Saturday, April 30, 2011


I saw this bike parked at the Livable Streets Spring Member Social on Wednesday.  I was cursing the fact that I had left both phone AND camera at home that morning.  Thanks to Jackie Douglas at Livable Streets for lending me her phone and emailing me the photos!
Someone has spent a lot of careful time covering this bike with mathematical formulae.  It's incredible!

I would be afraid to scratch the paint on this kind of art-bike, but its an amazing thing to admire.  I like that it's subtle- from a distance it just looks like a pattern on black.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Advice please?

Anyone out there in the Biking in Heels readership have experience with doing an oil-bath on a Nexus IGH?

I think that Gilbert is due for some maintenance on his rear hub, which has in total about 3 years of year round riding on it.   It feels a bit like there's gravel in the freewheel.  I thought that this was a service that Harris Cyclery would offer since they see more IGH's than the average shop, but it seems that they don't.

I don't want to get into hubstripping.  I'm sure I _could_ do it, but I don't think I have the patience or finesse for it.  Just reading the hubstripping site gives me hives.   However, others on bike forums and other sites indicate that just removing the guts from the housing, dipping it in the magic oil and then reassembling it is not that complicated.  I would have to buy the package of magic oil and maybe the special cup (handy for storing the oil I suppose).  I'm trying to convince Harris that this is something they should offer, but I don't know if they have the market for it.

Interestingly, the guy I spoke to in service said that I was the second person who had called him (I forget if he said this week or today) asking about this kind of service.  Maybe there's a market for it after all :)

Has anyone done this themselves?  I'm fairly handy, but not looking for a intense mechanical challenge.

Advice would be most welcome!

In an update, Jim from Harris emailed me back to say  that  after checking out the links I sent him, he thinks they might start offering the service, will check it out with the higher ups,  so I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Private Bike Share

In an increasing trend, I saw these bikes, part of a private bike share locked up on my way home at the Ames Hotel at Government Center.  I know that the Charles Hotel and the Liberty Hotel have been offering bike share for a while, so it must have some appeal if this place is also offering them.
They're Public bikes,  in a nice cream with red accents color scheme,  and with a special sticker saying where they belong.  A couple of them had racks and baskets.

The doorman said that they're free for a certain amount of time to guests, but there are late fees if they're brought back late.  I forgot to ask the time limit.
Anyway, nice to see that these hotels feel that traveling by bike is a thing that their guests would be interested in, and that they would support.

On the way home I noticed these poor trees- blooming their hearts out between the Longfellow construction and a parking lot.   This parking lot is slated long term to become an extension of the river pathway up to the hospital,  so hopefully more people will be able to enjoy them up close.

Friday, April 22, 2011


I've been trying not to complain about the cold and blustery "spring" we've been having, because, in all honesty Spring in New England is always tough. Normally though it's tough because we'll get 2.5 gorgeous 65 degree days where every flower in the universe is blooming its little heart out,  and then we'll have 4 days of 34 degrees and rain.  Instead,  we've just been having 42 degree days, day after day, with a couple of 42 degree rainy days thrown in for variety.

It's mostly been cold and sunny though, and Thursday was no exception.

The day started out inauspisciously when I came across the aftermath of a bike accident.   I was close enough to the event that no one else had called 911, so I did.  When I arrived there was a biker huddled on the ground rocking in pain, with 4 people standing around her.   I stayed just long enough for the police to arrive (3 cars, sirens blazing) and to get the license plate numbers of the "witness" cars.  By this point the biker was up on her feet, with some pretty nasty scrapes.  I gave her a cookie (just happened to have 2 dozen with me) to try to get some sugar in her to prevent shock,  gave her a note with my phone number and a note about the license plates,  and headed off.   I overheard the first part of the police interview, and it sounded like she'd been doored by someone exiting the passenger door of a car in the travel lane next to the bike lane.  The couple from the car seemed nice enough- they were being very solicitous to her, but I hope that the passenger got a ticket anyway.  I thought about saying to him- let this be a teachable moment to you, and share with all your friends-  look before you open your door into a bike lane!
The victim at the right in the mustard colored skirt.  Based on the tire mark on the door, I think she may have been stopped at the light slightly in front of the car.

