Volunteer Spotlight: Peter Cheung

BNB is proud to highlight Peter Cheung, a dedicated member of the BNB community, serving on our Board of Directors for 5 years. He has been a leader in multiple bike groups around the Boston area, including leading the Boston Bike Party for 10 years, and leading rides with Brothers on Bikes. We caught up with Peter to talk all about his biking journey!

How did you first learn about BNB, and how long have you been involved? 

My first involvement was volunteering for a container loading, I heard more about what BNB does and I thought the Earn-A-Bike program was really cool. I started coming to the shop, and became interested in being on the board. The more I learned about the community and the things that we do, I wanted to be involved and help out. I’ve been on the board for 5 years now. I serve on the strategic planning committee and the racial equity committee.

If people are looking to get more involved with bike advocacy, what’s your advice? 

Social media is often where you find out where rides are happening, where bike lanes are coming up, and where the problem areas are. I run a Facebook group called Bike and Ped advocates. We’re constantly advocating and posting infrastructure information, and meetings where people can show up to advocate. Another avenue is to volunteer: Bikes Not Bombs, the Boston Cyclists Union, LivableStreets, and MassBike all take volunteers.

Two men smiling for the camera, both showing a thumbs up and wearing cycling clothing.
Peter (right) at the 2023 Bike-A-Thon. Photo by Artemisia Luk.

You also started the Ghost Bike movement in Boston. Tell me more about that. 

In 2015, Marcia Deihl, who was an avid cyclist in Cambridge was killed riding her bike behind the Whole Foods on Putnam Ave, and I just had an idea that we should have a Ghost Bike. I found a bike mechanic and collector who I knew from Bike Party, and we made a Ghost Bike. Then, I was looking for someone to preside over the ceremony, and I was connected through BCU to Laura Everett. Together, we did our first ghost bike ceremony for Marcia Diehl in 2015. 

Since then, we’ve done about 25 ghost bikes. I get the bikes from BNB, and I strip and paint them, and Laura connects with the family. We want to respect their wishes. We would never get involved unless the family says it’s okay. The ceremony always takes place where the death occurred. The ghost bike is there to commemorate the cyclist that was killed, but it also turns an area that was violent into a sacred and holy place. Especially if it’s where the cyclist has passed. 

Sometimes elected officials come up to me and say “I've seen your work and I’m going to promote safer cycling”. That means a lot to me, because it means that the work I do is impactful and important. I would say 50-60% of where I’ve put a ghost bike have had infrastructure improvements done to it. 

Any advocacy efforts you’re working on now?

We are working on bike advocacy all the time. We focus on the high stress areas, and on the idea of connected, protected bike lanes. In JP, we’ve got the Emerald Necklace, Jamaica Pond, and the Riverway, but it doesn’t connect to the Esplanade, so the network is still broken. And a lot of black and brown areas south of Boston like Blue Hill Ave, and Dorchester Ave don’t even have a protected network to begin with. Sharrows aren’t safe. Door Zones aren’t safe. We want protected AND connected bike lanes. 

The new Mass Ave South was integral, especially after we fought so hard, and then it didn’t happen because of COVID. It helps that we now have a mayor and administration that supports bike lanes and infrastructure now, but the work you see now has taken many years. Our work now is for 5-6 years down the road. 

What are you most proud of in your work at BNB or in the bike advocacy community? 

Bringing people together for the love of bicycles. The cycling space, especially the athletic cycling space, is mostly white men with expensive bikes and gear. Brothers on Bikes is mostly men of color, and it's not about how much you spend on your bike or what kit you wear, it’s about riding your bike with like-minded people. 

One time, Boston Bike Party was part of a wedding! Eliza Dushku, star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, lives in Boston and loves Bike Party. She reached out to Bike party, and said, I want to have a bike party wedding. Secretly, during the wedding, she and her spouse, and some of their wedding party rode in Bike Party on pedicabs. Our route went past their ceremony location, they peeled off and we kept on going. Nobody knew, but afterwards we made it public and people were like “Oh my god!” The rest of the Bike Party riders had no idea.. 

So many people I know in the bike community have had their lives changed because of cycling. They’re healthier, the community, the independence, even learning bike mechanics and how liberating it can be to say “wow I changed a flat!” The work we do is for everyone, ages 8-80. I do it for the love of the bike community. If you’re a bike person, I feel a connection to you. 

What’s the last ride you went on?

On October 8th, I participated in the Henry Ar Foon ride to Cohasset and Hull, organized by the New England Cycling Diversity Group. Henry Ar Foon was an Asian-American cyclist back in the 1880s who led group rides. For me being Asian-American also, it meant something to be on that ride. I did the ride with Brothers on Bikes and Women on Wheels, it was a lot of fun!