Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cambridge Catches Up!

After seeing bike corrals pop up in Somerville (in Davis and Union)  I wondered when Cambridge, once the bike-infrastructure leader of the region was going to catch up!   Fortunately it didn't take too long, and I've seen two bike corrals so far- one on Broadway, right in front of Broadway Bikes, and one on Third Street, right at the corner of Broadway.  The Scientist said he saw another one on 3rd, right next to Voltage Coffee.  I'm sure they must be popping up all over.  When I swung by the one at Broadway bikes, the guys reluctantly answered the door (they had just closed)  to tell me that they'd just gone in at the end of last week.

Anyone else have sightings to report?   I'd vote for one at Area IV and one at Green Street Grill.  Green Street especially has a dearth of poles and other stuff to lock to, so it would be a big help.  I know that the owner of Green Street is a big bicyclist, so I would hope he'd approve.   I think that technically there is no parking along there as it's a fire lane though, so it might be hard to get approved.
The one at 3rd also features a public pump/ tool station for quick fixes

At Broadway Bikes

I know it looks a little lonely, but they just closed on Memorial Day Monday, so it was pretty sleepy (and there's also a lot of bike parking there anyway).

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bring Down This Bridge!

There's a movement afoot across the country to take down obsolete 50's era highways that were bulldozed through urban centers, leaving them damaged and blighted.

Cities are having a moment, as people are willing to pay more and forgo McMansions in favor of living in places where they can walk, bike and live in connected mixed-use neighborhoods.
And advocates for healthy urban spaces are pushing to bring the leadership of giant high-way centered DOT's into this urban present, let alone the future.

The McCarthy Overpass,  part of Rt 28/ the McGrath Highway in East Somerville is a perfect example of bad car centered design from an outmoded era.  A healthy dense neighborhood was sacrificed on the altar or getting as many commuters in from the suburbs as fast as possible.  The resulting elevated highway created a barrier that is inhospitable to anyone not speeding by in a car; impossible to cross in many places, it cut the neighborhood in half.   No one wanted to live next to the highway or even look at it, so it blighted the adjacent areas, and new development turned away.  Ironically, thanks to improvements of I-93, which is a parallel corridor, the 6 lanes and disfiguring bridges of Mc Grath carry about the same number of cars a day as Mass Ave, a grounded 4 lane (or less) road.

And the McCarthy overpass (the part north of Union sq) is literally crumbling.  Like the Casey overpass in JP, they've had to close some lanes at some parts of it because of structural weakness.  The City of Somerville has been pushing to have the overpass taken down, and to replace it with a city street, with sidewalks, bike lanes, urban storefronts and a balance between transportation modes, not the mindless prioritization of the car.   Mass DOT even commissioned a study on the impacts of grounding Mc Grath.

However, while one hand of Mass DOT is exploring restoring the city streets to the neighborhood,  the other is still thinking only about throughput of car traffic,  and is planning on spending $16 million dollars to repair the bridge "for the short term".   Advocates fear that once these repairs are complete, DOT will say "well, we can't tear it down now, we just fixed it to last another 50 years!"

The shortsightedness of repairing a bridge which so many people want to come down is staggering.  Advocates have lobbied hard to even get the DOT to realize this and to listen to community opinion on this.   For a long time, we thought it was a done deal and that there was no way to stop this waste of funds.   However, we have succeeded in getting DOT to hold a meeting about the work,  Thursday (tomorrow) the 31st from 6pm to 8pm..   It's in a not a terribly bike-transit friendly location, at the Argenziano School, at 290 Washington Street.  However I hope if you're local you'll consider coming by and speaking up for a public space for people, not just for moving cars in from the suburbs.  If we get enough pushback, we still hope that there's time to call off this wasteful project, and keep up momentum to to take back the street for the city!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Out and About

Sorry I've ben AWOL,  life just kind of got in the way the last week or so.
I had a great time at the Bikeyface Bikenic, although it didn't seem like we had much overlap with the normal Women who Bike Brunch.   There are so many bike events during that week, that a lot of people left early to go to other rides.  Some cool bikes, some familiar faces, and a gorgeous day to hang out at the Boston Common.

