Thursday, July 8, 2010

On the Other Side

The Charles River divides Cambridge on the N-NW side (left bank) from Boston on the S-SE side.  There are parallel multi-purpose  paths on each side, and an arterial multi-lane road on each side.  There are 9 bridges in the 5 miles or so of  the "lower Charles":   From Ocean inward:  Museum of Science bridge,  Longfellow, Mass Ave (for some reason called the Harvard Bridge),  the BU bridge,  River street, Western Ave, Larz Anderson (footbridge)  JFK,  and Elliot.

There's a popular map of running loops with the milage of loops from bridge to bridge,  and back in my running days I did loops and combos along both sides of the river depending on the milage I had scheduled, but these days I almost exclusively ride on the Cambridge side, partly because my destinations are on that side, and partly because it's a tiny bit shorter because of the curvature and shape of the river.

Tonight though I decided to take the "long way" home.  My first challenge was to get on the path.  Because the arterial that goes along that side of the river is limited access, the only way across is by one of the footbridges, which are somewhat steep, and pretty tightly turning, which make them tough, but not impossible to ride up.
At the base of the footbridge is a public sailing club called community boating.  For a reasonable fee anyone can join and learn to sail, or just take a boat out.  Unfortunately the boats can't pass under the bridges, so you're limited to the largish, widest part of the river, called the Lagoon.

 Gilbert admiring the boats

There's a little island, joined to the "mainland" by three or four bridges.  

This carved bench sits at the first bridge,  right next to the Hatch shell where the Pops and other outdoor concerts are held

Winged lion foot.

There's a path on the island, which is full of joggers, lovers and dog walkers, but the bike "throughway is shunted off to the edge of the 6 lane road.

Should have stayed on the island.

  As the island and "mainland touch, there's a little channel with lillypads.  I wonder if there are frogs to sit on them and sing?

After about BU, the path gets a bit tougher-
There's a lot of raw infrastructure- flyovers, and overpasses and bridges over bridges.  Some of which is quite lovely in a post-industrial way.

At the BU bridge, you can have an airplane above a car above a train above a bike.

  But this is pretty much why I normally take the Cambridge side-  it's not much fun riding along a 6' wide path with a fence on the breakwater on one side and a jersey barrier and 6 lanes of traffic on the other side.

After that things get a little more picturesque

The Larz Anderson Footbridge.

The Harvard rowing club.  I should do a whole post on this building-  it looks like brick, but is covered in red slate shingles.

And then I was home!


  1. I ride the Boston side every day (from River to Dartmouth/Arlington) - but I intend to check out the alternate path to my work by South Station via the Longfellow (and thus the Cambridge side soon). I don't like the Cambridge side because it just feels rougher to me - the blocks on of the sidewalk have a ke-clunk-ke-clunk pattern that annoys me.

    Also, pardon me for finger-wagging, the _foot_bridges are for pedestrian use only; most of them have signs saying to walk bikes. I wish they were designed for riding - but they don't seem to be (especially the Arthur Fiedler with its 4 hairpin blind corners). The signage is inconsistent and largely ignored however.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing that ride in photos! I have a friend visiting Boston as I write - they are feeling the heat almost as much there as we do in Houston.

    :) Laura

  3. lovely pictorial of the "Boston" side of the CRBP... I tend to like that side better simply because there are not as many stops and starts due to car cross-traffic as there is on the Cambridge side.

  4. odd, I don't ride the river that often, but when I do, I tend to prefer the Boston side because I find the Mem Drive side to be too narrow and crowded. The Esplanade feels like a genuine multi-use pathway, but the Mem Drive path feels like a sidewalk that's been split between pedestrians and cyclists, even more so when one passes MIT and enters Kendall Sq with that awfully tight little sidewalk between Mem Drive and the water. I agree that the sidewalk between the BU dock and Western Ave. is not ideal either, but it somehow has never been as crowded for me as the MIT section of Mem Drive was.

    I'm not a fan of using the footbridges either, and normally when I want to ride the Esplanade, I'll usually come in via North Station and join up at the base of the Museum of Science bridge.

    It's nice to ride along the Esplanade in early spring when the cherry blossoms bloom and scatter along your path.

  5. @cris - the cherry blossoms drifing across one's path is sooo lovely. I can imagine I'm in some odd anime: Baiku Raideru- Shuuino Burizu.

  6. cycler, those photos of the boston side of the river are so nice, that i'm going to take the boston side of the path on an extended ride home tonight.