Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bike date success!

So after our failure on Monday, we met up outside the Scientist's office Tuesday and then headed to Cambridge 1 in Harvard square for yummy wood grilled pizza.  It's almost as easy to walk to Harvard sq, but since we were already on bikes, we went ahead and rode there.

This morning, was not super hot, but very muggy.   I used a good summer strategy which is riding in a strappy summer dress which might be a little bare for the office, and carrying in a shirt that I put on once I got to the office.  I did forget the all important linen hankie though, so I was a little damp when I got in.
5 minutes later,  after a bit of purell and an iced coffee, I was cool and composed though.

On the way in, I passed Renata von Tscharner  from the Charles River conservancy.  She was on her way to a fund raiser at the Ames hotel (home of these bikes).   She looked very elegant despite the heat in a sleeveless shell and pencil skirt.  

She really was waving and calling out Hello,  not "no pictures please"- I swear.  I love her enthusiasm and how she rides year round on that sage green cruiser, with a milk carton strapped to the back.  Although her principle advocacy has been focused on the Charles river, she is a fierce advocate for bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure,  probably because she spends a lot of a time as a bicyclist and a pedestrian!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bike Date thwarted!

The Scientist mostly does "go-fast" biking lately, although he had a long history of biking for transportation in his penniless graduate student days.  Now that he's a fully grown up Scientist,  he often has a lot of stuff to carry back and forth,  but he's resistant to cluttering up his bike with a rack and pannier system.  So for his birthday I got him an enormous messenger bag.

The Scientist and I both started off on our bikes at the same time yesterday morning,  with him trying out his new bag for the first time on the bike.  You can't see in the photo, but it's UT burnt orange.

Our paths diverged almost immediately with him striking out through the heart of Central square,  and me detouring off to the quieter side streets.   

In the evening I was running errands on my way home when he called me.  He was at my office, having decided to bike in to surprise me and take me on a bike date!   We decided to rendezvous in Cambridge and get a cup of fancy coffee at Voltage,  but they were closed by the time we got there.  At this point we needed to be home to let the small brown dog out, so we decided to try again another day.

In the meantime, we made ourselves an Indian feast!   The genesis of this was mostly practical- had a lot of stuff in the fridge that needed clearing out, so I made waaay too much food,  and then because it was so tasty, we ate waaaay too much.   
The feast
I am just learning to make Indian food really, and I highly recommend the cookbook I'm using- "Curried Flavors"  The recipes are simplified a bit for the western pantry but seem very authentic in flavor,  and everything (or the 7 or 8) things I've tried has been fantastic.
Cabbage Thoren-  this may be the best cabbage dish I've ever made, and I'm a cabbage fan in general.

Chickpea Chole

Onion Bhaji with home-made cilantro chutney.

So even if we didn't get a bike date, we had a pretty good evening.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Despite the Rain

It was pretty well pouring this evening,  but I headed home via bike anyway.  The Scientist has a birthday coming up, and I needed to run a few errands.   My bottom half was thoroughly soaked by the time I reached my destination,  but strangely, I was still incredibly glad to be on a bike.   I don't know what the snafu was, but Cambridge street from Government Center to the Longfellow bridge was a parking lot.   I don't normally lane split or "filter"  but those cars weren't going anywhere,  so I felt comfortable going slowly between the cars and the parking lane.   I don't know how long it would take to get through all that in a car,  but it took me about the same time as usual to travel the entire distance.   When I finally made it to the bridge,   There was only one car that made it through charles circle the entire time it took me to ride over the bridge! I'll take the soaked pants any day over the psychic pain of being trapped in that traffic snarl.

"They're OUR streets"

I went tonight to a planning meeting for Mass Ave between Harvard and Porter squares.  The main focus of this series of meetings has been to develop a master plan for street improvements (sidewalk improvements, street tree improvements, site furniture and lighting regularization etc)  in preparation for "future funding opportunities".   
There are a couple of intersection/ crosswalk improvements that I believe are funded now,  and the MBTA is reworking some of the bus stops to make them ADA compliant.

  However, one thing that I was not expecting is that they do have a pot of money from Harvard and Leslie to pay to repave 90% of the stretch from the Common to Porter where it was damaged during construction of new buildings for those campuses.  When they do, they're going to stripe it with bike lanes!!!
They don't have a firm date for when they're going to do the paving, but it's in the next year.   This is great news to me, because I think it will help slow traffic, making the street less freeway-like, and create a better defined bike through-path.  I just "ran the gauntlet" to get to porter sq on Monday night, and even with the sharrows and being an experienced cyclist, it's not much fun.