Unfortunately the rest of the week was a bit of a blur, as I got sick and was out for a day or so.  My boss joked that he could tell I was really sick because I went home early and didn't ride my bike- took the T instead.   Feeling sick really drives home the need to protected infrastructure.  I feel like if I can't ride my normal speed, or if I don't feel super alert, I am not as comfortable riding semi- vehicularly as I have to do on much of my route.   When I feel weak and vulnerable, I long for a route where I can just relax and ride at a slower pace without worrying about car traffic so much!

In January I mis-adjusted the limit stops on the Shogun, and sent the chain into the spokes. I'd been meaning and meaning to try to fix it, and was dreading it, because I have so little experience with derailleurs.   I finally took the Shogun to Emily at Hub Bicycle, and she had it back to shifting perfectly in about 10 minutes.  Best $10 I've spent in a while.

To celebrate it being back in action, the Scientist and I have been taking Saturday morning rides the last couple of weekends, me on the Shogun and he on his road bike.   We went to Brookline Village last weekend, and to the Fenway area yesterday.  I'm still getting settled into the Shogun.  It's great on hills (was especially useful wandering around Brookline) and straightaways, but I'm not 100% comfortable in traffic.  I also have some misgivings about the seat.  It's not precisely uncomfortable, but I feel a bit like I'm precariously balanced instead of having my seat bones properly supported.   I was hoping that it might break in over time, but Velouria's recent post on VO saddles makes me wonder if this is just the way it is, and I may need to try different (wider) saddles :(  I've been so comfortable with my Brooks B66 saddles on my city bikes, so I've never struggled with this kind of problem.   And as I said, It's not a discomfort problem (so far, on less than 20 mile rides) but I just feel like I'm not sitting on the saddle as securely as I feel like when I'm on my B66's.
Can't sit on a step through frame!
Random red office chair sitting under a giant willow.
It's been gorgeous riding weather, but I've been doing stuff round the house mainly this weekend,  fixing the gas grill igniter, doing yard work, and shampooing the carpets (whoo hoo!)  Hope everyone else is enjoying  their memorial day weekend so far, and getting more riding in than I am!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Notes from Bike Week

Went to the Harvard bike breakfast in the Holyoke center this morning.  The tuneup mechanic looked lonely in the misty drizzle, as everyone else was inside.  I was perusing the swag (bike maps, seat covers, little red blinkie lights that are great emergency lights of last resort)  when the woman organizing it came up to me and said,  "I'm sorry but this is only for people who rode their bikes"  Because there's no way a woman in a nice dress and heels could have ridden a bike right?   GRRRR.  I showed her my helmet and said,  "I bike all year round, almost every day."   I understand that she was running interference on free breakfast in an area where there are a lot of walk-through commuters, but I wasn't even at the free breakfast part of the setup, but at the information table.  God forbid someone who "doesn't look like they ride a bike" should have access to information about biking.

I "won" my choice of prizes in the little "raffle" they were running, and given the choices of a CO2 inflator, a mirror, and a cable lock, I chose a cable lock.   I don't actually own a cable lock, and maybe it would be good to have one for some occasions (locking to lamp-posts, locking my rear wheel,  locking to another bike).   Unfortunately it's likely that the times I'll need it, I won't have it, because I won't be in the habit of carrying it with me.

I sat down to a yummy breakfast of melon and chocolate croissant,  and was chatting with a nice lady at my table about panniers, when I saw a stereotypical "Bike Commuter" checking out my shoes.  He skeptically asked if I had riddenthere, and I said, yes, I had.  He asked, "how to you ride in those shoes"?  I said,  I ride using the ball of my feet, not the heel,  don't you?  He said, but don't you hurt yourself on the toeclips?  I said, I don't have toeclips, and he looked at me incredulously.

This kind of really clueless behavior IS becoming less prevalent.  At the Broadway Pancake breakfast, most people were in kind of hipster stuff,  the kind of clothes you could wear to an IT or biotech job without any comment.  The one guy at my table in lycra said, "Yeah, when I get to this part of town I feel like a bit of a weirdo because I'm the only guy in lycra."  He was riding about 10 miles each way from Winchester, so it probably makes sense for him to wear athletic clothes and then change.  But I think it's really great that people riding in "normal" clothes is becoming the norm, and I hope that I will not be an object of curiosity at these events much longer.

