Tag Archives: boston

lonely commute

My new commute to work is a brisk 20 minutes door to door, and takes me right through the new bike boxes that I wrote about here. Sadly, it’s a lonely commute and I rarely see more than 1 or 2 other cyclists, if that, along this stretch. I’m not sure if it’s just because it’s an unusual direction to head in at 8:30 in the morning (away from, rather than towards, downtown) or if everyone else gets to work earlier than me. I hope it isn’t that Bostonians in these parts cycle less than their counterparts in Cambridge, although that could certainly be the case.

I’m also not quite sure what to make of my new neighborhood in terms of bike-friendliness yet. I see a fair number of bikes locked up around my neighborhood, but have yet to see many of them with riders. I did have a kind offer of help outside my door one day when my chain had fallen off, but also had a neighbor ask me crossly if I knew whose bike was locked up on a tree cage, which is apparently not allowed (I did not know the offender). So I guess that’s a draw in terms of bike-friendliness points for this neighborhood. I’ll have to see how things continue to pan out.

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Bike boxes for boston!

I was very excited to hear that Boston had recently unveiled bike boxes along a stretch of Commonwealth Ave.

These allow bikers to filter to the front of the line of traffic at a red light, making it easier to turn left or to avoid cars that are turning right when you want to go straight. I’ve found them very useful in other cities.

Along with the bike boxes, they’ve also added a bike lane. I was surprised to see that the bike lane was on the left side of the road. It felt very strange to ride on that side of traffic, but I suppose there was more room for it there than next to the line of parked cars.

I was grateful to have some space carved out for me, and can definitely say that it’s an improvement from the previous situation, which forced bikers to take up a whole lane next to the parked cars. There’s no more anxiety about dooring or the inevitable angry drivers that swerve around you at fast speeds. Double parking is also prevalent in this area, so it’s nice not to deal with that. However, there were some intersections where the bike lane switched from the left to the right side of the road, necessitating some awkward maneuvering. Maybe it wouldn’t seem so awkward given time.

When I stopped to take these pictures I got to observe some interesting bike-box behavior. Three bikers ignored the bike box and sped through the red light. The bright green paint seemed to send a clear message to the cars, though, which all stopped behind the bike box. Strangely, one biker did too. It seems that adapting to the bike boxes will be a longer process for bikers than for drivers, but I hope they start spreading to other parts of the city.

bikes vs. cars

Whenever I read an article about bike safety or bike accidents (which is sadly too often these days, after a couple of bad accidents in Boston), I promise myself I won’t read the comments section at the end. Of course, that’s a promise I never seem able to keep, and I end up getting ridiculously riled up myself. They’re inevitably filled with vitriol from both drivers and bikers. The “what do you expect?” attitude towards bikers is rampant, and the amount of incorrect information from drivers who seem to think that bikers have zero rights on the road is mind-boggling. Sometimes I think commenters must just be bored at work and trying to stir up a fight on the boston.com message board by taking the most extreme position possible. If they’re being sincere, I’m ready to move to Copenhagen. Just as soon as the volcanic ash clears up.

This rant of mine was prompted by an article about a bike safety summit that Mayor Menino will be holding tomorrow in the wake of recent accidents, to encourage “harmony between bikers and drivers.” I’ll be interested to see what comes out of the summit. If you click on the article link, just make sure you don’t read the comments.

playing with google

Since I found out about Google’s new bicycle directions, I’ve been mapping all of my favorite routes to see what they have to say. It’s been fun, and has even led me down some new streets (and alleyways).

I was happy to see that the second route they suggested I take to work is the one I’ve adopted already. I’ve experimented with a couple of the different options that are available to me and feel pretty strongly about my latest favorite, so the fact that they recommended it gave me more faith in their other suggestions.

Their first home-to-work route was closer to what I expected from them, and was geared towards bikers who want to avoid car traffic whenever possible. It included a long time spent on the Charles River Bike Path, which I never normally take, since speed is usually more important to me than scenery or getting away from the cars. On one of the many beautiful evenings this week, though, I took this route home for a change, inspired by their suggestion (or else I’m just a slave to Google). Over the course of the route I discovered a low-stress way to cut through Kenmore Square and enjoyed not having to worry about traffic so much. Unfortunately, I also remembered how much I dislike the Anderson Bridge into Harvard Square. It was fun, but I would never take this route on the way to work.

I also took Google’s advice for a route a rarely take through Back Bay, and was surprised when they suggested I cut through the Public Alley system. I decided to give it a try, but wouldn’t recommend it. These alleys may keep you out of the traffic, but they’re filled with messy pavement and broken glass, and would be dangerous at night. I also didn’t like the way I got spit out onto the sidewalk and then the street at the end of every block, probably surprising the pedestrians and cars travelling perpendicular to me and creating more of an accident risk. The fact that these would even be part of their network seems to suggest an impressive level of research, though, which should only get better as the feedback from users pours in.

Obviously I think their suggestions should be countered by common sense and may not always be best (and I think that personal riding preferences usually dictate how much a certain biker is going to like a particular route) but I’m very pleased to have this new resource to play with!

wishful thinking

It’s hard to believe it was just a week ago that I took these pictures after a long ride from Somerville to South Boston at the end of a gorgeous weekend. I’m going to ignore the wind and rain outside for now and just stare at these until it goes away.

lycra louts

I just learned this new expression for describing “rogue cyclists” who flout the rules of the road. It’s employed in serious articles in British newspapers, as I’ve discovered, and these louts seem to be considered a widespread menace in London. Saying it out loud still makes me laugh, but I’m glad we don’t seem to have an equivalent expression in Boston (or have I just missed it?).

“Lycra lout” behavior includes running red lights, biking on sidewalks, and biking the wrong way down one-way streets. This makes me wonder why there isn’t a similar outrage in this country (or at least this city) over cyclists who disobey traffic laws. There are certainly people who will be happy to tell you about all the “crazy bikers” they’ve witnessed from their car, but overall it seems like there’s no real expectation that those on bikes will obey traffic rules. Bostonians who tell these stories seem more amused than furious, unlike their counterparts in the British press.

Apparently fines for bicycle violations in London may be raised from £30 to £100, as £30 was considered too lenient. This is far higher than the $20 fine in Cambridge for bicycle violations, and I have yet to actually see anyone in Cambridge being stopped on their bicycle. In fact, a Boston traffic cop once laughed at me when I stopped at a red light. When I was in London in 2007, I once saw a cyclist chastised by a cop just for stopping in front of a “stop here” line at a red light, rather than behind it.

I’ve always been an advocate for vehicular cycling, but I often feel alone when others on bikes fly past me at red lights.

Now I wonder if the British are just generally more angered by rule-breaking than we are, or if these low expectations mean that cyclists are still too small a minority to be considered any real threat. Should I long for an American campaign against lycra louts, to prove that we’re capable of making an impact on the local psyche? Or is this just another indication that nothing good can come of wearing lycra?

the beginning

Winter in Boston [dislikes]:

  • Cold waits for buses and trains
  • Discovering that a seat on the T seat is no longer large enough for one small person, when everyone is covered in inches of down
  • Arriving home to a dark house, a huge gas bill

Winter in Boston [likes]:

  • 40 degree days arriving out of nowhere, getting me back on my bike
  • Remembering just how joyful biking can be after a couple months out of the saddle
  • Arriving home to leftover shepherd’s pie

And so I begin a long overdue love letter to my bike, in blog form…