Friday, September 30, 2011

Copenhagen on the Charles

This evening's ride down Cambridge street was full of so many glamorous people that I felt like an extra in a Copenhagen Cycle Chic shoot.

First, I saw this woman in an impossibly chic superscaled houndstooth coat dress and red sandals

Later I was passed by a European Gentleman on a nice looking Gazelle (you'll have to trust me on it, since the photo was lousy)  He complimented me on how my shoes and my bike matched.  It wasn't intentional of course, except that I like red.  Somewhat unusually for a European, he was wearing a (Bern) helmet.

Finally as I turned off to a side street, I saw another Gazelle locked up along the side of the road.

Weird coincidence, or is there something going on here?

Problems with comments?

I've heard that there may be some problems with posting comments.
If you've tried to comment recently, and haven't seen the comment come up, would you please contact me at
I'm not sure why comments aren't coming through, am trying to figure it out/ fix it.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hubway Adventure

My office had a "summer" outing last week,  and at one point we all had to get from the Financial district to Back Bay.   Most people took the T, but an intrepid group (including my bosses)  decided to take Hubway.

It worked great for a pair of short trips that were asymmetrical.  We left from the Milk/ India station,  road around the common and down the left side lanes on Commonwealth, dropped off at the Boylston/ Mass Ave station, and went bowling.

Afterwards, we picked up at the Newbury/ Hereford station and rode to the Seaport Blvd stop.  I really don't understand why it's on Seaport, which I don't find particularly bike- friendly, as opposed to on Northern Ave, which is so much lower traffic, and closer to the ICA, Fan Pier and the Courthouse.

We ate at Legal's Harborside, which has a fantastic view.  That area is really starting to hop in the evenings, which is great.  I'm impressed at the balance they've struck between suburban sized big sidewalks, retail spaces and parking lots and human scaled, walkable development.   It helps that each business didn't have to provide on-site parking, under the theory that people could park in the oceans of lots between the new stuff and downtown (or ride the T, or bike).  The result is a pretty dense nugget of restaurants and offices (not much retail yet) that draws a ton of people, especially at night.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hub on Wheels

I didn't actually ride the Hub on Wheels this year,  but instead I volunteered at the Livable Streets Alliance booth for part of the morning.

It was a nice chance to talk to a lot of people about bikes and sidewalks and infrastructure.  There was one guy who asked me for the "elevator pitch"  and I'm afraid I hemmed and hawed too much for his taste, because he walked off before I could get very far.  "Wisdom of the staircase"  provided me with the perfect quote, too late:

“When you design for cars and traffic, you get more cars and traffic. When you design for places and people, you get places and people.”  

I hear this quote a lot in livable streets circles,  and I believe that it's originator was Fred Kent, of the Project for Public spaces  Whomever said it first,  it neatly encapsulates what livable streets is all about: designing streets for people.  I really believe that in focusing on that, and how appealing that idea is will get us a lot further as a community than talking about the specifics of bike lane advocacy or sidewalk widths which devolve quickly into a zero sum game with parking and travel lane width, with a potential for backlash.  But when the use of public space is rephrased into a choice between a park with a food cart and tables vs a parking lot, it becomes a much easier sell.  Next time I "table" I'll know how to lead off my pitch.

Mostly it was a fun chance to hang out and people (and bike watch)   I didn't get to take specific crushworthy bike photos,  but these give a general idea of the crowd.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fixing it so it brakes, part 2

Back in May, I posted about replacing Minerva's  brake shoes with the fabulous new Koolstop rod brake pads.  I thought I would have a quick follow up about the final tweaks to the conversion of the front brake to a hub brake system.

Alas,  technical difficulties and life got in the way.  The technical difficulty was that I took the wheel off to take it to be trued, and somehow lost one of the axle nuts in the process.  No big deal except this hub seems to have really weird and atypical threading.  Harris ordered me a new one,  but then that one didn't quite work either.

Backing up a step (or three):   I had the front wheel built, and the drum brake temporarily installed with a cable between the old rod brake stirrup and the drum brake arm.

