Monday, February 28, 2011

Do you bike the Anderson Bridge?

If so you might be interested in the public meeting on Wednesday March 2nd to discuss the options and what is planned for its reconstruction.  There will be a site walk at 4pm  and then a public information meeting at 6:30 PM at the MLK school at 100 Putnam ave, Cambridge.   The info notice I got said the site walk was at 4pm,  but others are telling me 4:30-  if you plan on going you might want to contact Mass DOT  directly to confirm.   More information on the project here.

The good news is that they're planning on reducing the bridge to three auto lanes to make space for bike lanes each way.  The bad news is that they're considering taking about 1' out of the sidewalks on each side.

Come suggest that the traffic lanes could remain 10' instead of 10'6"  (they're 10" on the JFK street side of the bridge after all)  and preserve the nice sidewalks that are often packed with pedestrians.
Narrower lanes aren't necessarily a bad thing, as they tends to calm traffic.

I hear some rumors about the City of Cambridge possibly creating a three lane/ bike lane corridor all the way into Harvard sq,  which would be incredible.   There's such a nice bike lane along much of North Harvard Street,  which doesn't currently connect to Harvard sq,  and there's such a demand for people coming from brighton and Allston into the square.  Not finalized yet, but cross your fingers for the future.  

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Around Harvard Sq

I've seen lots of unusual bikes around Harvard sq in the last week or so- most excitingly a petite Nihola cargo trike.  Looks more suitable for a dense area without dedicated bike parking than others I've seen.  The kid area might be pretty cramped for more than one kid through

This  bike has some DIY hand fairings. Hope they're useful because they don't do much for the looks of the bike!  Don't see a lot of recumbents around here- I would guess that the issues with starting and stopping in traffic and the lower visibility would make them less than ideal in the city unless you really had a hard time riding an upright..

And this "freak bike."  This orange is very eye catching, and it looks like it was wrapped in tape or something before painting.  The fact that it's seatless makes me think it's more art project then transportation.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Low Tide

The snow is receding, and its leaving a band of detritus to mark where it used to be- it feels like the tide has receded, leaving flotsom and jetsom and strange snow caves:

Let's hope it doesn't come back any time soon!

Tons of bikers out in this February thaw. I think there have been lots of cooped up people itching to ride.  It's not spring yet, but it feels like we can see it from here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

King of the Hill!

A very proud fixie outside of Darwin's (a kind of hipster grocery/ sandwich bar).

The snowbank was taller than Gilbert-about 4'6"

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Time is running out!

If you know anyone who has been storing their bike on Mass Ave for the winter, they might think about checking on them- the bike cleanup folks have been going up and down tagging derelict looking bikes as they emerge from the snowbanks.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Last minute notice-strike that!

Evidently my reading comprehension skills have been aversely affected by PVC solvent fumes from the kitchen.  The Western Ave meeting is MARCH 15.  I showed up and was confused, until Google showed me that the meeting was not  for another month.

If you're interested- you have plenty of time to make plans to be there!

Another public meeting on the design of the Western Ave Cycle Track in Cambridge tonight- March 15th- 7 Pm at the Senior Center on Mass Ave in Central Square.  More info HERE

I didn't go to the open house on Sunday (despite free food- a nice touch to try to get more community participation) because I was getting sick,  but I believe they are supposed to have developed the design another layer to get more information about intersection design, which is going to be critical here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

oooooh Baby!

For Valentine's Day I gave my sweetheart a long hot bath, scrubbing every inch of him.
Then I rubbed him dry with  big fluffy towel, making sure every bit of him was  dry.
I gave him a nice slow rubdown with polish, pumped up his tires, and added a bit of oil to his chain.

Hope I didn't make The Scientist jealous!
It's really nice to have a nice clean bike!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Which came first, maintained facilities or the Riders?

Thursday night I went to a meeting of the Cambridge Parking and Transportation Committee about Snow removal issues.  Someone from DPW spoke about what they're doing,  and someone from Parking Enforcement spoke too.  Most of the public comments were from the Cambridge Committee for Persons with Disabilities,  and it was really wrenching.  People with disabilities have it much harder off then bikers in this kind of weather-  It's hard enough to negotiate the snowy, icy sidewalks without a disability,  imagine if you were blind, used a cane or a wheelchair!  

 My comments to the committee were that I understand that this is an exceptional year, and that they can't clear every bike lane, but I wondered if they could coordinate with the bike committee to determine the most used bike lanes and prioritize clearing those first- just like they prioritize snow routes for plowing for cars.

 The chair of the committee is  biker too-  he left by folder when I was getting Gilbert out of the snowbank in which I had locked him.  He did seem a bit like an old skool VC-  telling me my shoes (chunky heeled mary janes)  weren't appropriate bicycle footwear and donning layers of fluoro gortex before setting out on a dry mid-20's evening.

