Wednesday, June 27, 2012

More ways to carry the CSA

Due to a long chain of events which involved taking a 3'x3' x 1' 40lb package home from work by cab, and the resultant abandonment of my bike in the office Monday night, I was completely unprepared for CSA pickup Tuesday.    I didn't even have a pannier- had come to work by T and used a shoulder bag.

I tried my default backup plan of "Velouria's panniers"  but on my way back to the office, I had a plastic bag fail, which ended up with Zucchini in the spokes! The horror!  And yes, I know that having plastic bags close to your spokes is in general a bad thing (although the front wheel is much more dangerous).   Mostly I've been lucky because I've carried lighter things which are easily held out of the wheel by the fender stays. 

However, the zucchini didn't seem to want to stay up out of the way, so after picking bits of squash off of my hub,  I decided I needed another way to get stuff home.

Enter the temporary box-basket:

As you can see, you cut a pair of holes for the bungee to slip through, et voila:

I've done this a couple of times now, and it's simple if you have a) a properly sized box stashed under your desk or in your office mail room  b) a bungee or rack strap  c) a box cutter/ X-acto.

It was a nice day at the market: 

The Metro-Pedal Power bike truck was making a pickup:

I love wrinkly (aka Savoy) cabbage

The box worked great all the way home, and I am excited to have cabbage thoren for dinner tonight!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Visit to Big D

As followers of my twitter/ instragram feed may have noticed, I was in Dallas last weekend, visiting the Scientist's side of the family for a quick trip.
I have to say I spent a lot of time in the car, as one might expect from such a car-centric city.
However, one evening we did visit the more bike-friendly area of "Oak Cliff"

We stopped by the Oak Cliff Bicycle company. This neighborhood, which is close to downtown seemed to have a walkable/ bikeable core, although the area we were in was mainly restaurants and boutiques.   The Oak Cliff Bicycle company carries a variety of city bikes (Pashley, Linus and Bobbin)  as well as a handful of refurbished touring bikes/ mixties.

My sister in law has been wanting a Linus for a long time, and until now, they've never had the one she wanted in stock.  Of course they had it on this trip, but she's 8 1/2 months pregnant and didn't feel comfortable doing a test ride.   Hopefully she can go by after the baby is born and they will still have it/ have another one.

I didn't get to chat as long as I'd like to with the people at the shop, but they seemed very nice.   They had an amazing vintage (US production) Trek, which they'd fitted out with a serious touring rack, an Edeluxe dynamo light and hammered honjo fenders.  The amazing thing was that they'd had the frame nickel plated- which was just stunning.

I only realized after I'd left that I didn't get a picture of the whole bike, just the custom badge  that they'd attached to the seat tube.  We were late for dinner, and although we hoped we'd get back during my trip we didn't make it.

I saw lots of bike parking and signs of bike culture in the neighborhood though.

One really cool thing was this row of wall-mounted bike hangers along the alley side of a popular restaurant:

What a cool idea for limited space- they had 8 or so of these along the wall
There were also regular sidewalk racks:

Bikes used as displays for a fancy florist:

And a whole bay of parking blocked off for bikes.  Too bad it had super lousy wheelbender racks!

Hopefully I'll get another chance to drop by on a future trip to talk to the people who run the shop, get my S-i-l  her bike, and ride around a bit on my own!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Book Report

I  finally finished "Wrestling with Moses"  the Jane Jacobs/ Robert Moses book that I alluded to earlier.

I really enjoyed the first 50 or so pages, although they underscored the daunting nature of advocacy, and how there are always powerful forces pushing projects and what seem like puny resources to fight them.   The story of how Jane Jacobs became an advocate, and her gifts for strategy and tactics in fighting the bisection of Washington Square by a highway was inspiring.  In my own advocacy, I would like to be more cognizant of tactics and ways of advocating for bike and ped improvements that are proactive, not just reactive.

The middle third of the book felt repetitive, chronicling the subsequent fight against "Urban Renewal" both literally in the West Village, and theoretically as a larger planning movement.  The descriptions of the fight against the Lower Manhattan Expressway (Lomex), which would have eliminated all the charming cast iron storefronts of Soho, were historically interesting, but started to feel a bit repetitive.

I wish that I'd skipped directly to the last 40 pages, especially the Epilogue,   which I think would have stood well on its own as an interesting essay about the legacy of Jacobs and Moses.

Jacobs, in taking on the ultimate insider, Robert Moses*, was part of a revolution in public process.   In the 50's  government planning decisions (and many other decisions) were an opaque process, which if anything was announced to the public only as the plan was in motion.  The fight against urban freeways, such as Lomex, and the Boston's Inner Belt,  in parallel with civil rights struggles, the environmental movement and the anti-war movement, led to both a distrust of the motives of goverment, and a demand for more openness.   The demand for "sunlight"  and transparency has really transformed the way that public agencies work.