The masterplan calls for a more consistent sidewalk surface, which will be a travel path of concrete, a tree band, which will be slotted or saw cut concrete to provide a hard, mostly even surface which is still permeable to create better conditions for street trees, and then a brick feature strip along the curb.

In addition to specific pedestrian safety improvements,  the desire is to generally create better texture and a more livable streetscape,  through plantings, lights, street furniture etc,  and trying to reclaim the feeling of a town center of little shops as opposed to a highway like arterial.   The attitude in most of the crowd was, "can we do it tomorrow?"  There was one city councilor who's a  VC guy who spoke about being "ambivalent" about the bike lanes.  He's the same guy who told me that my chunky heels weren't appropriate bicycling footwear at the snow removal meeting I went to.  But most people were excited about both the pedestrian and bicycle improvements.

The "pull quote" for the night was when I was talking to a woman from the Community development office.  I asked her if the MBTA was giving them pushback about the 10' travel lanes (as they are on the Boston side of Mass Ave at Symphony).  She said  "They're our streets, and we say that 10' is enough".  HOORAY!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Floral Fireworks

This week I was prepared for the CSA pickup with both my big pannier and my "extra"  pannier  so I didn't have to use the plastic bag trick.

No photos of the mostly green cargo back,  but I had to stop for this amazing display of ornamental Allium.

I'm not normally a fan of the "pink"  heuchera,  but they worked well as a base for the explosion of blooms

I didn't realize that Allium came in so many amazing textures- I'm just familiar with the "purple puffball" type.

So perfectly round!  I've got to plant these next year!

Monday, June 20, 2011

A dialog

Scientist:   Where did those giant boards in the dining room come from?

Cycler:  I got them to build a mounting plate for the new AC unit.

Scientist:  Did you scavenge them somewhere?

Cycler:  No, I got them at Home Depot yesterday.

Scientist:   On your bike?!?

Cycler:  Sure, on my bike, how else?

Scientist:  Rolls eyes.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Dad, the Cyclist

Like many people, my Dad was the one who taught me to ride a bike.  I remember him patiently giving me push start after push start down the gradually sloped sidewalk in front of Johnston Junior High across the street from our house in Houston. 

When we moved to the outskirts of a small town in the Ozarks,  my Dad took up road biking.   He had commuted in college, when he lived at home with his widowed mom, about 5 miles from school.   He also nursed a love of sporty cars, but found that a bike was both a peaceful and convenient way to get around.
In the early 80's he did thorough research and bought a Fuji touring frame,  which he rode many miles.  He rode rollers for fitness in front of the TV,  he rode for pleasure in the rolling hills of the Ozarks,  he road to work 7 miles each way,  often adding loops to increase his milage and just for the fun of it.    He did a lot of research again and bought me and my brother matching Trek 420 bikes,  complete with granny gears and biopace chainrings and helped me outfit mine with a blackburn rack and kickstand so that I could ride it to school and later to work.  
He showed me how to remove the front wheel and properly lock a bike with a U lock,  how to properly wash a bike,  paraffin a chain, and  change a tire on the side of the road.  

More importantly than any specific bike skill he taught me,  he got on his bike every day and rode to work, rain, shine, cold.  Making time for a ride on the weekend was and remains a special treat for him in the middle of all the other tasks he takes on himself. (let's just say I learned a lot about home maintenance from him too).

For a while now he's been riding a recumbent.  He just found it more comfortable for long rides than the Fuji.  He's geared it super low, and even did the Triple Bypass in in Colorado, as well as an MS 150 we did together in Texas.  He's retired now, and looking into maybe getting another bike- either a 'bent trike, or maybe a semi-recumbent with bigger wheels.

Thanks Dad,  and wishing you many happy rides ahead.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wild Wild Life

Spotted on my commute recently, often with an entourage of sidewalk gawkers:

This pair of turkeys are a regular sight along Broadway between Third and Vassar.

Evidently "wild" turkeys are becoming more and more common in the Boston area.
One came to visit us on our back deck  a couple of weeks ago.  This guy had absolutely no fear- camped out on our deck railing for a half hour at least, preening and ignoring the stupid humans with cameras on the other side of the glass.

