparently so did a lot of other people, because word got out and every year I’d see more and more people bringing their bikes to South Station the night before Patriot’s Day.”
In 2011, Hum enlisted BostonSOS, a promoter of other offbeat happenings in Boston (such as The No Pants Subway Ride) to help organize transportation. Together they worked with the MBTA and MBCR to ensure quick and organized loading and unloading of bikes and participants on dedicated-departures from South Station. In 2013, 700+ tickets for the Midnight Marathon departure sold out in less than 12 hours. Following this, hundreds of people organized transportation by carpools and buses.
The train ride, while independent from the bike portion, is an important part of the tradition; it’s the riders’ chance to meet others in the community and make friends. It's the organizers' chance to go over the route, safety instructions, and pass out reflectors and lights.
Hum said that in January the BAA reached out about opening a dialogue regarding the ride. "We met with a representative who asked us to 'put a pause on the ride' this year based on security concerns stemming primarily from last year's terrorist attack. We were surprised but sympathetic, so we met a couple more times to come up with a compromise that would work for everyone, such as encouraging alternate routes & time of day, staggering train departures for smaller groups, and so on, but we couldn't reach a solution.
“At the last meeting they informed us they spoke with their contacts,” said Hum, “including the MBTA, and that there wouldn’t be a train available to cyclists this year. The train ride is all BostonSOS organizes, so without that, our involvement is essentially zero.”
Despite that, it looks like there will be just as many participants this year. "After last year’s tragedy, people are looking to connect with the city, the marathon, and the community in a way that’s meaningful for them," said Hum. "The roads, minus the finish line, are still open to vehicular traffic at the time of the ride, which by state law means they are also open to bikes.
“We hadn't even announced anything and people were already organizing out-and-back rides, carpools, U-Hauls, and private busses. This is completely independent of BostonSOS. It's clear it's not simply a bike ride this year; people want to make a statement - that we won’t be intimidated by terrorism; we are going to live our lives, love this city, and ride our bikes."