The well-timed and well-acronymed Tour de Frack, a two-week bike tour launched from Butler, Pa. (45 miles north of Pittsburgh) passes through Maryland this week before arriving in Washington D.C.
The Tour de Frack, a.k.a. the Freedom Ride for Community Awareness and Knowledge, is heading to the nation’s capital via the Great Allegheny Passage and C & O Towpath, stopping in rural towns along the way. It may be a coincidence, but Tour de Frack riders are pedaling to D.C. at the same time cyclists competing in the 99th Tour de France — certainly a different type of ride — race from the Alps to the Pyrenees to Paris.
A community bike ride celebrating the Tour de Frack, followed by a concert in partnership with Save Western Maryland, is scheduled for 6 p.m. July 19 at the Great Allegheny Passage trailhead in Frostburg. The tour reaches Cumberland on Friday. The bicyclists continue Saturday along the C & O into Hancock, Md. and then head through Williamsport, Md. on Sunday, where a rest stop is slotted from 3 -5 p.m. at the Desert Rose Café.
After that, the tour goes to Shepherdstown, WVa. and Leesburg, Va.
The 400-mile ride to Washington, where organizers will meet with elected officials, including Sen. Barbara Mikulski, is designed to raise awareness of the effects of the natural gas drilling process known as fracking in western Pennsylvania, western Maryland, and West Virginia communities. As they travel, bicyclists are gathering letters from residents impacted by gas drilling and fracking, according to the Cumberland Times-News. The ride concludes at the Stop the Frack Attack Rally on Capitol Hill July 28.
“We’re finding benzene and toluene — these are not things that were there before — also, naturally occurring elements like arsenic, and we are seeing an extraordinary number of people with arsenic poisoning,” Tour de Frack cyclist Jason Bell, of Butler County, told a Pittsburgh public radio station. The group is carrying jugs of brown "drinking" water from Butler to D.C.
The Tour de Frack website includes an online petition to Congress and President Obama to “Halt high-volume, slick water, hydraulic fracturing.”
In Maryland, Gov. Martin O’Malley has placed a moratorium on fracking.
Sponsors of the ride include Marcellus Shale Protest, PennEnvironment, the Sierra Club, Marcellus Outreach Butler, the Clean Water Fund, and the Chesapeake Action Climate Network, among others.