TELEGRAM & GAZETTE Worcester, Mass. 
Sept. 2, 2001 

Pedaling pol pumps up bicycling voters

By Lynne Tolman 

   Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham took some guff from Boston pundits and rival Republicans for his eight-day bike tour across the state last month, but he has earned the respect of cyclists from Great Barrington to Cape Cod. Birmingham went the distance, some 250 miles, on an aluminum Specialized Allez Elite, with numerous campaign stops to get his 2002 run for governor in gear. 
  Ending his day in Worcester on Aug. 24, Birmingham said two-wheeling was "a great way to see the state. You're going at a slower pace and you're experiencing things on a human scale." 
  He also relished the contrast to his workday bike rides, pedaling a hybrid bike six miles from his home in Chelsea to his office in the Statehouse. He noted that the commute via Route 99 and Rutherford Avenue usually takes 25 minutes by bike, versus 40 to 50 minutes by car at peak traffic times. 
  Anyone who braves those congested, potholed, poorly designed roads by bike is no poser, said Steve Winslow of Malden, a MassBike activist who pedaled along with the senator for two days, from Springfield to Worcester. MassBike, a statewide cycling advocacy coalition, planned and supported the ride. 
  Winslow said Birmingham was instrumental in helping pass the 1996 state law that requires new road construction and old road redesigns to take cyclists and pedestrians into account. 
  "If you're ever going to have significant numbers of (bike) commuters, you need that," Birmingham said. "It'll be a cultural shift as well. People in cars and people on bikes have to get used to each other." 
   Friction between motorists and cyclists certainly seems to be minimal in Montreal and its suburbs, thanks to a well designed network of bike paths and lanes, I noticed on a bike trip there last month. Massachusetts transportation officials could learn a lot from their counterparts in Quebec. 
  The first group of students to attend Olin College, a new engineering school in Needham, will try to design the world's smallest rideable bicycle this fall. Mechanical engineering professor Dan Frey said he was looking for "an interesting technical challenge" as a way "to bond this new group of students ... who are going to be partners in developing the curriculum over the next year." 
  Flipping through the Guinness Book of Records, Frey learned that the smallest rideable bike has wheels one-half inch in diameter and has been human-propelled for a distance of six meters. He said the Guinness world record requires that the bike be ridden by a person, but there are no restrictions on the person's size or other characteristics, or on the riding surface or distance ridden.
  "You learn a lot of things by miniaturizing something that you can bring to the actual size later," Frey said, admitting that the world-record quest in itself is rather whimsical. "One thing we'll do after we break the record is see if we can't take what we've learned and see if it has some practical significance, like a foldable bike or new type of scooter, maybe a new means of propulsion, maybe something I haven't thought of yet. This is not a very practical project, but hopefully it can generate some very practical things." 
   TIP OF THE HELMET to Sam Talbot, 29, of Sterling, who finished the Mount Washington Bicycle Hillclimb on Aug. 25, a very steep 8-mile ascent, in a very respectable time of 1 hour, 14 minutes, 43 seconds. He was 84th of 532 finishers overall and 35th of 120 men in the 20-34 age category. 
  Other finishers from this area were Thomas Boudreau, 40, of Leominster, at 1:25:09; Tom Gormley, 42, of Harvard, 1:27:35; Bob McKenney, 40, of Worcester, 1:30:36; Tim Eichner, 30, of Thompson, 1:35:09; Kevin Furrow, 31, of Marlboro, 1:35:30; David Broganer, 48, of Harvard, 1:37:44; Michael LeBlanc, 39, of Worcester, 1:44:43; Allan Edwards, 43, of Harvard, 1:44:44; Ken Daignault, 39, of Holden, 1:51:00; and Marc Belanger, 29, of Leominster,  1:58:06. 
   Marilyn Ruseckas of Waitsfield, Vt., who grew up in Westboro, had the best time among women ages 40-44, at 1:13:15. Ruseckas, who held the women's record for Mount Washington in 1997, was the fifth woman overall this year. The women's winner was Karen Bockel of Fort Collins, Colo., at 1:09:20. 
   Team Saturn rider Tim Johnson, 24, of Middleton won the race with a time of 53:31. Tyler Hamilton, the U.S. Postal Service team member who hails from Marblehead, set the record of 50:21 in 1999. French rider Jeannie Longo set the women's record of 58:14 last year. 
   This is the last cycling column for the season, although there should be plenty of good road riding weather for another two months or so. The T&G cycling calendar at contains listings through October. And cyclocross season starts Sept. 30 with a race in Maine; details are at http://www.necyclocross.htm/ 

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