After lunch I ducked out of work to go to the announcement of the bike share program at city hall.
I didn't stick around to hear all the speeches,  but there was a good crowd of what I would estimate at  75 people- 25% news media and 75% bikers.  Although I don't think I'll use the bike share much myself, I am cautiously optimistic that it could have a positive effect on the bike culture of the city, as it has in Paris, Barcelona and Montreal.   I would definitely use it for "last mile" transit connections,  although it might be a while before it's at the size where it can really support that kind of usage.

There were some great bikes/ cyclists in the crowd-

The ride home was CRAZY windy.  I was being blown all over the place by unexpected gusts from all quarters.  Wind is one of my least favorite elements of biking downtown.  A steady headwind is no fun, but you just duck your head and grind it out.  The gusts that emerge from between buildings will blow you sideways in their unexpected strength.  I was glad not only that I had gloves, but a fairly warm coat, and it was nice to get home and have a nice warm dinner.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

wide load coming and going

Had a 4'6" tube of aluminum trim channels delivered at work, and had to take them home by bike.
That's an unusually wide load for me,  and I was very conscious of it the whole ride, giving parked cars a lot of clearance.   I took the Charles river path home, partly to get more space,  but it was a constant battle to avoid whacking headphone wearing pedestrians, and metal crash barriers.

There were a couple of places in particular- at the BU bridge construction and at the new pedestrian overpass construction near Magazine street,  where the path was extremely narrow, and I had to wait for oncoming traffic to clear before I could proceed.

I got home, took the small-brown-dog for a walk,  and then headed out again in the other direction to Home Depot,  where I picked up shelf pins,  break off screws, double stick tape,  rug underlayment and a 4' length of 1x6 baseboard.  

For better or for worse, the stretch of path between Harvard and Arsenal street is much less travelled,  so I wasn't constantly worried about smacking passers by and inanimate objects.  However it's a bit spooky to be the only person on the path that time of night, well lit as it may be.   It was good to get home safely after a long evening of schlepping stuff.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Own Personal Bike Lane

Ok,  It's not just for me,  but a good chunk of my commute home has had temporary lane closures that function as an extra wide bike lane.

Up at City Hall Plaza, the Big Apple Circus is in town, and they close off the parking lane as a fire lane during performances.   

On the Longfellow Bridge, they're doing something to the railings and stone, so they are closing off the lane.   When they first put it all in, the lane merge sign was put so that you couldn't get around it on the right, and had to go around a barrel, into traffic to get around it on the left.   I emailed Mass Dot this picture, and they have since moved them so that you could get through pretty comfortably.  

It's really nice to have that extra space!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bike lunch

Last week, my bike friend Cris,  who I met through a combination of commuting the same route at the same time, mutual friends (Charlotte of Chic Cyclists) and the blog, met for lunch.  We work about 2 blocks apart downtown,  and we thought we'd try a temporary food cart.  Boston is trying to encourage more food trucks, partly as a way of enlivening public spaces (the greenway, city hall plaza) that need a little more life.

I waited for Cris Post office Square,  Gilbert enjoyed basking in a sunny spot.

On the way, I had to stop and admire this lovely cruiser I had actually seen it flash by in the morning,  but hadn't had a chance to really identify it- it's got a lot of fun details up close:

 Including what might be a home-made skirt guard?  Maybe just repaired?  I like the contrasting red trim along the bottom

Those old headlights have so much character.

The foodtrucks in this one day experiment offered Grilled Cheese, and Cupcakes,
unfortunately the grilled cheese place was out of everything except tomato soup, and I just couldn't do cupcakes for lunch, so we headed off to another fixed location place.

But a fun trip to try something new.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pro bike crowd

The meeting last night was probably 100% bikers,  so it wasn't exactly a tough crowd.  The smallish room was packed, and I estimated about 150 people there.
I missed the first couple of minutes, but I doubt I missed much.
The section of the right of way is too tight for bike lanes and 4 traffic lanes and 2 parking lanes.
They did an analysis of removing a traffic lane (one model with a northbound lane removed and one model with a southbound lane removed, and both were disastrous.    So they studied parking and noticed that parking was actually only something between 55% and 65% utilized here (which sounds surprising to me). So they're committed to removing the parking on one side in order to get in two 5' bike lanes.

