(photo courtesy of Irene Lutts)
Meet Irene Lutts. A founding member of Quincycles — a bike advocacy organization in Quincy, Massachusetts — she recently got to know her hometown in a whole new way. Irene had raised money and committed to riding this year in Bostreal (a 400-mile fundraising bike ride from Boston to Montreal to benefit the Boston Cyclists Union), but it was cancelled due to COVID-19, so she found another way to honor those who supported her by riding every single street in Quincy. She ended up totaling more than 425 miles. Irene shared her stats each day, along with photos of her fun and motivational finds. You may enjoy reading this local article about her accomplishment*. Irene told me:
“I got to see the unique spaces people make within our community and discovered a koi pond, a dolphin statue, homemade rice paddies, and a rock garden that looks like a mountain range. I even finally saw the grave of the guy who invented the doughnut!”
Although Irene took this opportunity to change up her regular routes, this take-it-slow focus while bike riding is not new to her. Irene and her husband went car-free when their son was a toddler and she was pregnant with her now-teenage daughter. They’ve been mixing bikes, transit, and occasional shared-car use ever since, starting with an Xtracycle** (pictured below).
“We named our bike Lyle after the crocodile in the book Lyle, Lyle Crocodile because he made every one smile.”
The family used a mini on the front and a maxi on the back, with a bike trailer in winter months. Next came a family triple when the kids got big enough. Now, her son is mostly independent, combining bike riding and transit, and Irene often rides a tandem with her daughter.
In addition to serving as the President of Quincycles and a League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor, Irene serves on the City of Quincy’s Mayor’s Bicycle Commission and helps advise and advocate for more and safer opportunities for people on bikes in the city. In addition to an annual event named Cranksgiving where a group of bike riders visit area supermarkets to purchase food pantry donations for Thanksgiving, as well as other regularly-scheduled rides and classes, Quincycles hosts a frequent social ride where about 50% of participants consistently are women. Maybe that’s because Irene makes it clear how welcoming-to-all these rides are when newcomers call to ask what the speed will be. She replies to them:
“We ride slow and talk a lot.”
The bureaucratic pace of change is slow, too, however, and that can get frustrating to Irene. She has a metaphor that helps her embrace it, which she shared with me:
“I’m a knitter. And as a knitter, tiny actions add up. You do something over and over and then you have a scarf. So, as bike riders, we just keep pedaling and collaborating, And it adds up.”
Yes, Irene crocheted the google eyes on her bike helmet in the photo above. And yes, the actions that Irene takes to help move Quincy forward are adding up as well.
Fun fact: Trained in ballet, Irene has been a dance collaborator throughout Boston for years. The name of the troupe with which she’s currently associated? Public Displays of Motion.
* I got sentimental when I heard about Irene riding every street where she lives because there’s a story about my dad doing that in my book, Traveling at the Speed of Bike.
** If you haven’t seen the new documentary Motherlode yet, do yourself a favor, whether or not you have kids or have any intention of riding bikes with kids. I saw it at a public screening in Piedmont Park last fall (back when we did such things) and I laughed, cried, cheered, and have been thinking about it ever since. It is sooooo ridiculously good. (You can see the trailer here.)
Tap in every day in August for my “You Go, Girl” series showcasing 31 Women in 31 Days who are making it more welcoming to ride bikes in the USA. If interested, you may enjoy my book, Traveling at the Speed of Bike. All proceeds from the sale of my book help more women and girls ride bikes.
The complete series:
10. Meet Irene Lutts
14. Meet Jenn Dice
28. Meet Megan Ramey
30. Meet Aly Nicklas