It started to rain as I headed off to work (a bit late).  I'd probably have been completely dry if I rode in at my regular time.   As it was, my legs and the bottom of my skirt got damp.  Legs are much faster to dry than any kind of pants,  and they work for me as "rain pants"  A quick brush off of road grit after they're dry and I'm good to go.   My shoes were fine for most of the ride, but by the end, my feet were slipping against the damp leather of the footbed a bit.  It was fine for biking, but when I arrived at work the elevator wasn't working, so I took them off to carry my bike up the stairs.  Fortunately our office is only on the 2nd floor, because carrying a 40lb bike up stairs is not much fun.

I'm testing a home-made skirt garter to keep my skirt in place while riding.  This is a beta version and has some issues.  It doesn't keep the skirt down really, but it does prevent it from flying completely up.
It tends to ride down, I need to create a version that's adjustable on my leg.  Am working on it, but having a hard time finding the right elastic. Need to try Windsor Button.

The rain is doing great things for my garden, if not for attendance at bike week events:

Tonight I'm going to the Ride Of Silence.  I don't like to dwell much on those killed while bicycling, because it's a pretty rare occurrence,  but I was very saddened by the death this year of a young MIT alum in an area I bike through regularly. He was apparently waiting at a light to turn left, when a tanker truck made a wide turn into his lane and ran over him.   The MIT Tech is doing a good job of keeping on the story, filing a Public information request for the records.  It incenses me that there will be no consequences for the driver for failing to stay in his lane,  when the consequences for the biker were so tragic.

I'm still processing my feelings about this, and hope to post on it someday, but in the meantime I plan to attend the ride.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Merrily we roll along

Had a great time at the Cyclofemme ride on Sunday, was great to see some familiar faces, and meet the organizers of the Boston Bicycle Belles.

Yakkay Helmet- and it matches her ensemble perfectly!

Gold and White 
A specially built pedal for riding while the owner's foot was in a cast 

Po Campo trunk bag

And Po-Campo panniers
And More Po Campo bags!
 Had to turn around in the Fenway rest stop and head home though because I was trying to replace my instant hot water heater that I rely on for coffee making every morning.

  When my new-ish hot water heater died after about a year's use, my Dad and I thought we'd pull a fast one by installing another one by the same manufacturer that my Dad happened to have lying around (long story).  However the installation is a tiny bit different, and I can't seem to get it installed without leaking.   GRRR.  I was so sore on Monday- my quads and hip flexors were complaining about all the contortion under the sink.

Because I "sunk" so much time into that, there wasn't much left for other things on my "To Do" list, although I did manage to get Gilbert's rear wheel reinstalled (FINALLY)  while watching Sherlock.
It's handy to have the bike repair stand set up in the TV room!   I've become crazy addicted to Sherlock, to the point where I'm considering buying the DVDs so that I can see the 8 minutes they cut for "messages from our sponsors."  If more TV was like this, I'd watch TV, so it's probably a good thing because I really don't have time to watch more TV.

I've still been riding Minerva this week though,  because I haven't had the time or energy to do a shakedown ride on Gilbert.  I'd rather find out that I didn't properly adjust the brakes while riding around the block than halfway to work.  We also have an "interloper" in the bike shed, and I'm not wanting to figure out how to fit a 6th bike in there.  

 The Scientist's citified mountain bike has been lurking at his office for months, the tires slowly deflating.   I wanted to fix it up so that he had an alternative to his road bike for riding around our neighborhood,  but how to get it home?   This bike is a 22" frame, which is actually a bit small for him (6'5").   I ended up at his office on Saturday morning, and needed to get home, so I pumped up the tires, which seem to hold air just fine (knock on wood)  and then I pushed the seat all the way down, did a quick ride around the loading dock to make sure I could dismount without hurting myself ( I can just barely straddle the top tube without damaging myself.   Of course, I was wearing a skirt, but by tipping the bike sideways, I could mount reasonably demurely, and managed to ride, slowly and cautiously the 2 miles or less home.
Simulated panda shot on giant bike- have to really stretch

Now that we have it, I'm soooo wanting to give it a makeover to make it look more like a proper city bike (I'm thinking hammered fenders and  flipped albatross bars.)  But I'm not sure it's really that kind of bike, and I don't want to spend too much time and money on it, seeing as he really needs a larger frame.  I keep trying to talk him into a Surly LHT now that they're making a 64" frame,  but he's not really interested in that either.