Enforcement of double parking/ bike lane parking violations is obviously a big issue here.  The police captain of this precinct and Vineet Gupta from Boston DOT said that they would work on enforcement.

A couple of suggestions that the crowd made that I thought were good:
Painting entire lanes green (or celeste)  for more impact in a chaotic visual environment.
Making the lane that abuts the parking 6' wide and the lane not next to the cars 4' wide to adjust for the door zone.   They're currently suggesting that bikers make box turns at the several places where there are tough left turns.
Removable plastic pylon type things every 40' between the bike lane and the travel lane,  (summer only).
There was a suggestion to make the parking lane time dependent, with no parking during evening rush to create another lane of access to the mass pike.

Several people asked about protected lanes inbound of the parked cars.   Nicole said that that wasn't possible because there would be no space for a buffer.   While I agree that a buffer for car doors opening would be nice, I think there's a disconnect.  We don't provide a buffer for doors when the lane abuts on the traffic side, after all.   The argument is that you would get trapped between the opening door and the curb,  but to me, what's really scary about dooring is being pushed into moving traffic.  Hitting the door, or going over the door would hurt really badly.  Getting run over by the bus when you fall into the lane in front of it will kill you.    I understand that there are "design guidelines"  governing these layouts,  but I think we need to flexibly re-think them in constrained situations like this.

After the event, Mark, a reader of the blog came up and introduced himself, and we discussed dynamo headlights, and the Longfellow bridge meeting.   He said that he's been sitting near John S Allen,  and when I spoke in favor of the cycle track option, he looked like he was in pain.
I agree that the cycle track option (bikes on the wider sidewalk) is not ideal for fast commuters.   Obviously I prefer the 14' sidewalk, the wide on-road bike lane, and a single lane of cars,  but realistically I don't think that we're going to get that in 2011, the culture just hasn't gotten to that point yet.  Having the 14' sidewalk though, allows slower or less confident riders to go on the cycle track,  but nothing stops faster, more adventurous riders to ride in one of the two traffic lanes.  And in 15 years if the bike share is 35%, we can argue that it's time to take that other car lane and restripe it for bikes.

One of the things that Nicole Freedman and the police captain emphasized several times,  is that it's a bold move politically to remove parking. Not quite third rail, but close.  They said that the best thing that bikers can do to advocate for the lanes and this taking of parking is to follow traffic laws and be good traffic citizens.   There's been a lengthy process before this meeting-  meetings with community groups and merchants. The number one pushback that they get is,  "Why should we encourage biking and bikers- none of them obey the rules, and they endanger pedestrians"  The feeling is that bikers are not behaving as good citizens, so why should we extend them privileges and "give" them a slice of valuable real estate.
I know all the arguments about the relative dangerousness of a car not obeying the law vs  bikes,  relative frequency of law breaking, and the arguments about why car rules are a bad fit for bikes in some cases.   It's not fair that we should have to "earn" facilities, but  this is reality.   The police captain pretty much guaranteed that there will be first be warnings, and then tickets on the new facilities, and maybe before.
I know that there's a big controversy about stupid ticketing in NYC right now, but tickets for blowing lights,  or endangering pedestrians who have the right of way , or not using lights at night I'm 100% for.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Very important meeting tonight at Boston BPL about bike lanes on Mass Ave from Boyleston to the Harvard bridge. 7pm.

To do bike lanes right, I think they're going to have to remove some on-street metered parking.  This is NOT going to be popular among business owners and drivers.

We cyclists need to establish a significant demand for these lanes to encourage the city to make them happen.  Please try to make it, even if you can't stay for the whole time.

Given that there are (or will be?)  lanes on Mass Ave on the East side of Boyleston, and there are bike lanes across the bridge and into Cambridge, this will be a vital link in the bike network.

Getting the lanes patrolled to stop double parking?  Well, that's another fight.