I attended a series of lectures this spring about the fight against the Inner Belt, and it was surprising and somewhat disheartening that we are fighting many of the same battles now, and that the transportation planners in charge still seem to feel that the freeway is the right way by default. However, I do feel that while the mindset behind the decision making process may not have evolved as much as I'd like to think it had from the 60's, the process has definitely changed.

As an advocate, I still sometimes feel that there are always surprises, and we are constantly reacting to new and potentially problematic projects.  But mostly that's because we feel spread too thin, not because Mass Dot is trying to hide things or do things behind our backs.  The idea of public process has really become ingrained in government planning, even if planners are rolling their eyes a bit at hearing the "amateur's" opinions.

What was intriguing about  this final essay last, is what drew me to read the book initially (guided by the review I read in the NY Times).   In many ways, the commitment to public process has become a double edged sword.  NIMBYism, which can be a very destructive force, is a direct result of the empowerment of citizens in the process.   Government, when forced to respond to the will of the people, has often found itself stymied by the voices of a few.  The same power of advocates to resist repairing an overpass, has also become the power of vocal citizens to fight against bike lanes.  It does seem like government needs to be more empowered to make regional decisions which might discomfit a local few, but which might indeed serve the vaunted "greater good"

My thought on this is that there needs to be a new equilibrium where government does have the power to override naysayers in order to achieve regional goals.   But as an advocate, I want to make sure that "government"  is not just thinking of people in cars when they do their planning.  I am hopeful that there might be some middle ground,  with a combination of progressive planning and radical regionalism to move forward.  I don't want to be constantly saying "NO, "  but would rather be talking about "What if?"

* Somehow I never realized that "The Power Broker"  about Moses was written by LBJ biographer Robert Caro.  I might need a bit of a vacation from Moses, but I'm definitely putting that on my list.

Friday, June 15, 2012

CSA Pickup!

It's that time of year again, CSA pickups have begun!  I really like having it so close to my office- I just run down and pick it up during my lunch hour.  The process has been made much easier by the new-ish (late last year)  bike lanes on Atlantic Ave both ways.   I used to take the lane without too much guilt, since there are two lanes, but it IS much more comfortable to have my own space on the road.
Red Fire Farms offers a delivery option with Metro Pedal Power, but I do it using Minerva Pedal Power
Lots and lots and lots of greens this time of year!  I've been trying to eat more salads, so this is not entirely unwelcome, but it's still a lot of lettuce.   We got (tuscan) kale last week, which I immediately turned into my favorite salad!
I forgot my big-ass panniers, so I had to rely on "Velouria's" panniers (TM)

Surprisingly, we also got 2Lbs of Zucchini/ summer squash,  which I think of as a later summer crop.  Faced with so much zucchini before I was really ready for it,  and especially given that it was kind of cold this week, I turned it into a batch of this soup.  I used plain goat cheese instead of the Boursin,  because I had one and not the other, and it was good, although I had garlic breath for 36 hours after.

One of my favorite temptations at the farmer's market where I pick up my CSA is the Swiss Bakers stand.  I have a hard time resisting their pretzels, which come in roll, rod and traditional pretzel forms.
I believe that they now have a retail cafe'/ bakery in Brighton, need to make a trip out there to check it out.

As always during the early weeks, I cling to the fiction that I can eat everything before the next week's bounty arrives.   It never quite works out, but it's a good incentive to eat a lot of veggies and center my meal planning on what's actually in the fridge, as opposed to whatever grabs my fancy on the way home.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Turnpike Ramps downtown?

Again, apologies for the last minute notice, but there's a meeting tonight (June 12th)  to discuss potential exits and onramps from the Mass Pike in the Back Bay/ LMA/ Fenway.  This is a public advisory meeting for a study that Mass DOT is doing.

At first blush this seems like an obviously bad idea- the thought of bringing freeway-speed traffic into a dense and highly pedestrianized area like the Back Bay seems pretty terrifying.

However, there's a carrot which might make it palatable (in connection with good design of the exits/onramps.   The thought is that there is a lot of surface traffic that is just people driving from the Back Bay/ Longwood Medical Center/ Fenway to the pike.  Theoretically if they could get to the pike more easily, that would relieve traffic on the rest of the streets, making them less congested.  If vehicle counts go down, then a lot of surface roads could then be eligible for road diets to create better bike facilities, wider sidewalks, etc.

The question becomes, what guarantees to better surface street infrastructure is Mass DOT willing to commit to?   Will better pike access just make it easier to drive downtown and make other people more willing to drive?  Will those people fill the spaces on the surface roads vacated by those on the pike?

I'm going to have to leave a bit early, but I'm going to be there for as much of it as I can.  6pm to 8pm at the Boston Public Library in the Mezzanine conference room.

June Ladies Who Bike Brunch

OOPS!  Almost forgot that the third Saturday was THIS Saturday, June 16th, which means it's time for the Ladies Who Bike Brunch.

Given the last minute notice,  we're going to take the path of least resistance and do it at Area IV again- Would love suggestions for alternatives for next month.  I have lots of Cambridge ideas, but would love Boston/Brookline suggestions to be closer to those on that side of the river.  We'd also like to have a clinic at Hub Bikes some future month, and would like input on what kind of maintenance stuff people would be interested in learning about, so if you can't come to this meeting, but want to come in July, please speak up in the comments.

