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People used to ride bikes around Boston even before bike lanes

Guys on bikes in old Boston

The folks at the Boston City Archives wonder if you can place this scene. See it larger.

Free tagging: 



My gut also says that it is Broadway, in the 1970s, probably in March, and they are about to start a race of some sort.

I've never understood why there aren't more bike races. In the pre-pandemic times one could find multiple running races every week-end in the Boston area. It would be kind of cool if the same thing happened with bicycles in Boston other than that one time in October.


I don't know about this. Say more please?

Boston used to have the Mayor's Cup race in September, but hasn't in a few years now.

Both Somerville and Arlington briefly had bike races for a couple of years, around the turn of the 21st century. The Arlington race had a fatality its first year, and although they did come back for a second year, they did not continue after that. I don't know why the Somerville races ended.

Being a road runner, I take part in "races" a lot (though not so much in the past year and a half for obvious reasons.) There are the core of serious runners who are in it to win it, then the rest of us. I thought the Tour de Boston had that kind of organization.

It would be cool if there were races. It was once a thing.

Is (well, was in the before times) the Hub on Wheels in September, which isn't technically a race. It is still a lot of fun though, and it's excellent when they close Starrow to cars and many thousand of cyclists cruise along!

Didn't there used to be a Midnight Bike Ride of the Marathon route? I'm not a cyclist so I don't know the details, but I remember hearing about it. Is that still a thing?

This is definitely still a thing!

And a good, fatiguing time. Last time I did it (2016?), there were about 1000 cyclists.

just before the rescheduled Marathon.

Guessing 1973-75, Spring or Fall

Based on the leftmost cyclist having a set of SunTour bar-end shifters, also called "bar-cons".
Noting most of the bikes have high-flange front hubs, chromed fork ends, cotterless cranksets, toe clips with leather straps. Also noted most (except rightmost bike) have sidepull brakes, considered more modern then that the centerpull brakes on the rightmost bike.

Also noted all the cyclists have cleated bike shoes, and leather-hair-net "helmets"; not a Bell Helmet to be seen.

Race time could be spring or fall, with riders bundled in long sleeves or leggings. I'm leaning against a spring ride, as I see no evidence of snowmelt. Too bad there is no greenery in the photo, it might help set the time of year.


I think there are a few factors as to why bike races/rides aren’t as popular as local road races.

Bike races aren’t as inclusive as a 5K in the sense that you can have a competitive class in the front of your 5K and the rest of us who want to run socially in a large group of people or maybe PR but we’re still running 10min/mile and everyone has a a good time.

Bike races either you’re racing or your not - casual is for your Sunday morning bike shop group ride. The other thing about bike races is that many of them are criterium (crit) races that are multiple laps around a circuit, like Newton’s Wells Ave Crit. If you’re not riding with the pack in a race like this, you get lapped and become a hazard.

The other issue is real estate. A big organized bike event doesn’t have to be a race, it can be a ride such as the Hub on Wheels event (I think this is the one in October you may be thinking of). If you think about local road races, many are 5K, 5M, or 10K (10K = 6.1M). For a bike ride, a 6 mile ride would not be worth the time of most riders so you need bigger routes. The Hub on Wheels, iirc, has 3 route options at 10M, 25M, and 50M. That’s a lot of traffic details and support stations needed around the city.

And this is before we talk about the hard core charity bike rides like the Pan Mass Challenge and all that is needed to make such an event successful on both the organizers’ part and on the riders’ part.

is a mass group bike ride (not a race) held on a Sunday in September. It starts by taking over Storrow Drive and Soldiers Field Road. The Mayor's Cup race used to be the previous day, looping around City Hall Plaza, but hasn't happened in a number of years now.

Especially if you set up a relatively short crit style race, something like the BU to Longfellow to Storrow/Memorial Drive loop. Lots of public transport access, viewing areas, etc... 3 miles x 8 laps be a few hours of fun and then done.

Has been on a steep decline ever since Lance came "clean", though with a renewed interest during the pandemic, it might be on the verge of a renaissance.

That said, the major difficulty with running bike races these days is finding the $8k per cop per corner required.

I've never understood why there aren't more bike races

There ars lots of rides, just fewer races. Why? Because that's what people really want to do. Racing is hard - and dangerous when you get a bunch of rookies out there inexperienced in pack riding. Most people really just want an organized ride with a nice route - and beer after. The popularity of gravel rides is an indication of that.


In the 1970s, this was the kind of bike everyone wanted -- thin tires, turned-down handlebars, 10 speeds. But good helmets did not exist yet, and nobody wore them. Since some of these riders do have helmets, I'm going to say 1980s.