This was OK,  except it was really hard to adjust- you had to tension the cable just to the point of activating the brake, and then screw it down, and you really needed three hands to do it right.  I was contemplating a turnbuckle,  when a reader offered me a N.O.S.  Rod- drum conversion kit that he had ordered for a project that ultimately he didn't complete.   I didn't realize at the time how rare these are, so I feel very fortunate to have "happened" on one.

It looks basically like this:

A replacement "stirrup"  which attaches onto the drive side fork with a pivot, and has a rod that heads down to the hub,  with a threaded end and a dongle which engages in the rod brake arm.
The only problem was that the angle of the fork made it such that when the reaction arm was clamped to the fork (using the part that was designed for that), the angle of the activation arm caused the rod to hit the axle.

Rotating the reaction arm clockwise allowed the rod to travel in a straight line without hitting the axle, but make attachment to the fork troublesome.

And in any case the fork blade was so close to the axle body, that it seemed that the rod was binding and not moving smoothly.   I added some washers between the axle and the fork, which solved that problem,  but the replacement nut wouldn't tighten down enough to hold the wheel in place.

Finally, I bit the bullet and drilled a hole though the reaction arm of the hub such that I could attach it to the fork at an angle that would allow the rod to just miss the axle.  This allowed me to use the piece that came with the hub for this purpose, although not exactly as it was designed.  The arm was supposed to fit in a little notch on the clamp,  but instead I used it as a glorified P clamp.  

All this was enough to get the brake working, and well enough (and easily adjusted enough) that after a quick spin around the block, I felt up to riding 14 miles (RT) to Harris Cyclery and back to pick up some brake pads.  I could have probably found them closer, but wanted to also stop by Russo's market.  The trip was uneventful (although I packed a lot of tools just in case),  but super sticky. 

I stopped briefly on a bridge over the Charles to enjoy the view.  It was so humid that you could see the air!   After a long hot day of errands and bike messing, I was glad to take a cool shower and relax in the AC.

I still haven't resolved the axle issues.  The good news is that I found the original axle nut  a couple of weeks ago between the seats of the Scientist's car,  the bad news is that I don't remember where I put it when I found it.   The wheel is being held in mostly by gravity,  which is not a good long term plan.  My hope is that I can find the correct nut,  screw everything down properly and have a roadster bike with its lovely slack geometry but with all weather reliability and lighting.  It's been a long slow road, but I think the end is in sight!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Streetfilms at Harvard

Films about livable streets, tonight at Harvard GSD Piper Auditorium:

Popcorn! Beer! Milk Duds and Junior Mints!

I may not be able to make it, but thought I'd pass it along.

T is for Tomato

And for Tired, unfortunately.

This is what 100 pounds of tomatoes look like (two boxes of 50lbs each)

And many, many hours later this is what 32 quarts and a pint of tomatoes look like.

I did buy a fabulous machine this year which in Italy is called a "passa tutto"  (pass everything).  It uses a hand cranked "worm drive" to drive raw chunks of tomato through a sieve, spitting out watery sauce and pulp at one end and seeds and skins at another.   It save a huge amount of time skinning and seeding the tomatoes, but I generally use a lot more chunky tomatoes than sauce.  You also have to spend some time cooking down the sauce to a reasonable consistency.  I cheated and left it overnight over a tiny simmer flame, although you could also do it in a crockpot with the lid off (I had two crockpots worth of raw juice, so it was too much work to try to stagger it/ transfer the sauce etc.)

Fortunately the pain will fade, and I'll be able to enjoy lots of spaghetti, chili and other tomato-rich dishes all winter.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Bicycling to drop off the compost:   15 minutes.

Bicycling to the library to drop off overdue books:   7 minutes

Bicycling to Target to buy laundry soap, black tights and a new mattress pad : 20 minutes.

Bicycling from Target to TJ's to buy an orchid as a hostess gift 25 minutes

Bicycling home very very slowly to not damage the orchid, and watching all the people out enjoying car free Memorial Drive 10 minutes.

Spending the afternoon running errands outside in the crisp fall sunshine instead of in a box on wheels, cursing at traffic:  worth all the time in the world.

Luxe bike parking and private bike share

At the Harvard law school I saw this fabulous Miesian bike shelter:

Gilbert was so jealous.....and wants me to remodel his shed so that it's more glamorous.  Although given recent events he may be happy to be in any shelter!