Almost got it

This woman was so elegant in her coral scarf, pale blue jacket and long lean boots, despite the rain.  I was glad to get a shot of her, but unfortunately the focus leaves something to be desired. damn you iPhone

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A civil discussion

My commute home takes me down Cambridge street which is the main way to get from downtown to (surprise) Cambridge.  During rush hour, the traffic is bumper to bumper, and I am easily able to keep up when traffic does move (the fact that it's downhill helps)  and when rush hour has passed, since it's two lanes it's pretty easy for people to pass me safely.  It's lined with driveways and parking spots, and I pretty much take the right lane for most of the 1/2 mile or so from Government Center to the Longfellow bridge.

A couple of days ago I went home a bit earlier than usual, so traffic was still bad.   I had a bit of a start  at an intersection at the top of the hill While sitting waiting at a light,  another cyclist stopped a couple of feet behind me and to my right, a third guy"shoaled" me and pulled up in the 2'6"' space between me and the other cyclist waiting for the red.  He had to twist to avoid hitting both of us.  I had a WTF moment, and exclaimed "careful there"  when the light turned green and I immediately left him way behind.

Through the top of this stretch there's an intersection where the parking lane turns into a right turn lane for the last 30', followed immediately by a short block with a right turn only lane to the right of the two through lanes..  I stay in the right through lane, not in the right turn only lane, since I'm going straight.
Still a bit adrenelized by the guy trying to slip through the tiny space between me and the other person at the light,  I was going pretty fast- was also trying to "keep up"  as I try to do when I'm taking the lane.  I was doing pretty well,  staying about 20' behind the car in front of me through this stretch, when someone starts to honk at me.  As is my custom, I ignore it, and continue through the intersection, when a red Ford sedan passes within touching distance.    Out of startlement, I yell an obscenity.

100 yards later the Ford turns into the Whole Foods parking lot.   The driver yells out his window "want to talk about it?"  I hesitate for a second, and then stop, turn around and bike back up to the parking lot.  I catch him after he's entered the parking lot,   say "Yes Sir, I would like to talk"  and he's a more or less genial chap with a commonwealth accent (either americanized British or Australian).

I told him that I wanted to apologize for calling him an A**hole, but that he passed me really closely, and that's a scary thing.  I said,  in Massachusetts, legally, if the lane is narrow,  bikes are entitled to take up the whole lane because there's not space for door clearance and me and safe clearance AND his car.
He immediately said,  "but you weren't in the right lane".  I said, "that's a right turn only lane, and I was going straight."  At that point, I think he realized a) that I was a human being who he had scared and endangered, and b) that he'd probably done the wrong thing.

Amazingly he was honest enough to admit it.   He first said that he, and his son are both cyclists (?!?).  He apologized for scaring me, and said that he appreciated that I had the proper equipment and a knowledge of the law.  We had to pull out of the way to let another car through, and he parked.
After he emerged from his car, he said, something like  "Really, I have to apologize,  because I was driving out of downtown,  and I had a green light,  and two bikes cut in front of me, and called me an Ahole as they did it."  I think that what he meant, is that he was still  upset by those scofflaws, and was angry at bikes when he came up behind  another bike, even thought I was occupying the space in front of him in a rational way.   It was only when he was confronted by a middle aged woman in heels and a dress, and an outraged but articulate argument that he could realize that he'd transferred his anger at them to me in an unreasonable way.

What I took away from this interaction:
1)  I think that a good percentage of drivers are susceptible to rational arguments.
2) That a handful of "bad apples" can make conditions more dangerous for the rest of us by creating animosity between drivers and cyclists.
3) That we too infrequently have the change for rational discourse, human to human on the road.  Part of it is the brevity of our interactions, and part of it may be that the cyclist is so out of breath :).  I was definitely gasping for the first half of our conversation

Overall, it made me feel optimistic about the possibilities for bike- car relations,  but I realize that this was an unusual experince, and wonder how it could be replicated more often.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mass Ave Meeting

I know that there are lots of meetings this week- another important one is going to be about Mass Ave in Boston from Boyleston to the Harvard Bridge. Thursday night, at the Boston Public Library at 7PM  meeting room TBD.

