On a crisp Sunday morning in October, hundreds of princesses, fairies and superheroes gathered on their bikes in Magnolia Park in Arlington, Mass., wielding bags full of candy and treats, ready to take off towards the trails and parks of Arlington, Belmont and Cambridge.
The third annual Halloween Family Bike Ride took place on Oct. 22 with a successful turnout.
Children and their families began the day by exchanging goodies, admiring costumes and decorating bikes. Afterward, some of those who were dressed up participated in a Halloween costume fashion show, which gave the riders a chance to show off their creative and festive looks.
Riding the wave of sugar and excitement, the bikers began a 2.9-mile route around the neighborhood at around 10:30 a.m. and headed down the Minuteman path, past the Alewife Brook Reservation to Clay Pit Pond. The participants ended their journey in Joey’s Park in Belmont for snacks and time to socialize with others who partook in the spooky adventure.
Paul Morgan, the lead organizer behind the event, described how they change the route every year to keep things new and exciting.
“Each year it’s in a different route [with] different start-to-finish locations,” Morgan said.
Morgan also leads family bike rides year-round in the neighborhood, with similar events occurring in the spring and summer. Morgan is motivated to address climate change by promoting biking for the fun of it through group bike rides, such as the annual Halloween family bike ride event.
Morgan explained the planning behind this year’s Halloween event.
“We have 35 to 40 volunteers that are keeping us and our riders safe on the route, and we really appreciate them,” Morgan stated. “Families really love having trick or treating in the morning because that’s when kids are at their highest energy, so [it] works out great for them.”
The giggles and chatter of children around Magnolia Park at the start of the day illustrated his point. One event volunteer interviewed at the site expressed how large this year’s Halloween family bike ride was.
“This is probably the biggest and most organized version of [the bike ride] I’ve seen,” they said.
The volunteer went on to emphasize how the program has grown over the years.
“[Paul] started wanting to have family bike rides, and it’s just grown and grown. … So it’s not just Somerville or Arlington or Cambridge, but it tends to be folks that live in and around these towns,” the volunteer added.
Jake Wilson, Somerville’s city councilor-at-large, participated as a volunteer marshall in a family bike ride in August. Donations covered all of the organizing costs of the event.
Wilson explained his role as a marshall in an email to the Belmont Select Board.
“My duties as a marshall included directing participant bike traffic and vehicle traffic at an intersection along the route,” he wrote. “The use of marshalls allowed the event to happen without necessitating police details. … Marshalls were given excellent instruction on how to perform our duties, and it all went off without a hitch.”
Wilson added that any initial concerns he had about the bike ride disappeared when he arrived at the event.
“This was my first experience with a Family Bike Ride, and I was blown away by the level of organization and the overall operation. I had been apprehensive going in about how my daughter, a novice cyclist, would fare as a participant. After seeing how it all came together that morning, I immediately had zero concerns about her,” he wrote.
At the end of the ride, there was a gathering in a public park in Boston where volunteers provided ice cream and activities.
“I was one of six volunteers who helped serve ice cream, while others helped with games and activities that were set up by the organizers. At the end, all trash from the event was picked up and the area was even cleaner than when I rode through the previous evening,” Wilson wrote.
In an email to the organizers, parent Katie Baratta wrote that she applauded Morgan’s attention to safety as she rode with her two-year-old child while eight-and-a-half months pregnant.
“I really appreciated Paul’s attention to detail in choosing the route to minimize conflicts with automobiles and in handling any remaining safety concerns along the route,” she wrote. “There were volunteers at key points and intersections to usher the families and promote visibility to motorists. There were flags and/or cones at locations where further visibility was needed.”
Baratta also described the joy of seeing so many kids in costume and how fun this opportunity was for the town. She explained that the bike ride helps support local businesses on the route as riders are able to stop and get food and drinks along the way.
“Many families in those communities rely on bicycles for a significant portion of (or all of their) transportation needs,” she wrote. “This ride would show these families how easily — and safely — they can get to Belmont Center on bicycle if they wanted to patronize establishments such as Ranc’s, A Chocolate Dream, the bookstore, and many of the other stores and eateries that Belmont parents and children already enjoy.”
The Halloween family bike ride event had a great impact on the surrounding communities and created lasting memories for its participants of all ages.