Group pedaling from Northampton to Washington for People’s Climate March



Published: 04-20-2017 10:43 PM

NORTHAMPTON — When scientists talk dire impacts of climate change in say 2050, or 2100, the far-away dates can be hard to put into perspective. For Peter Ives, the problem does not seem so distant. He thinks of his 2-year-old granddaughter Ila.

“I realized that in 2050 my granddaughter Ila will only be 35 years old,” said Ives, 74, of Northampton.

On Friday, Ives and eight others will embark on an eight-day cycling trip to Washington, D.C., where the group will join the People’s Climate March, which coincides with the 100th day of the Donald Trump presidency on April 29.

The 10 cyclists depart Northampton at 8 a.m. Friday from the parking lot of WHMP, 15 Hampton Ave.

The bikes, the riders say, symbolize a belief that carbon-free modes of transportation will be commonplace in the future.

“When I drive a car I think it’s ridiculous that I’m moving a 4,000-pound piece of steel around with me,” said Thomas Crowe, 24, of Northampton. “It’s just ludicrous.”

The magic of the bicycle?

“The bike is the only vehicle that can transport people a great distance that doesn’t require fossil fuels,” Ives said. “It’s totally run on carbohydrates.”

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To be fair, the group is biking down the East Coast Greenway — but with the assistance of a rental van that will carry some supplies and help the cyclists navigate New York City, Baltimore and D.C.

Along the way, the riders will hand out fliers advertising the ride and telling people why they are riding. Ives, the former pastor at First Churches of Northampton, is set to give a sermon in New Haven, Connecticut.

Planning for the trip started in December, said the Rev. Andrea Ayvazian, pastor at Haydenville Congregational Church.

“Everybody was enthusiastic and understood the significance of getting to the climate-change rally on our own steam and with our own bodies,” she said. “It’s hard to believe we’re leaving tomorrow. We’ve been talking about this for so long and were leaving in the morning.”

Members have been training. Ayvazian has pedaled around town consistently since February, she said.

“I’ve actually been out on the road dodging ice patches and snowbanks since February — unless it’s been literally snowing,” she said.

One rider, Dineen O’Rourke, 21, a senior at Hampshire College, has experience with long bike rides lobbying against the fossil fuel industry.

During the summer of 2015, she and others with Climate Summer biked from New Hampshire over to New York state, then across Massachusetts to the North Shore of Boston, raising awareness against the proposed Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline.

“It’s not often communities can defeat multimillion-dollar corporations like Kinder Morgan,” she said.

On April 20, 2016, the company announced it would pull plans for the project, saying it did not have commitments from big customers; but the project also faced stiff headwinds from the public.

The first stop for this group is Bloomfield, Connecticut. They will travel through New Haven, south to Princeton, New Jersey, Philadephia, Annapolis, Maryland, and finally the nation’s capital.

That’s eight days worth of cycling, and dozens of miles a day.

“I’m 65, so I have no business getting on a bike and heading toward Washington, D.C.,” Ayvazian said. “I’m very slow but I’m choosing to believe I’m slow and steady. We’ll see.”

The participants, besides Ayvazian, Ives, Crowe and O’Rourke are Dan Cottle, Ed Lennihan, Alex Risley Schroeder, John Risley, Sara Weinberger and Chia Collins. Kathy O’Connor will be manning the rental van.

Jack Suntrup can be reached at