The Boston Cyclists' Union seem to be leading the charge on this one:
Information from their website here: The meeting is formally titled "meeting to assess interest in bicycle lanes"  and if you're interested in bicycle lanes here, it behooves you to show up and let the city know that you're interested.

Longfelllow meeting report

Sorry I've not been posting much, life been getting in the way.
Went to the Longfellow meeting last night, but it was kind of a shrug.
They didn't release a planned alternative for the lane configuration, which makes me (and a lot of people) worried and a bit upset.  They are going to submit it to the feds for its Environmental Assesment and only after that comes back will we know the recommended section.

A moment of unintended hilarity,  a big part of the presentation was a modeling guy who was talking about where people come from and go to who use the bridge (how do they determine this?)  which indicates that a lot of people from Cambridge use the bridge to get to the airport,  and most of the trips come from East cambridge and go to downtown (a handy distance to commute by bike).
Anyway, people were questioning him about his model and finally he admitted that his model didn't have any way to account for bikes or pedestrians- an admission that was met with bitter laughter and cries of surprise.

One possibly significant item is that they're talking about re-activating the old exit for Storrow, Mugar Way,  which is currently a limited access street.  This would allow the best configuration for the new pedestrian bridge, which they seem very committed to, but which isn't funded in the current mandate.

A couple of people mentioned the "vision thing"  and how designing just to the formulas and numbers is one thing, but this is an opportunity to create something amazing instead and push the numbers through design of better facilities.   Unfortunately I don't think we're going to get there on this bridge.  I think it's amazing how far the bureaucracy has come on this bridge, but I don't think they're going to make the leap to projecting a future that they want and shifting the configuration to enable that.

I agreed with Fred Salvucci's comments that they need to keep moving on the main span, and that they should incorporate the 14' sidewalks now, and hash out how the pavement is divided later.
He proposed making some of the intersection improvements into a "phase 3"  but I'm worried about whether if they're split off we will have funding issues, if they will no longer fall into the accelerated bridge program.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Two important bike meetings next week UPDATE

Monday night, April 11, is the next meeting on the Longfellow Bridge project,  6:30 -8:30 at the Shriner's hospital auditorium, 51 Blossom Street, Boston.

I'm not really sure what the updated status of this is,  I know that the next step is to do an  Environmental Assessment which gets filed with the federal government, but I don't know which option/s  have been selected.

The other meeting  is on the East Arlington reconstruction of Mass Ave to include bike lanes.  My understanding is that Arlington is trying to get federal funding (through the state DOT)  to reconstruct the first 20 blocks of Mass Ave after you cross into Arlington from Cambridge.   Part of federal funding is the requirement to put bike accommodations in,  and the town did so.  Traffic counts suggest that it only needs to be three lanes at this point- two towards Cambridge, and one towards Arlington.   The plan is to move the center median, and create bike lanes,  improved pedestrian crossings (bump outs) and improved street furniture (benches, trash containers) and landscaping to create a more livable streetscape.

There is a very vociferous and well funded opposition who partly think that bike riding is only for yuppies, and feel this is a challenge to the dominance of the car that they cannot stand for.  A funny take on all this can be found here.

The East Arlington Livable streets Coalition is asking anyone who ever bikes through this area to show up and support the bike lanes.  The city wants to do the right thing,  we just need to show up and support them.  Tuesday night, Arlington Town Hall on Mass Ave,  7pm.

I saw a discussion of the Arlington meeting on the Boston Biker blog,  and MassBike is arguing that people who are not from Arlington should carefully consider whether they should attend.  The concern is that the opponents feel that this is a "we've lived here forever, and these yuppies move in from Cambridge and want to gentrify us out of town" issue  and that having an influx of non- Arlington bikers might be counterproductive.
I see the point,  but if you ride this area often, no matter where you're from, I think that you should still try to come and support the lanes- it's going to be a tough meeting with a lot of noise from the opposition.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Rte 28 walk report

I had a great time at the site walk on Saturday.  The weather was just warm enough that as long as we stayed in the sunshine, it was comfortable, although the couple of stops we made in the shade had everyone shivering.  There was a quite respectable turnout of about 25 people, some who were affiliated with the groups hosting the event, and others who were just interested members of the community.  Unfortunately I rushed out the door without my camera, so it's a wordy  post without many images.  I'll add some maps though.