I did drop by the Broadway Bicycle School Pancake breakfast this morning, but took no pictures because I forgot both camera and phone!   I saw a couple of familiar faces, and got a chance to briefly talk to a couple of new people before I dashed, off to work.   They had a barista from dwell time making pour-over coffees, but I didn't have time to wait in line, unfortunately.  The pancakes were sure good though, and I'll try to get there earlier next year so I have more chance to chat with people.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Free Breakfast Week Events

Ok, officially they're "bike to work week" events but if every week is bike to work week, you can appreciate the free breakfasts, and enjoy the chance to chat with your fellow commuters over a light breakfast!  There are a couple of people who I've chatted with at these things over the years who now I see regularly, which is a nice thing on my ride.

We had the first sunny ride this morning in what seems like forever, which was lovely.   It gives me hope for the weather next week.   And I saw something that will surely become a regular feature of my commute.
The glass causing the reflection has been in for a while, but this was the first time it had anything to reflect.

In other nice weather news, one of my coworkers reported that at one intersection he was at this morning there were more bikes (7) than cars (5) stopped.

The week is bracketed by two women- focused events which are open to all riders, male and female:

Boston Bike Belles are organizing a Cyclofemme ride from Harvard sq to the arboretum this Sunday the 13th, which I'm thinking I'll probably hit up, at least for part of the ride.  Info here.  Bring your Mom if you can!

This month's Ladies Who Bike Brunch, is going to be slightly different- Since Bikeyface is one of the founders of the brunch, and we were kind of talking about having a picnic anyway, we're going to roll the brunch into the Bikeyface Bikenic on the common near the Frog Pond.  Sunday May 20th at noon.  If there's rain the bikenic will be cancelled, but we might reschedule the LWBB.  Check here or at the facebook site for details.

In terms of free breakfasts, I mostly know the Cambridge ones.  The Harvard Sq one is sponsored by Harvard and has lots of good swag (bike maps, blinkies etc).  It's on Wednesday at the AuBon Pain in Harvard Sq.

Broadway Bicycle always has a pancake breakfast on Tuesday. The only time I've ever gone,they got started pretty late, so I couldn't really get anything to eat as they were still getting organized. I suspect it was better organized later in the morning, but I have to commute earlier :(  If you have a flexible schedule this might be a good bet.  And you could grab coffee at Barismo across the street!

The Charles River Transportation Management Association (the people who bring you the EZ ride) host breakfasts several places:  Alewife on Tuesday,  and Kendall on Thursday.

And then of course there will be giant Bike Breakfast at Boston City Hall on Friday Morning.  This is part of their summer long "Bike Fridays" events.  There are convoys in from various neighborhoods in the city, more information on the website.  They'd like for you to register so that they have an idea how many burritos to get.  They'll also send you reminders of Bike Fridays the rest of the summer.

Oh, I almost forgot to remind everyone that the Rush Hour Race will be on Monday.  I probably won't be able to be there (being a workday and all)  but if you can go in a little later, it would be fun to watch, or to be there at either the start or the finish.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Beyond the Spandex?

Last Thursday I went to the MassBike annual fundraising dinner.  I've never been to one, but I think that MassBike is a good organization, worth supporting, so I decided to buy a ticket and check it out.
They sent out an email the day before reminding us that the dress was "semi-formal"  To me that meant  this:

But as I suspected, it was really just a warning to people not to wear their rainpants or bike shorts.

The "Theme" of the night was "Beyond the Spandex"  and the evening's entertainment was to be a "fashion show" supposedly showing off looks other than classic racer kit.  I was skeptical, or as I told Cris during the cocktail hour, if you drew a Venn diagram of what I consider bike fashion and what MassBike considers bike fashion, I suspect the overlap would be very small.

There was a cocktail reception and silent auction first:

 I got a chance to chat with Nick Jackson of Toole design, and Cris introduced me to Pamela Blayley, whose blog I've read, but whom I'd never met before.  She has the most amazing EmmyLou Harris hair- a gorgeous color of white blond.

Then I was seated at a table of random strangers, which turned out to be just fine. Pamela was there, when she wasn't getting ready to be in the fashion show. I met the #2 rider of Hubway last year in terms of miles.  And I got to meet Armando Quiros, a frame builder who specializes in beautifully brazed track frames.

