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!
Those locally may be equally cheered by an article I saw on Boston.com today about plans for the North Cambridge stretch of Mass Ave. Apparently, bike lanes and bike parking may be in the works, as well as trees and more retail space!
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?
Check out this post about a current debate in Cambridge over backyard chickens and ducks, and then visit the owners’ website to sign a petition to support the keeping of “a reasonable number of hens on residential property.”
This issue will be addressed by the Cambridge Zoning Board of Appeals this Thursday.