Thursday May 17, 2012

Pedal the road in safety and style and join in a community celebration of two-wheeled travel this week as part of the statewide observance of Bay State Bike Week at the First Annual Bike North Berkshire BIKEfest.

From exhibits covering the history of bicycling to a Bike Film Night and a Saturday afternoon Bike Rodeo culminating all things bicycling, cyclists of all ages and abilities can find something to do or learn at the festival organized by Bike North Berkshire, a grassroots coalition of North County citizens working to promote bicycling and its positive affects.

The weeklong event came from the need to keep the community educated about the importance of biking and the construction of local bike trails, said Jay Walsh, one of the organizers for BIKEfest.

He wants to make progress in adding additional bike trails.

"We're interested in keeping this in mind in public," Walsh said. "As well as growing more bikers, growing the trail network should also be about talking about biking safety and making the road safe for bikers."

On Thursday night, Mass MoCA will host a Bike Doc umentary Film Night and Bike Salon as part of the festival. The Salon will show a selection of interesting and exotic bikes, like the Penny Farthing bicycle with the large front wheel known to most only in black and white photographs of cyclists past. The salon will be open 6:30 p.m., and the films with a panel discussion to follow at 7:30 p.m.


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The short films are from different filmmakers around the world showing similar messages about bringing biking into everyday life, according to Sue Killam, managing director of performing arts and film at Mass MoCA.

"It will be a really fun night of getting together as a community and seeing what other communities have done and gathering our thoughts about what we are doing here," Killam said.

The main event, a Family Bike Rodeo, is slated for Sat urday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. also at Mass MoCA. The rodeo will host a number of different bike-related activities, which will include helmet and bike safety checks, local police officers teaching the rules of the road, and a slow bike race in addition to the rodeo -- an obstacle course to test bikers' balance weaving through cones and figure eight patterns. It is appropriate for all ages, Walsh said.

"Feedback has been very good [so far]," Walsh said. "People are looking forward to it. We're also talking a lot to people who are cyclists and a lot of people who are interested in their children being safe on the road. This is the time of year you start to see bikes on the road."

Kids will also be able to decorate their bikes in the "Kids Space" room at Mass MoCA and then later show off their two-wheeled masterpieces in a bike parade at 2 p.m.

Killam said holding the rodeo at Mass MoCA made sense on many levels, from the open, safe asphalt available for riding and the available space to house the event, to the core principles of BIKEfest, which harmonize with what Mass MoCA stands for.

"It's just a great way to get people excited about biking," Killam said. "Most people don't think about Mass MoCA and biking going together, but it's a great fit for us. We're very vocal about the bike path. ‘Bring on the bikes!' we say."

Along with the activities at Mass MoCA, many local businesses are running special deals for patrons who bike to their store during the week of through Saturday. El Conejo, the taco truck in Williamstown, will be offering $2 off any order of $3 or more until Friday.

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute will give a free cookie to anyone who shows their helmet at the café cart, and the Subway in Wil liamstown will give 10 percent off of an order for bikers.

While the events are made to be fun, BIKEfest at its core is about the positive effects that biking can have on a community and the environment, ac cording to Walsh.

"Most people in the age group of 40 to 50 used to bike everywhere," he said. "We didn't go to band practice or little league in parents' SUV. We rode on a bike. We are just not seeing that today."



If you like to bike ...

What: Bike North BIKEfest

When: Through Saturday --
Bike Documentary Film Night
at Mass MoCA tonight at 6:30; Family Bike Rodeo Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.,
also at Mass MoCA.

Admission: $5 for Bike Documentary Film Night.

Admission to the Bike Rodeo is free for all ages, and anyone
arriving by bike that day will receive free entry to the museum galleries. The rain date is Sunday.

Old-school wheels: A free talk on the history of the bicycle will take place Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Western Gateway Heritage State Park museum.

Hitting the streets: BIKEfest aims to encourage bicycling as a leisure and fitness activity that also happens to be good for the environment. Grownups can now rent bikes at Mass MoCA's MASS Transit rental station to explore the Northern Berkshires and scoot around North Adams and Williamstown.

Information: Visit tinyurl.com/
bikefest2012 for a complete list of events and businesses offering deals to cyclists.

-- Sharon Smullen contributed information from Daylights