Armando Quiros, on right, and his assistant, Victor.
 He and his assistant, Victor, had brought a van load of bikes to use in the show.  I got some pictures after the show of Armando's personal bike with its liquid looking joints.

We had a nice discussion about tube types, powdercoat vs liquid paint, the collegiality of Boston frame builders, and his adorable 3 month old daughter.

The show was,  as expected, well, not really my thing.
There was Rapha fairly classic kit (not skintight, and probably wool)

 There was hipster cycling clothing- note reinforced shoulders- I guess for a backpack ?!?

And lycra-heavy "athletic dresses"  like something Serena Williams would wear.

These are all fine options for sport cycling, but having them presented as fashionable biking attire would give Mikael Colville-Andersen seizures.
I'm not exactly a fashion plate, but I can do better than that (see top photo above which is what I wore for the six mile ride home at 10PM)
 I think that the emphasis on making special recreational clothing that doesn't look like you just got dropped by the peleton is not really getting "beyond the spandex"   It's just pretty spandex in pastel colors.   If you really are doing a lengthy sport ride, why not just wear bike kit and be done with it?  And if you're riding 5 miles to work, in most cases, you'll look better and it will be easier just to wear what you'd wear to work anyway.  To me riding in your normal clothes is what's truly "beyond the spandex."  I am hopeful that MassBike appreciates that distinction, but I'm not sure that as an organization they're really thinking of cycling as more than something sporty and athletic and sweaty.

I know that the point of a fashion show is to sell stuff, and that it's hard for many people still to use bikes as a way to sell everyday clothes.   It seems like this can be done though, see
this and this example.  I just don't think this was a particularly good example.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Finding the way

The city of Boston has been on a big push to install bike wayfinding signs all over.  Although I have downtown pretty well figured out, they rightfully are expecting a lot of bicyclists (summer tourists on Hubways) to be wandering around trying to figure out how to get where they're going.

I like that they're simple and destination focused, but I haven't yet tried to follow them to see if there are follow ups that actually keep you on track.

I think this is really a step forward for Boston, because instead of just assuming bicyclists are the hardcore regulars who've been doing it forever, these signs allow for the casual rider, the out of towner, the newbie making their first trip into the city.

These signs can also be important for guiding riders to the safest, lowest stress routes.  Since they're just being rolled out, I'm not in a position to judge them, but since I keep seeing them on the routes I've found to be my favorites through years of trial and error, I'm optimistic that they're in the right places.

Two stories that resonate:  Bike Portland just had a story about an out of town visitor who was guided (by a bike map no less) onto a really scary bridge (the local equivalent of the River Street bridge, or maybe even the Tobin).   He felt like Portland was so generally bike friendly, and finding himself on this route really was a smack in the face.  Boston can really shape visitors experiences of the city by helping people get around safely.

This morning, I stopped on the way to work to grab a bagel and as I was locking up a meter reader came up to me.  From her purposeful stride, I was worried that there was some obscure regulation that forbade me locking to that sign, but no, she wanted to talk about biking to work.  She asked how far I rode (5 miles)  and how long it took me, and had lots of questions about how I dealt with sweat and clothes.  I have to admit, I was not feeling my cleanest, having misjudged the weather and slightly overdressed.   I told her, fairly, that this was about as sweaty as I ever got, and that I just brushed my hair, wiped my face, and sometimes wiped down with Purell.    I asked where she would be riding in from, and I think she said Malden,  a northern suburb.  I honestly had no idea how I would get downtown from there- I know some people who ride down 99, but I think it's pretty hairy.  I recommended that she go over to Mass Bike ( a block from where we were standing) and that they would be glad to help her plan a route.  I hope she did drop by and that they could help her.   She seemed pretty plugged into bike culture- asked me if I'd heard about the bikers in Berkeley who caught a hit and run driver through their bike cam.

 I was really pleased that she wasn't focused on safety or how scary it must be to ride in the city.  I honestly don't think it's that dangerous, or else I wouldn't do it- I pay attention, and I ride safely, and I haven't had a wreck in years.  I don't think of myself as a particularly brave person- I'm particularly timid about shocks and startles- my definition of a scary movie is Ghostbusters!  Safety dominates so many conversations that I have with women who don't ride, that it was a relief to talk about sweat, and purell, and the mechanics of looking professional after riding to work.