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Katie McQuaid's Scene in Manchester: Manchester celebrates Bike to Work Week


Getting around Manchester by bicycle has never been easier or more fun. We now have a few designated on-street bike lanes, a growing number of artfully designed bike racks, and a beautiful pedestrian/bicycle path that can take us all the way to Goffstown.

Groups like Bike Manchester are advocating for bicycle safety, and the QC Bike Collective, which can help you keep your bike in working order, has its first paid employee.

It’s cause for celebration. So this week, Bike Manchester and the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission are highlighting National Bike to Work Week with some fun events and perks just for bike commuters. Tonight is a Bike Manchester meetup from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Stark Brewing Company (formerly Milly’s Tavern). There will be half-priced beers and Mayor Ted Gatsas will proclaim Bike to Work Week in Manchester.

All week, the Manchester Transit Authority is offering free bus rides to bicyclists who use the bus bike racks. A hands-on demonstration of how to use the racks will be held at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday night, at Veterans Park. On Friday, bicycle commuters are invited to visit a refreshment stand in City Hall Plaza for free coffee and breakfast treats from 8 to 9 a.m.

I must admit, I am feeling a little left out. I still don’t own a bike, and even if I did, I don’t understand how people can bike to work. Where do they put all their stuff?

Heath Auger, who bikes from his home in the North End to his job at the Manchester Transit Authority, said there are lots of ways to carry belongings on bikes, including backpacks, bike baskets, and other attachments. His daily commute up and down Chestnut and Elm streets has opened Auger’s eyes to many businesses that he wouldn’t normally patronize. He never liked going downtown, he said, because it is too difficult to park. Now he goes there often.

Auger is what I call a hardcore biker. He bikes all year long, in all kinds of weather, and will only “borrow” the car from his wife in extreme situations. He said we are all going to have to adapt to living without fossil fuels eventually, so he is starting now. Another hardcore biker, Deborah Belanger, bikes the 22-mile roundtrip commute from Manchester to her teaching job at Merrimack High School as much as possible. She said biking 11 miles isn’t as difficult as it sounds. (Of course it wouldn’t be for Belanger, who ran in a 200-mile relay race over the weekend and is currently training for the Marine Corps Marathon.)

“Eleven miles is nice for getting to work. I get 45 minutes of cardio before and after work and I have more energy and enthusiasm throughout the day than I normally would if I drove in. And I get five miles on a back road where I see chickens, hear the quiet, and never once get stuck in traffic,” Belanger wrote to the Scene. “Also, I think it sets a good example for my students. They think 11 miles is pretty far to bike before school but maybe someday they’ll see that it really isn’t and take up the habit.”

But you don’t have to be extreme bikers like Auger and Belanger to participate in Bike to Work Week. April Adams is more of a fair-weather biker. She bikes the mile from her apartment to her Pickering Building business — The Retreat on Elm — on warm and sunny days. She carries what she needs in a basket or backpack.

“I am far from hardcore,” she said, but plans on biking to work next week if it works with her schedule and the weather cooperates.

Auger, who is treasurer and a founding member of Bike Manchester, said he does notice an uptick in the number of people riding bicycles around Manchester, even in bad weather. But, he said, the city still has a lot to do to make it safe to ride. Novice riders need to be aware of their surroundings, he said, and they should bone up on bike safety and the rules of the road, which can be found under the Manchester Cycling 101 tab at bikemht.com.

If you are interested in helping to make Manchester even more bike-friendly, Bike Manchester is participating in the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Project on May 21 and 24 to help gather data on the number of bicyclists using city streets and where they ride. Sign up to volunteer at bikemht.com.

NH365.ORG Event of the Week

Manchester High School Central’s drama students will perform the largest musical theater production the school has seen in at least a decade.

“Godspell” will be performed Thursday and Friday, May 19 and 20, at 6:30 p.m. in the school’s McAllister Auditorium.

Director Dan Pelletier said a large donation was made to the Central Community Players — a joint venture of Central and the Palace Theatre — with the stipulation that it be used to produce a major Broadway performance at the school.

“The kids are very excited about the show,” said Pelletier, who has directed several performances of the Central Community Players and the Central Maskers drama club. “We’re really trying to expand the theater program.”

The Palace Theatre, he said, provided guidance with choreography and access to set pieces, costumes and props. Pelletier, who works part-time at the Palace, said he has loved directing at Central, and McAllister Auditorium is one of the nicest high school theaters in New Hampshire.

“To me, the hall at Central is just as nice on a technical scale as the Palace,” he said.

I love hearing wonderful news about our city’s high schools, and if many people come out to support this production, we can expect more next year. Tickets for “Godspell” are $10, or $5 for students. They can be purchased at the door. Information on this and many more theater productions in and around the city can be found at www.NH365.org.



If you have an interesting item for Scene in Manchester, write to Scene@UnionLeader.com.


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