We walked from the DD on 3rd street to Lechmere station.  It's a wood timber and steel girder, open building which is more like a bus shelter than a train station.  It was built in the 1920s as a "temporary" building, but never was replaced.  Right now the train line crosses from the north side of 28 to the south side,  and lands on this little triangle plot, which holds the station and a turn around for the train cars.
The plan for the future is for the track to stay on the north side, and to build a new station about 50' north of rte 28.    First Street will be reconnected to Rte 28, which is something really desired by the neighborhood, because currently the only place to turn west from that East Cambridge neighborhood is 3rd street which is mostly residential, and it encourages cut throughs and traffic backups.  Moving that westbound access to the more commercial First street makes a lot of sense.

The state or MBTA did a land swap with a private developer to get the land on the other side of the highway, and the plan is to raze the old station.  The neighborhood association is lobbying to preserve the station and turn it into a farmer's market space,  which is appealing, but I'm not sure how successful they're going to be.  The best hope is to get the city of Cambridge declare it "historic"  but they don't seem to be interested so far, although the state and national historic folks are interested in preserving it.  The rest of the site will definitely be developed.

Next we walked over to the north side of the highway to check out the new station location.  Currently it seems like the location is not optimized for all the pedestrian traffic which is going to come from east cambridge- you will have to walk way out of your way around a private parking lot to get there (or more realistically, most people will just walk through the parking lot, but it's not an idea situation.  Ideally they'd do another land swap, or emmanent domain to get access directly from the first street intersection to the station.   next the train passes very closely to a condo building, a hotel and the Cambridge Antiques mall (home of Cambridge Used bicycles!).  This is going to be a mixed blessing these buildings, especially the condos and hotel.  On one hand, they'll have fantastic access to the T.   On the other, they'll have train lines running right past bedrooms, 20' feet away.   There was always a railroad right of way there, and the commuter rail tracks are not much further away, but it's still not going to be a great situation-noise wise.

We took a quick detour to check out the park/ MUP greenway that's being developed as part of the "campus" of commercial and residential buildings that are planned for that area just north of here.  Called  "North Point"  This area is planned to be a very dense urban neighborhood, reclaimed from brownfields/ old warehouses.

From here we headed back down along rte 28.  On major issue is that advocates see the possibility of reducing the number of lanes on 28.  It's 3 lanes each way typically, 4 lanes at intersections,  which makes it really tough to cross as a pedestrian.  The state wants to widen it in a couple of places to 5 lanes each way to add a left turn lane,   I think that's absolutely absurd,  because I've NEVER seen it full.  Evidently the traffic counts went down when the big dig was completed,  and the whole point of the green line extension is to parallel rte 28 and provide an alternative to driving into the city.  We need to push back on this in the planning process to keep the planners honest about traffic counts.

We then discussed the train at the Brick Bottom artist's lofts.   This building used to be a warehouse for A&P,  and was converted to live- work spaces 20 years ago.   Again, they kind of bought into a gritty urban setting right next to railway tracks,  but they're a bit worried about the new situation, which calls for a double stack of elevated and at grade lines on both sides of their building, which admittedly is pretty tough to take.  They're trying to change one of the elevated portions to get it a little further away and preserve a fire lane along one side of the building.

From here, we walked up across the (incredibly unfriendly) bridge which goes behind the "twin lakes" shopping market (where the Star Market is)  I actually saw a biker up on the roadway here- pretty tough going in traffic,  I tried to get a photo, but he was gone before I could get him
The pedestrian way is about 3' wide, with a concrete and chainlink barrier on one side and a steel plate girder barrier on the other.  not a great place for a stroll.

 We checked out the location for the first stop on the medford branch of the line, at Washington street,  where it seems likely that they'll get it right,  building the station on top of the overpass over Washington street,  with access to all four directions that way.   I saw probably 6-10 bikers going along washington street while we were talking.  and it's not a particularly bike friendly area,  I think it's just the only connection point under the rail line.

