By Melissa Tula
Westborough – When gas prices rose dramatically in 2005, Ellen Gogul of Westborough, always an avid cyclist, decided not to give any more money to oil companies and began riding her bike whenever possible instead. On almost any given day, Gogul can be seen riding through town on her way to the post office, heading towards Mount Wachusett on a cool morning or riding with a group of cyclists through the streets of Boston.
A member of MassBike since the early 1980s and on the Board of Directors from January 2007 to December 2010, Gogul believes in cycling as a way of life. As a contributor to the development of the MassBike mission statement, Gogul encourages bicycling for “fun, fitness and transportation.”
In order to devote more time to her grant development and fund-raising consulting practice, Grants & More, Gogul stepped down from the MassBike Board of Directors in December 2010, but remains an active member. Besides helping with the mission statement, during her time on the board, Gogul organized fund-raising dinners and auctions and wrote grants on the group's behalf.
The organization has over 2,000 members and has chapters in Boston, the Cape and Islands, and the Pioneer Valley. MassBike promotes a bicycle-friendly environment and has also played a major part in safely incorporating bicycles as a means of everyday transportation.
“I joined MassBike when I heard they were responsible for making it possible to bring bikes on the T,” Gogul said. “I wanted to ride my bike in Boston, and now I could.”
As for the safety aspect, the coalition fought for the Bicyclist Safety Bill Law, which finally passed after eight years and four legislative sessions. MassBike played a central role throughout the history of the bill, from drafting the language, to lobbying for its passage and the successful 2006 effort that ended in a veto, and now a law. Among the many changes the new law makes are: police are now trained on bicycle law and dangerous behavior by bicyclists and motorists; the explanation of how a motorist should safely pass a bicycle and how a motorist should safely make a turn in front of a bicycle; “dooring” (opening a car door into the path of a bicycle or other vehicle) is subject to ticket and fine; permitting bicyclists to ride two abreast when it does not impede cars from passing; and legal protections for bicyclists who choose to ride to pass vehicles on the right.
On a local level, Gogul plays her part by practicing bike safety every day and being a role model for fellow cyclists. In addition to MassBike, Gogul belongs to the Charles River Wheelmen, a Boston-based cycling club and closer to home, the Nashoba Valley Peddlers. She rides every weekend, weather permitting, and several nights a week. Gogul said she also participates in one or two 100-mile rides throughout the year.
Gogul would like other bike-riders to look into joining MassBike.
“I encourage anyone who rides to join [MassBike],” she said. “I feel so strongly about it because they are the ones who are watching out for me on the road.”
More information on MassBike can be found at www.massbike.org.