Otherwise, hope to see you on Saturday at 11, at Area IV in Kendall Sq.   Please RSVP in the comments, or at the Facebook Page

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dapper Gent

I've seen this guy several times recently, and finally managed to snap a shot of him.
I'm not so excited about him salmoning, but he's got a great sense of style:

Just another citizen cyclist in the People's Republic:  Sport coat, lilac shirt, orange argyle socks,  vintage Raleigh! looks like he needs a cup holder though.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Citizen's Connect FTW!

I've been meaning to contact the city of Boston for what seems like forever to get them to fix the giant pothole in the middle lane of Cambridge street where it comes into Charles Circle.  It's in the part of the lane that I'm riding in to go straight over the bridge. It's a particularly nasty pothole: deep slits parallel to a metal grating, lurking in hopes of catching a tire and throwing a rider over the bars.

Or at least it was, as I finally remembered to file a report using the citizen's connect App on Monday, and it was fixed by Tuesday end of day!  Citizen's Connect For The Win!

It doesn't look like a fabulous, long lasting patch, but it will do for now, and it's one less thing to worry about in a stressful intersection.   Now if we could just get the city to stop people turning right from the left lane there, I'd have no complaints at all.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Chance encounters

Sorry I've been a negligent blogger,  The Scientist and I have "discovered" The Wire, and have been mainlining it in unseemly chunks, which cuts into my evening blogging time :)

I thought I had reinstalled Gilbert's rear wheel for good this weekend, but it rained on Monday, and when I took off this morning, I only got a few blocks before he started making a horrid rubbing noise, which turned out to be the shifter cable not being properly snapped into its housing and rubbing on the chain.  So I turned around and swapped him for Minerva, and then headed to work.

I was terribly late, but while riding across the Longfellow, I spied a familiar profile ahead- Mark, a sometime reader of the blog, who I see from time to time on our commute.  Something looked different about his bike, and as I got closer, I realized that it was a completely different bike, but not a completely unfamiliar one- as he'd bought Velouria's Gazelle, and rechristened it "Pauline" after his German Oma (grandma).

We rode up Cambridge Street together, chatting about the new bike, and how it compared to Minerva.  They're clearly so similar, but the differences are distinctive.  The most obvious difference is that Minerva's handlebars are lower.  Only an inch or two, but it creates a distinctive difference in posture.

The Gazelle also has 27" wheels compared to Minerva's 28", but it's hard to see much of a difference.
They both have drum brakes on the front, which he says he finds somewhat soft.  My drum brake at the front is so much more aggressive than the rod brake at the back, that I always think of it as my aggressive brake, but it's less than a caliper brake I suppose.  Pauline also has a coaster brake, which I have a hard time adjusting to, especially since I like to adjust my pedal at a stop.

Even though Velouria has done it more systematically with her DL-1, I had to take photos of the two of them together to compare.

I keep repeating myself, but it's so nice to run into bike friends.  I can't even imagine seeing a friend driving in a car along the same route you're going, and then being able to drive along next to them for 5 or 10 blocks until your routes diverge, chatting as you go.  All in all, I was glad to be late enough to run into Mark and get a chance to appreciate his "new" bike

Friday, June 1, 2012

Just Ride

Grant Petersen, founder of Rivendell is speaking tonight at Harris Cyclery, 6pm.  It may be too late to re-arrange your schedule to go (I'm taking off early to bike all the way out there from downtown), but if you can I think it will be very interesting.  I'm perhaps not as familiar with the details of his work as some- I'm more aware of him as a general cultural force than of the specifics of his career, but I suspect I'll agree with most of what he has to say, even if we may come at it from different directions.

There was a huge turnout at the meeting last night about repairs to the McCarthy overpass.  I was very impressed with two things.  Firstly the size and passion of the crowd:  there were cheers and standing ovations and a group of 200 people of all shapes, ages and walks of life.   Secondly, the people who spoke were all very focused and mostly positive and thoughtful.  I've been to a lot of meetings where person after person stood up and ranted, and everyone was very on message, and largely positive in their comments.

The message was unequivocal, that the bridge must come down and no one wants the existing bridge repaired if that will stall the teardown by even a few years.  To me, and many others, the rational solution is to post weight limits, and/ or lane restrictions on the existing bridge,maybe performing a couple hundred thousand dollars of protection to keep chunks of concrete from falling on people,  and keep the pressure on to take the whole thing down.   One thing I learned is that once concrete has spalled to expose the rebar, any remedial work will never be structurally integrated, merely cosmetic.

We'll see if Mass DOT is willing to back down.  It had the feeling of a last ditch emergency meeting, as they were just about to release the contract.  And clearly, designing a new solution and getting the permits and funding in place to put it in place are not something that happen overnight.  But I see no need to buy time by wasting money on something that has to come down.