What's the wildest "wild life" you've seen on your commute?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Velouria's Panniers

Sorry for the radio silence, have been super busy on an advocacy project for the Longfellow bridge construction that I'm trying to condense into a manageable post.  In the meantime....

She's gonna hate being the namesake of such a homely thing, but Velouria, of Lovely Bicycle had a great suggestion a couple of weeks ago for using pairs of plastic bags in tandem as panniers.
The CSA season started for me last week, and I completely forgot about it until I got to work, which meant I only had my normal small-ish leather daily bag .   In the past I've resorted to making temporary panniers out of boxes or baskets, secured by rack straps,  but this time I decided to use "V-Panniers"

These were a bit hampered by the fact that I had my normal bag on the left side, and the bag just sitting on top of it.   I put the heavier bag on that side so that it would be partially supported.

I put the knotted portion under the "rat trap"  and then latched it down with a lock and rack straps.

Bottom line,  it was fine for a couple of Kolrhabi and a bunch of bulky but light greens,  but I'm not sure I'd trust it with heavy stuff like cans of tomatoes or peanut butter.   Not a bad solution though for an emergency!  Necessity is indeed the mother of invention.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Should I stay or should I Go?

The weather radar this morning as I prepare to leave for work:
It isn't railing now- I think I can make it before it does.....  Will let you know if I make it before the red and yellow "intense rain" hits.

NOPE!   I got ready to leave, and WHAM it started to pour.    I went back in to reorganize my stuff to T,  and it stopped.  I got optimistic, went back out and WHAM again (this time with Thunder and lightning).
I decided this was a message from the Weather gods, guaranteeing that if I rode, I'd get drenched, and if I didn't it would be absolutely clear the whole way in.  Oh well,  the T was a fine alternative.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Stunt man, or normal cyclist?/ Western Ave notes

I try to post original content, mostly about my biking life, but I thought this video, recently posted on Boston Biker, was so awesome, that I had to pass it along,

Basically the guy runs straight into any obstruction in the bike lane:  cab, trash can, moving truck, even police car.   I hope he didn't get seriously hurt,  because he took some serious spills.

It's a classic reducto ad absurdium argument- if bikers were required to stay in the bike lane in all circumstances, they would suffer the pratfalls that he does.  Nicely filmed, and the Vivaldi in the background is a great counterpoint to all the mayhem.  He's got a great point, that the cops should be ticketing obstructions of the bike lane, not the riders.   Notably, in NYC, as in Boston, it is perfectly legal to ride outside of the bike lane.

And yes, I went to the Western Ave meeting.  It was mostly a yawn, with a couple of neighborhood residents ranting about long term neighborhood grievances (rats and trash pickup), and John Allen ranting about how cycletracks are Satan Spawn and how dare we encourage kids and newbies to  ride.  (I kid you not, he said that it was better not to encourage new cyclists than to have them ride on this deathtrap) Classic culture of fear.  He also wanted to discuss how adding planting beds and narrowing the road from a superspeedway to a two lane arterial was making it "ugly"  Whatever, dude.

They've made some improvements, including bike boxes for Copenhagen left turns,  a leading bike interval (similar to a Pedestrian leading interval, but longer) so that bikes get a head start on cars,  and some structural changes to bring bikes out from behind the parked cars at intersections to improve left turning and visibility.  

At this point, it's going to happen.  And yes, I get that you have to be careful at intersections.  To my mind, this  is true whether you're in the street or on a path. You just get to relax between the intersections without the added danger of being doored midblock. If you feel the need to move so fast that you can't deal with the occasional small child, errant pedestrian or slower biker,  feel free to ride in the car lanes.   My feeling (borne out by observations in Barcelona and Amsterdam) is that if you have a steady stream of bikes,  and clearly marked lanes, the pedestrians learn PDQ to stay out of the bike lane, and the width is double the Charles River MUP.  Even if there's an obstruction of the path (trash barrel) I'd rather veer around it onto sidewalk or buffer than to have to swerve into traffic.  And it's awfully hard to double park in it!

There is still the legitimate issue of  a safe bike route from the river back into Central.  And I think that problem still needs a solution. However, I fail to see why we should  have no infrastructure just because it doesn't meet some perfect platonic ideal.

