Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Big Day!

So I'm live-blogging from the opening of Bicycle Belle!  There was a fair bit of scurrying around this morning- getting cash for the cash register, last minute supplies and such.
The Scientist helped hang a "Now Open" banner
Banner Hanging
And I did a few last minute test rides to check bike assemblies that I had done on rainy days and not ridden yet.
It's a soft opening- very soft, so far- as I've made only one sale, to M-  who needed a coffee cup holder for Pauline, his Gazelle, and tried out one of the Cleverhoods

Emily fromHub Bikes, our "sister store" to whom we refer repairs, came by,  Mike Flannigan from ANT came by and checked out the Kinn,  and a lot of people just walking by  stuck their heads in.
We'll still be getting bikes in over the summer as the Paper Bicycles arrive in July and the Workcycles Bakfietsen, FR8's and GR8's arrive in August (we hope).
But we have lots of Yakkay and Bern helmets in stock:
Super stylish Vespertine reflective vests-These are on the back wall, and car headlights shining through the front door light them up in the evening.
 This is what they look like
And Vespertine reflective pins:
Stealth tweed scarf looks grey in normal light, but headlights (or flash) light it up
Yepp kids' seat-s both the front mounted mini, and the rear mounted maxi, and accessories to mount them on any bike
And of course, leaning towers of baskets:
We'll be open 10-6:00 most days,  12-5 Sunday, and closed on Monday- drop by at 368 Beacon and check us out!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Step Sideways for Mass DOT

I went to a somewhat disconcerting public meeting this evening.  The project was the reconstruction of the Cambridge St (Allston) overpass over the Mass Pike between Lincoln St and Harvard Ave.  I'd link to the drawings online, but the project team didn't seems to realize that people want to see drawings online, and hadn't made any plans to put them up.

 This is a scary place to bike or walk because in the 1950's, a dense, walkable urban neighborhood was torn in half by a freeway.  Then the planners who designed the freeway "reconnected" the two halves of the neighborhood with an overbuilt 6 lane highway and a scarily isolated, dangerously steep, chainlink enclosed pedestrian bridge.  The sidewalks are crumbling and bordered with chainlink fence and highway style crash barriers.  Because there are too many, too wide lanes, drivers go way too fast, and with crosswalks spaced half a mile apart, pedestrians end up playing chicken to try to get to the bus stop.

The first shocking thing about this meeting is that while it was the first public meeting any of the advocates knew about, the proposed design was purportedly at 100%.  I guess it's a sign of how much Mass DOT has changed, that public process has gone from a vestigial "this is what we're going to do, like it or lump it" single meeting to an actual process where advocates expect meetings at 25%, and 75% and sometimes even pre-design meetings.  This is important because it becomes harder (more expensive) to make big design changes the further a project goes along, so a bike-ped unfriendly project can be rammed through because it's "too late" to make any changes to a bad initial design.  There was a watershed moment in local advocacy in 2008, when the "Old"  Mass DOT tried to ram a pedestrian and bike- unfriendly plan for the rebuilding of the Cragie Dam/ Museum of Science bridge through by presenting it as "complete"  and the public outcry made them reconsider and made the project better.  The old Mass DOT didn't understand or design for people, they just designed for cars. The new Mass DOT may still be mostly in a car minded design mindset, but they've learned that they need to listen to the people who bike and walk, and make some concessions to allow them to do so safely.

Anyway, the crew responsible for this meeting were clearly from the old school, and as was explained later in the meeting, this project was designed and contracted for by the old Mass Turnpike Authority, before it was rolled into Mass DOT.  So these engineers wouldn't know a livable street if it bit them, they were all about Level of Service and throughput and crash barrier standards.  They had grudgingly put in bike lanes and put the road on a lane diet to slightly compensate for the fact that the street was 150% overbuilt.  But they obviously hadn't given any real thought to pedestrian and bicycle motions at intersections or midblock.  They'd even made the pedestrian environment less friendly by putting a giant concrete median and chainlink fence down the middle to prevent people from crossing where the side streets connect to this big road.  There have been some tragic pedestrian deaths in this area, but putting a giant fence in the middle of the road is like forcing women to wear the hijab to prevent rape. God forbid we should require the cars to go a reasonable speed and provide safe and frequent pedestrian crossings.

The good news is that they are putting the road on a lane diet.  At only 27,000 cars per day, 6 lanes was way WAY too big (for a local point of reference, Mass Ave which is 4, and sometimes only 3 lanes carries more than 30,000 cars a day).  The lanes are being "tightened"  to a generous 11'6" and the extra space is going into wider (10') sidewalks and buffered bike lanes.  However the buffer is only a painted stripe zone, basically a glorified shoulder.

Given the speeds of the cars here (hopefully reduced by the lane diet)  it's not comfortable for bikes to ride right next to 50 mph traffic with only a few painted stripes between them.  Unlike many of the roadways around here, there's actually plenty of width to build cycletracks, and it would be a shame not to provide more protection- either flex posts or a curb to create a safer solution.

Basically it all comes down to the great saying "If you build for traffic and cars, you get traffic and cars.  If you build for people and places, you get people and places."  Right now Mass DOT is proposing to re-build a half mile long highway through a city neighborhood,  but what the neighborhood needs is a city street that's comfortable for the people who live there.

The one member of the panel who was from the "new MassDOT" seemed a bit embarrassed by this whole dinosaur of a project, although not embarrassed enough to commit to changes or more public process.  I think that the advocacy groups will attempt to have a meeting with the city of Boston, and Mass DOT  (BTD wasn't really represented, so Mass DOT kept blaming some of the worst features of the design on BTD).  I'm hopeful that some coordination and a bit of thought will mean it's not too late to make this a better project.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Can see it from here

No, the shop isn't open yet, but I feel like I can see it from here.  Inventory is arriving still, but there's enough here, that it's starting to look like a bike shop!  I made a big push and removed a bunch of bikes from their boxes, and though I haven't assembled them all yet, it made a huge difference in how the space feels- to be full of bikes instead of cardboard boxes.
With bonus shop dog checking the floor for treats
My slatwall hooks arrived finally, and I've been randomly putting things up on the walls just to get a sense of how much space everything takes up.  I'll then need to go through and arrange things into a hopefully logical system.  I'll also need to put price tags on, and set up a master "inventory" file.  At this point I'm still ordering some things as a test- because I've seen them online and thought they looked cool, but wanted to see them "in the flesh" before committing to ordering multiples.
IMG_3605I've had a fairly steady stream of visitors.  I assembled a couple of bikes for Velouria of Lovely Bicycle, and she came by to review them,  and also did a test ride and review  of my bakfiets, which you can read here.
It hasn't all been unpacking fun merchandise shipments.  I've been having to do some basic maintenance already.  The front door turned out to have an unpleasant habit of falling off its hinges if you opened it too widely- say to bring in a bakfiets,  and so I had to have it replaced.  And then the glass guy dropped the door while it was off its hinges, so then he had to replace the glass.  I also had to replace the faucet on the sink upstairs because it was leaking all over the floor.  I can also tell you a lot more about credit card processing than you probably want to know!  I was originally hoping to be open for this weekend, but that's looking like it won't happen, especially since I managed to wrench my back and am on strict orders not to lift any bikes or heavy boxes today!  But I definitely am getting close- will let everyone know as soon as I'm open!