Here we turned around and headed towards union square, under the part of the  rte 28 overpass which is badly deteriorated and which will almost certainly be "de-elevated"   The state originally just wanted to rebuild it in kind, but the city of Somerville really sees it as blight and is pushing to bring it back to grade.
We didn't discuss where the Union square station will be, but headed back along the south side of the highway to our starting point.

A piece of it that I don't completely understand is the community path.  There were a couple of people attending who were advocates for the path, which is envisioned as a connection between Davis and the minuteman and downtown.  Evidently it's all funded and sanctioned, except the tricky tricky connection at Brick bottom, where no one wants to touch the hot potato of forcing a bike-ped path though a tricky train connection.  They, and advocates in general need to keep the pressure on the state to not drop the ball here, because a path that drops out at the critical connections isn't the kind of functional infrastructure we need.

Finally there was some interesting discussion of the Grand Junction connection.  There is an existing rail right of way (which is in limited use for freight) that goes across the Charles at the BU bridge,  cuts through Kendall square, and connects to North Station along the Rt 28 corridor.  The Lt. Governor is pushing creation of a new commuter rail service (heavy diesel trains) from Worchester in the west to North station using this line.  There's currently commuter service from Worchester to South station,  and I don't know what the demand is for connection to North station.   What  is insteresting about the idea is the possibility it has raised for light rail along those tracks- connecting Brookline and possibly even Longwood medical center to MIT, East Cambridge and East Somerville.   This is a real gap in the existing regional transportation network, and one of the reasons that the BU bridge is such a flashpoint- Cars and bikes are one of the only ways to get between those areas.   The idea of re-activating those tracks as Light rail instead of heavy diesel is really appealing to a lot of transit advocates.

Ok sorry for the long and technical report.  Some sites with more information:

Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership, 
Friends of the Community Path
Lechemere station conversion
East Cambridge Planning Team

Friday, April 1, 2011

East Camberville Tunnel

The closest Target to my house is on the East Cambridge/Somerville line, in a kind of gritty neighborhood full of auto body shops,  old warehouses, and other light industry.
The commuter rail tracks into North Station cut across the neighborhood,  and since there aren’t any on-grade crossings that I know of,  it limits access to a couple of choke points where there are tunnels or overpasses.    I mostly come this way to get to Target, Market Basket,  Autozone, or various restaurants in Union square,  and none of the ways to get there are fantastically bike friendly.

The tunnel above is the way I usually go though-  for one thing it’s the least out of my way, being the most easterly.   The main reason though,  is that despite the icky highwayesque crash barriers,  chain link fence and generally forbidding design it’s actually not particularly unpleasant to bike on.  The main reason is that the lanes are super wide- I’d guess 15’ each way.  They may have thought they could get 4 lanes in at one point, but the traffic volume doesn’t require that, so it’s one of the few places in Boston where there’s plenty of space to share the lane.

It’s the kind of place, however, that doesn’t “feel safe” for a newer biker, and I’ll admit that more than once I took the (narrow and really badly paved) pedestrian sidewalk, before I took the plunge and shot the rapids.

All this is a lead into a notice that there’s a lot of change possibly coming to this neighborhood in East Somerville.   The McGrath highway that is an elevated (and oversized)  throughway that  is another barrier across this neighborhood is crumbling and will need to be replaced or maybe returned to grade.  There’s potential for a greenway connecting from North Station to Medford,  and  the long delayed green line extension is part of the mix.

There’s an introductory site walk talking about the issues,  hosted by Cambridge and Somerville planning folks.    It starts at 10AM tomorrow April 2nd,  at the Dunkin’ Donuts at 3rd street and Msg O’Brian (across from Cambridge Used bikes)
The walk will probably take a couple of hours, and it’s going to be a bit chilly,  but I think it will be very interesting, and has potential to create better connections between these neighborhoods- ones that don’t require feeling like you’re shooting rapids just to get across.

unfortunately, not a joke

The view from my window this morning :(

Its still coming down as rainy slush, and the roads are icky.
I'm not feeling 100%,  so between that and the nasty weather I'm going to take the T in.

Happy Opening day- Go Sox!