In the hour of "open house"I  had a great chance to chat with one of the city of Cambridge's project managers, who tipped me off about all kinds of great changes coming to the Kendall/ East Cambridge area.  Lots of reversal of the 80's suburbanism that was imposed in the gentrification.  I want a chance to take a look at the plans online, but sounds like some great improvements coming.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Western Ave Cycletrack meeting Tomorrow

Tomorrow from 6:00PM to 8:00,  and I swear I got the date right this time!
Not at the Senior center, but instead at the Cambridge COmmunity Center, 5 Callendar Street.

All kinds of info here

Classy Tourer

Now this is a classy Touring bike:

Parked outside of Ride Cafe- a Seven built up as a Grant Petersen Pastroral  (to borrow a nicely turned phrase from Cris).  It didn't appear to be locked (!?!)  but I suspect that its owner was just behind a pane of glass watching it like a hawk.   There were a lot of unlocked bikes around, including the orange Public visible in the photos.   If this were my lovely bike, I think I'd at least self lock it to keep someone jumping on and pedaling away before I could jump up and apprehend them.
Also although the raw titanium color is lovely,  I think I would drive myself to distraction trying to coordinate all the clear finish metals (titanium, aluminum, stainless).  That's why you need custom made titanium racks and fenders of course????

Sunday, June 5, 2011

drowned bike

This showed up along the bike path the other day.  From across the street, it merely looked really really dirty.

On closer inspection it looked like it had spend time not only in a damp place, but actually underwater.

The drive train- YIKES!

It even looked like coral was growing on it, although that seems impossible.  Perhaps it was fragments of sponge rubber, like a mattress pad?

I wonder how it came to be in such shape, and how it came to be propped up against a trashcan on Memorial Drive?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Long run for a short slide

Two weekends ago, at the very last minute, I decided to go to a "bike swap" out in the center of MA.   It's a little amusing to me, having grown up in Texas that in about an hour's drive you can get halfway across the state.   I had heard about this swap meet via the Old Roads website, and it was in Dudley, a small town south of Worcester, almost to the Connecticut border.   I had heard that it could be a giant event, full of guys with no teeth, who pull vintage bikes out of dumpsters and old barns, and that by sifting though the trash there was the possibility of treasure. It was this possibility that compelled me on a grey Sunday morning to get the Scientist to drive out with me to the "wilds."

Unfortunately it turned out to be a bit of a long run for a short slide.  We spoke to a couple of vendors (bringing a small and very friendly dog along is a great way to start conversation with anyone)  who said that it was much smaller than usual, and that nothing was selling.   Most of the vendors were selling heavily modified "chopper" style bikes out of the backs of conversion vans and pickups- some even had motors and were styled after motorcycles or dirt bikes than regular bikes.  Not really my thing.

There were a handful of decent English three speeds and similar city bikes.

I like the nostalgia of these child seats, but they don't look terribly comfortable:

This vintage tandem was out the parking lot.  I wanted it, but the Scientist did not  :(

This van had a very, very tall bike strapped on the back.

Nothing really tempted me enough to buy- the prices were very low, but I already have enough English three speeds, don't need another project.   Although after I got back home, I realized that I probably could have bought a couple for $50 each,  lubed the hubs, cleaned them up, put new tires on and sold them on Craigslist for $150.  I know that a lot of people do that, but I on reflection, I have a job,  and it's not flipping bikes.  I barely have enough time to work on the bikes I have, so it's probably better not to take on further obligations.

However, if you're interested in getting a project bike for a very low price, it would be worth it to check out this kind of thing, in hopes that you will discover treasure.

Friday, June 3, 2011


What drew my eye to this bike was the fantastically curly lugs.

 I thought for a second it might be a Hetchins, down on its luck, spray painted and locked in front of  REI.    The (spray?) paint job obscured any labels, but I did notice this stamp in the chromed rear dropout:

Evidently CCM the Canadian Cycle and Motor company was the Schwinn of Canada, making some great bikes, a lot of decent bikes, and at the end of its life cycle, BSOs.

Anyway, I'm a sucker for Chromed forks and chainstays, and I'm glad I stopped, if only for the history lesson.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


But all my clothes are already cycling clothes!  I'm so confused......

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Minnie Pearl,* is that your bike?

Recently spotted BSO outside the grocery store:

*Minnie Pearl was a character on Hee Haw who wore a hat with the price tag still attached.  I believe the idea was to show off how much she paid for it.