This pic is giving me BREAKING AWAY vibes - the movie from 1979 about a rag-tag townie cycling team from Indiana staring Dennis Quaid and Daniel Stern. So I am going to place the year at 80-82, somewhere in Southie.


I was thinking 1980's myself. I used to do a lot of cycling as a teenager in the 80's, and this looks close. I remember hard helmets becoming common in the second half of the 80's, so this is maybe more early-mid 80's. The bike equipment does look more like late 70's, although for some reason, the clothing strikes me as more 80-ish (not sure why), which is why I was thinking maybe people in the early 80's with equipment that's a couple years old. In any case, I'm probably just splitting hairs here. Something about the photo actually looks 90's to me, but the bikes look a bit old for that, unless they were deliberately using older bikes/equipment for some nostalgia-related reason. The b&w aspect can be deceiving in some photos, since many newspapers like the Globe didn't switch to color until the 2000's.

There is a too-fuzzy-to-read (for me) street sign for the side street (relative to the cyclists) in the upper-right corner, which looks like a two-part name, like Old Colony (although I don't think it's that, but the second part does looks like it starts with a "C" or "O"). Maybe someone with better photo manipulation skills than I can tweak it, to make-out the street sign. EDIT: Actually, now that I look at it, the sign may be one of those signs designating a square or something, not a street sign, but not sure.

Makes sense to use the helmets for dating purposes. These "hairnet" style helmets (which basically did nothing except kept your ears from being ground off as you slid along the pavement) had pretty much disappeared from the US market by the early '80s, replaced mostly by expanded polystyrene foam shells. So my guess is that this was taken in January 1977, and these guys are riders from the MIT Cycling Club.

They don't look like the early helmets, which were pretty big. These look minimal.

I got my first tolerable helmet in 1984 or so - A Bell Tourlite ordered from Bike Nashbar.

My husband sported something called a Skid Lid, which was probably better than nothing, but more like the underwear for a modern helmet. I think those guys are wearing something similar.

Here's an early ad for the Bell: http://bikeretrogrouch.blogspot.com/2015/03/vintage-helmet-ads.html

That is in front of South Boston High School, probably the early 1980's. The street behind the group is East Sixth Street, they are on G Street.


Those helmets look older than early 80s and by the mid 80s the cables would be running under the handlebar tape, not in the overbar loops like this.

in 2008 :)

Right in front of Southie High

To see an even earlier bicycle parade, take a look at Historic New England's photos of the 1896 Bicycle Parade:


Easiest one ever, Kenmore Square around 1983

there were no cell phones then

Or this is the annual meeting of the Greater Boston Nerd Cyclists Association.

I would argue that the cyclists in Lycra are the real nerds.

Is lycra itself nerdy, or only when worn by a cyclist? In other words, are all the football players wearing lycra also nerds? And all the runners, gymnasts, rock climbers, etc?

…in cotton boxers and cargo shorts and then talk to me.

Technical, sports-specific gear exists for a reason, and not just in cycling.

It's not necessarily the distance; it's more about the type of cycling. Road cyclists riding at high speeds tend to wear lycra. Bike touring folks put in a lot of mileage with loaded bikes and usually don't tend to. I'm not one to make fun of people's lycra like some non-racers are obsessed with doing (I see no reason to give that many fucks about things that work for others), but it's definitely not necessary, and some of us really prefer not to do the lycra thing.

When I do bike touring-type rides and it looks like I am wearing regular street clothes, I usually have Lycra shorts with a chamois underneath.

It's not an obsession for me, it's comfort. In normal clothes I get about 3 or 4 miles before the chafing is noticeable. Yes I could put some fashion cop approved shorts on top of my bike shorts but on a 90 degree day I'm just not that scared of being called a nerd.

I can ride about 10 miles in jeans, but certainly no further unless I have my liner shorts with the padding.

.... are and have always been bike lanes.

young Ron Newman?


About the only people shooting black & white photos in the 80's that I can remember were art school kids. (Hello, Ferranti Dege) So I'm wondering if this is an original or someone just digitally decolorized it to make it more antiquated than it really is. But looking at the cyclists, it's not implausible that they had art school kids in their cohort . .

Looks like Fisher ave and Bucknam street...

Thanks for playing, folks! This photo was taken in South Boston in March of 1973. The photo is only labeled "South Boston," but we are pretty sure (and many of you concur!) that this is front of South Boston High, at E 6th and G Streets.