— Mat Coes
Bicycles became a way to get around town as soon as they were introduced in the 1800s. Early proposals for bike paths to connect to the rest of Cape Cod date back to 1899.
Ever since, bicycles have become an integral part of the town’s persona. You can get everywhere in town on a bicycle (even the airport is on the bike trail and has a bike rack), and bicycles are allowed on all roads in town.
When the Cape Cod National Seashore was established in the 1960s, bicycle access was made a priority. In 1967, the Province Lands Bike Trail debuted as the first bike trail in a National Park.
The trail is a two-way scenic loop that winds up and down through the spectacular and otherworldly landscape of the Province Lands dunes.
In 1978, the state established its first designated bike route, MA-1, 125 miles from Boston to Provincetown. The route was named the Claire Saltonstall Memorial Bikeway in memory of the young woman who was killed by a motor vehicle while riding her bike in 1974.
The Cape Cod Commission developed revisions to the route in 2015 for submission to the state.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the route’s designation.
For over 40 years, Provincetown has welcomed numerous charity rides. Each year over 9,000 riders bike to town and bring along their friends, families, and supporters. These rides have raised over $600 million for national, regional, and local non-profits. Harbor to the Bay has raised over $4M for HIV care and the 2017 Pan-Mass Challenge raised a record $51M for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund.
Regular annual rides that finish in Provincetown include:
Pan-Mass Challenge »
Harbor to the Bay »
American Lung Association Autumn Escape »
Bike MS: Cape Cod Getaway »
The Last Gasp »
Wounded Warriors Soldier Ride »
The everyday nature of bicycles in Provincetown makes them a common subject in painting and photography.
You’ll see bicycles in all sorts of media beyond fine art in shops throughout town – on locally-made t-shirts, art tiles, posters, belts, blankets, ornaments, coloring books, and more.
Singer-songwriter Zoe Lewis immortalized an energetic summer bike ride on Commercial Street:
On my bicycle,
Tip of the land
Riding around on a pile of sand
In a dizzy July and August bliss
All I know is it doesn’t get better than this.
The song “Bicycle” was part of her 2011 original musical “Snail Road,” directed by Donna Drake and performed at the Art House Theater.
The town’s tourism slogan “You Belong Here” couldn’t be more appropriate. Nearly everyone rides a bicycle, so it’s far from out of the ordinary.
With just under 3,000 year-round residents, the bike fleets of the five local bike rental shops easily eclipse that number in the summer season. Adding in the bikes owned by residents and the thousands of summer visitors, riding a bicycle is the most popular mode of everyday transportation.