Remembering Bobby Mac (1949–2014)

– Jack Johnson, ABAC co-founder and board member

March 28, 2014

Bobby Mac passed away on March 23, 2014, from pancreatic cancer — less than a month after he was diagnosed. His given name was Robert McMurray, but nobody called him that — he was always Bobby Mac.

Bobby was legally blind and couldn't pass the vision test to drive a car. But that didn't stop him from riding a bike and leading popular training rides from Quad Cycles out of Arlington, although it wasn't always easy. He often needed to ride behind another cyclist to navigate safely. Several years ago, Bobby was knocked off his bike when he hit a fallen tree branch that he couldn't see in the road. Last fall, his vision declined even more, and he was mostly confined to riding in back of a tandem with his best cycling buddy, Johnny H. Those were the toughest rides he ever did, Bobby said. On his bike, Bobby Mac was a natural leader, so pedaling and balancing in back of a tandem was not his style.

Bobby Mac was one of those larger-than-life people, and he was always so relentlessly irrepressible that it's hard to believe that something like cancer could ever kill him. A natural bike advocate, he would start off by telling his story of how the Minuteman Bikeway saved his life. He went from overweight 300 pounds and unable to ride much more than a mile on the bike path to doing long-distance charity rides and sharing the joy of bicycling with everyone he encountered. One Arlington friend recalled that Bobby was a "generous and friendly man — with just enough crazy in the mix to keep it unpredictable and interesting."

Bobby Mac lived in Arlington and although he was never an official member of ABAC, he would often bake cookies and brownies to bring to our social events. And he was always a great bike-tour marshal. His big voice was as loud as a bullhorn, and he wasn't shy about calling out orders on a group ride. "Keep right, single up, let the cars pass," he would shout out. "Slow down and smile, say hi to the nice folks on the path!"

On the backroads of Carlisle and Concord, where there are often more bikes than cars on summer weekends, roadway intersections are marked-up with so many bike-route hieroglyphs that it's impossible to tell them apart. But Bobby's group-ride pavement markings always stood out — huge yellow arrows several feet long so that he could see them while riding. And for sure, nobody else could miss them either!

When you're out riding around Bobby Mac's beloved cycling territory (through Arlington, Lexington, Bedford, Carlisle, Concord, and beyond) and you see those big yellow arrows on the pavement, you will know that you're on the right road — and that Bobby Mac is still guiding the way as only he could.

Ride On, Bobby Mac, RIDE ON!