I suppose they wouldn't help much if the wind was from the south, but they're awfully nice looking, and any roof over my bike is a good roof!  They also have a law school only bike share- I don't know if there are other locations, but it looks like you check out the key to the lock from a staff person, and then could ride it somewhere on an errand, lock it up there, and then ride back.

At some of the dorms I've seen a new bike share called "Crimson Bikes"  which, like the HLS program seems to have repurposed refurbished abandoned bikes for a student only bike share.

I think that they're relying on them being homely and mismatched to keep them from being stolen,  and it might work, but the history of such informal bike sharing programs has not been great.  
Still, it will help fill the gap until Hubway gets a foothold on this side of the river.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Orange and Green

I always feel a bit self conscious taking pictures of people's saddles (while they're on them at least)
but this one looked like it was worth it-  forest green pleather to match the frame.

Nicely complemented with Orange helmet and red bag.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

JSK at Harvard Thursday Night

Janette  Sadik-Khan,  the visionary Transportation Commissioner from NYC is giving a lecture Thursday at the Harvard GSD at 6:30.   Information here.  The lecture " New York's Sustainable Streets"  is free and open to the public, but these lectures often fill up early,  so come early if you want to be in the lecture hall (they generally have  video simulcast if they overflow, but I don't know if it's guaranteed.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New "couplet" bike lanes downtown

And the bike lanes keep on coming!

Was pleased to find new bike lanes on the paired one way streets of High and Franklin running from Broad   to Washington/ Downtown Crossing.

These streets were plenty wide to accommodate a bike lane, but not wide enough for two car lanes, so  a bike lane is a perfect addition.  Also, these streets provide a nice alternative to the greenway for bikers coming from the South Station area to Faneuil Hall and the financial district.

As I've complained about the lack of facilities on the greenway, I'm glad that these provide a good alternative and hope they will get used a lot by hubway users.   I think that there needs to be better signage though (although it may be in the works) to direct non-locals from S. Station to these routes.

Friday, September 9, 2011

I feel like I've forgotten something.....

As you might have heard, we've had a bit more rain in the northeast!   It's not been as bad in Boston as further inland,  but it rained constantly for about three days, and off and on two days before that.
I'm not big on riding in pouring rain,  and had to drive/ take the train for work,  so last night when I went out to saddle up and go grocery shopping,  I was shocked to find, that I'd left Gilbert locked to himself outside for FIVE days in the rain.   Poor Gilbert-  bad bike owner!

I do have an excuse, sort of.  The Scientist and I got married on Saturday, and it was a busy day.  I rode out first thing to do a quick errand, and locked up out in the back yard because I thought I might have to run out for another errand.  Then the day got away from me, and next thing I knew, we were loading flower arrangements and my dress into the scientist's car, and headed off to the venue, leaving poor Gilbert locked and alone.  I'm really glad first of all that he's still there,  as unsecured items do have a tendency to walk away in a dense urban neighborhood.   He was out of view of the street, which obviously helps a lot.

There are some who would say that a city bike is made to be left out in the rain,  and the assumption that the bike will get wet is the reason that I used frame saver, stainless steel hardware, and waterproof light fixtures.  However, I do try to cover both the saddle and the basket when I know the bike will get wet,  and that was obviously not the case this time.

I'm not sure what to do about the saddle- it was well treated with Obenauf's  and you can see a bit that the water is still beading up on it to a small extent.  I'm going to let it dry today in my office,  and this weekend will recoat it with Obenauf's  both top and bottom.   It feels mostly OK (rode with a plastic bag over it to avoid a wet butt though).   Anyone have suggestions for best care of a leather saddle after a thorough wetting?

I'll also treat the leather trim on the basket, and may park it in the sun, with the lid open to let it the inside dry out as much as possible.  I'll probably open up the chaincase, and give the chain a bit of extra lube this weekend too.

All things considered though the bike rode just fine-  the brakes didn't even squeal. I guess that it's true that a good city bike should be able to withstand all kinds of negligence and abuse.  On the other hand, I'd rather not test that theory too often