From left, Todd Balf, Paul Boudreau and Neil Stanton, members of the Bicycle Beverly Committee, have been working to set up tomorrow's Mayor's Ride.

BEVERLY — Todd Balf was riding his bike down Cabot Street, his groceries and even a newly purchased rug vacuum packed onto the back.

"I got crazy looks," he said.

Balf admits his cargo bike, with its long rear rack and side satchel bags, is a bit "funky." But at the same time, he and other bicycle enthusiasts are hoping the sight of bicycles on the streets of Beverly becomes so commonplace that it's no longer a subject of curiosity.

Tomorrow, the newly formed Bicycle Beverly Committee will host the inaugural Mayor's Ride, a three-mile bicycle ride from City Hall to Hospital Point and back that will include Mayor Bill Scanlon.

The purpose of the event is to call attention the new committee and its efforts to make Beverly a bike-friendly city.

"What we want people to come away with is, 'This is fun. This is a nice way to get around. I would do this again,'" said Balf, who lives on Lothrop Street. "Hopefully, it will make a difference in the way people think about it."

The Bicycle Beverly Committee formed this past winter, the latest outgrowth of the city's progression as a sort of hub of cycling. Beverly is home to four bike shops, a bike manufacturer, a popular bicycling club in Essex County Velo, and the Gran Prix of Beverly, an annual race through the downtown featuring some of the state's top riders.

Balf said many bicyclists come to Beverly to start their rides, with scenic Route 127 by the ocean one of the favorite routes. Bicycling also plays into the city's emphasis on development around the train depot and efforts to tie together Cabot Street, Rantoul Street and the waterfront.

"There's a lot of opportunity to knit the downtown together in a way that promotes walking and biking," Balf said. "The concept planners talk about are these livable streets, a kinder, gentler downtown with a mix of car traffic, bicycle traffic and pedestrian traffic. Everything is kind of slowed down a bit."

The city has taken some steps to become more bike-friendly, including the installation of bike racks at downtown parking meters. Balf said the city is expected to receive more grant money to put in bike racks at the Beverly pier, Independence Park, Dane Street Beach, Lynch Park, Dix Park and next to City Hall.

The committee also plans to partner with the Beverly Farmers Market on a program designed to promote riding to the market, and with Waring School on an event to collect used bikes that will be fixed up and given to low-income families in Boston and to community programs in developing countries.

Eventually, the committee would like to help develop a bike master plan that would feature a map of the best recreational and commuter routes in the city.

"Beverly is well-suited for recreational bikers and for commuting with all of the transportation infrastructure," said committee member Neil Stanton. "We just think it adds to the livability and the quality of life." While avid cyclists are certainly part of the mix, Balf and the bicycle committee say their aim is to encourage bicycling of any type, from commuting to running errands or riding around the block.

"They think of people in spandex and racing, and that's not who we are," Balf said. "We want to appeal to everybody that wants to get on their bike. That's why this event is important to us."

The Mayor's Ride will start at 2 p.m. at City Hall and travel past Beverly Common, Dane Street Beach and Lynch Park to Hospital Point on Bayview Avenue. The ride is a "guided, family-friendly" ride for all ages, the committee says. Experienced riders will serve as marshals at busy intersections, and refreshments will be served at City Hall.

"We want to build awareness and promote what a great city Beverly is and promote that it's fun to ride a bike," Stanton said.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or by email at pleighton@salemnews.com.

If you go

What: Mayor's Ride

When: Tomorrow, 2 p.m.

Where: Starts and ends at City Hall, 191 Cabot St.

Cost: Free; donations accepted on behalf of River House homeless shelter

More information: bicyclebeverly@yahoo.com

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