The most disappointing part of the evening was when the head of DPW told me after the meeting that in her opinion the safest place for bikers in the winter was the traffic lane.  If only we could get all the cars to recognize that!  I had a really close pass on Thursday morning where I was in the middle of a lane that had been reduced to about 5' by cars parked next to a snowbank, and a Masshole decided that he'd try to squeeze through the gap beween the other cars and me. His mirror just missed my handlebars. Grrr.  And yes, I got his license plate and will report him to the RMV, for whatever good it will do.  I have a nice photo of him flipping me off at the stoplight where I caught up to him and took his photo!

I think that Cambridge has been really successful in building a community of people who rely on biking for their primary transportation, so we now have a responsibility to ensure that they still have a means to get around even in the winter.   If we want to build year round ridership I don't think we can do it with the current attitude.  Eventually we will have to realize that there is a large percentage of riders who count on facilities.  It's a bit of a chicken and the egg problem.  The city doesn't feel that they need to maintain facilities because "no one rides in the winter"  but a lot of people DO ride, and there are even more who would ride if they had a well maintained space on the road.  It will be interesting to see at what point will there be enough momentum in the community (the people I see biking past my window) that we can start to demand better care of those facilities year round.  If we can prove that indeed lots of people still bike in the winter, will that convince Cambridge that they need to maintain facilities though the winter?   

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hard to see that we're adding value

Sorry for the lapse in posting,  we've started our kitchen renovation, and between taking care of last minute details and the entire first floor either being a construction zone or a storage space for all our kitchen stuff,  it's been tough to sit somewhere and blog.
Some vignettes from the week:

I did get to ride every day this week except for Tuesday.  Tuesday was a little nasty- spitting a "wintry mix" of rain and snow, but I mostly didn't ride because they started the demo, and I was doing some last minute packing,  talking to the contractor, and was running so late that I got a ride with the Scientist to the train.
Despite the wintry weather I saw 13!!! bikers between Harvard Sq and Kendall where he dropped me off.   And people say that "no one" bikes in the winter.  I want to take a video of all the people who still ride by my house, despite the bike lane being snow storage- it's not just the hardcore tech geared hardcore folks you might expect - lots of women, people dressed in "normal" clothes,  citizen cyclists getting where they need to go, and going by bike despite it being winter.

I went to a Livable Streets Advocacy Committee meeting on Monday,  and it was so nice to spend time with other people committed to public transit and active transportation.  It's really energizing to brainstorm with other advocates - getting excited about projects to try to make Cambridge and Boston even better places to bike.    A funny note- I rode from work to home, let the dog out and then hopped back on my bike to get to the meeting.  I was halfway there before I realized that I had forgotten my helmet at home.  I was super defensive riding through Central Square without it, but I think it was interesting that I'm so used to having it on, that I didn't really register not having it on.

One of the projects that the committee is working on that I think anyone could contribute to, is collecting information and photos of snow choked roads.  I know that a fair bit has melted already, but if you have photos of snow on bike lanes, pedestrian crossings etc,  you are invited to post them to a special flikr group here.  Although the reduction in facilities is sometimes annoying, it's an interesting experiment in what would happen if 1) lanes were narrower and corners were all necked out, 2) there was less parking.
Maybe if lanes were less than 10' the world wouldn't end- people would just go a bit slower and we would all be a little safer!

I'll close with a photo of the kitchen demo:  I had a client once who was starting a year long gut renovation of a historic house in an expensive neighborhood.  As he walked through the skeleton of the house that he'd recently paid a lot of money for, he said "it's hard to see how we're adding value here."   It's a bit tough to see right now, but hopefully it will all come out OK in the end!

Monday, February 7, 2011

That feeling

You know that feeling you get when you've been driving uphill and all of a sudden your ears pop and you can hear more clearly?   You weren't necessarily uncomfortable,  but as soon as they pop you feel so much better?

That's how I felt at lunch when I got on my bike for the first time in almost a week-  It just felt so right - hip angle to knee, push to pedal under the ball of my foot.

I wasn't necessarily uncomfortable, but I feel so much better now!

I'm pretending that we're not actually going to get snow tomorrow.....

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What I need

I clearly need one of these bicycle powered snow plows:   Dad, are you reading?

h/t to Grist where there's a cool article about bike powered snow removal and the obligatory homage to the wonders of Copenhagen bike infrastructure

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Entitled parking behaviour

There's been a lot of back and forth in Boston advocacy circles about the importance of plowing bike lanes, and the  feeling that the general use of bike lanes as snow storage spaces is disrespectful at best and diabolical at worst.   I think the rhetoric has gotten a bit out of hand.

