Editorials

editorial

Midnight Marathon bike ride: Civic spirit on two wheels

If anything, the popularity of a midnight bike ride along the course of the Boston Marathon is a reason to keep doing the event, not to discontinue it.

The unofficial ride on the eve of the Marathon had attracted a growing following, so much so that, in an inspired decision, the MBTA started providing a special commuter rail train to serve riders; it brought 700 participants to Hopkinton last year. But some officials in communities along the route view the Midnight Marathon bike ride as a disruption — and, perhaps, as one more security challenge amid an atmosphere of heightened concern. This year, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and the Boston Athletic Association, which runs the Marathon, made their opposition known, and the special train is no more. Even so, organizers still hope to continue the bike ride, which occurs on public roadways that are open to all vehicles. Authorities should work with the organizers to avoid any hiccups and keep the event going safely.

The possibility that a bike accident somewhere along the route could interfere with Marathon preparations seems remote but shouldn’t be dismissed entirely. Still, with or without a bike ride, communities along the route must be prepared for the possibility of accidents along the course before it closes to traffic, so a bike event shouldn’t command additional resources. Besides, in bicycling, there’s generally safety in numbers, so an organized ride may present fewer risks than if cyclists take to the course independently.

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Organizers of the bike ride, which attracted 1,000 to 1,500 riders last year, have sought to allay any concerns in a nuts-and-bolts way, suggesting that, if the MBTA ran a train, it would divert riders from the Marathon starting area. Indeed, giving Marathon organizers and security personnel enough breathing room in Hopkinton should be part of this year’s midnight ride no matter what. Regardless, the T should reconsider its stance, as should Marathon organizers and public-safety officials. The public spirit evident in events like the midnight ride is a civic asset. It’s not something that authorities should discourage.