First of all, we're talking about WAY more snow than usual. It's not like we're talking about 6". I've read varying estimates from 43" to 60" and that was before this last storm that has given us 6" so far with the threat of another 12".  There really isn't anywhere to put the damn stuff.  My tiny front yard is piled to at least 3' and deeper in some places where I've been able to throw the stuff from the sidewalk over the fence.

Secondly, and I acknowledge the chicken and the egg element to this, but there just aren't that many bikers out in these conditions.  Even moderately hardcore riders (I'll count myself in this group, but just barely) aren't willing to go out and play bumper cars with SUV's in salty slush.  Fortunately Boston offers a lot of transit and walking options for getting around.   We'll start riding more when the roads are back to mostly dry pavement.

Thirdly,  they're using parking spots as storage too- it's not just the bike lane.  However, this has lead to some really entitled parking behavior.   It seems pretty obvious to me that if the parking spot is completely filled (with a car or with snow) it's not an available parking spot.   Unfortunately,  there are a lot of people who think that they have the right just to park in the travel lane adjacent to the parking spot.  On Broadway just off the Longfellow bridge- the road was narrowed to just one lane because of this, and I've seen it lots of other places too.  I know that the city put "no parking" signs up,  but I'm not sure if it's being enforced.  (sorry for the lousy pictures- the combo of camera phone and mercury vapor light is pretty awful)  See the light post? That's the curb.  Normally this is parking lane, bike lane, traffic lane.  The parking and bike lanes are completely full of 6' of snow.

See the (ninja) biker who is about to run into the maroon car parked in the right lane?

I really hope that the city is ticketing the hell out of these people- maybe subsidize  some of the overtime snow plowing.  Yes, it's an inconvenience not to have those parking spots, but its a snow emergency, and we all have to live with some inconvenience.  Pedestrians have to deal with plowed over intersections,  bikers have to ride in the traffic lanes,  cars have to dig out after the plow goes by and be careful of bikers and pedestrians in the road.  If you can't find a parking spot, perhaps you should consider alternate transportation for the duration instead of adding to the traffic chaos by just deciding to park in the street.

In which I accidentally commute in a Blizzard

It was all because of the parking sticker.

The Scientist is out of town, and his Cambridge resident parking sticker expired yesterday.  I tried to get it replaced yesterday, but the lines were ridiculous- close to 2 hours.   So I thought I could go extra early this morning, and wait out in front of the building until they opened.   Unfortunately the Cambridge City hall Annex, where they handle such things is a long walk from the T, a long walk from my house, and not terribly reachable by bus.  However, it's just a block from my normal bike route.

And yes, the forecast was for insane amounts of snow (another 18" after both storms are done!?!)  but the real snow wasn't supposed to start until the afternoon/ evening.   And it wasn't snowing when I left the house- a flake or two, but nothing serious,  so I decided to saddle up.

The ride to the parking office was fine-  it was starting to come down harder, but the roads were clear, and it's a short ride.  Amazingly they were open early, and the line wasn't really long, so I waited 20 minutes and emerged victorious- only to find that it had started to REALLY come down while I was inside.  visibility was poor, and there was an inch of snow already on the ground, with more coming fast.  It was also unusually cold,  the online weather said it was 17.

The bike parking room at the Cambridge city hall annex- looks pretty full!

I had to ride to the T at least, so I got back on my regular route and decided I'd ride to MIT and decide then if it was better to ride or ditch the bike at the Scientist's office.   Despite the snow,  the ride was OK.  I went slow,  the cars all were going slow, and nobody hassled me. I had a couple of slippery moments, and had to put my feet down a couple of times for stability, but it was  OK, so I decided to ride all the way in.
It's a little tricky to leave things at MIT when the Scientist isn't there- the basement is card reader controlled, and I didn't get his card before he left, plus I was worried it would take longer to get to work that way (I was already a bit late).

Although it ended up being fine, and I think it was an interesting experience, I don't think I'll do it again.   For one thing, it was really hard to pay attention to traffic.  I was so busy concentrating on not wiping out, and avoiding hazards hidden under the snow that I wasn't as vigilant as I think is prudent when biking in downtown Boston traffic.  Also,  several times I saw cars sliding when they tried to stop, including one right in front of me.  I'd hate to think what would have happened if it were behind me (and this was a conservatively driven Volvo station wagon, not a daredevil cabbie).

Finally, although I was generally warm enough, in wool tights,  jersey dress, wool sweater and my red wool coat,  my gloves and my leather boots got pretty damp, and thence cold.  Despite an extra pair of wool socks inside my boots, my toes were freezing by the time I arrived.

Gilbert is resting comfortably, dripping onto an old cardboard box we keep in the office for this purpose.  He'll probably be stuck here for the rest of the week, but there are worse places for him to be.