Monday, April 30, 2012

Whole Foods Bike Rack Fail

I  posted a couple of weeks ago about the overflowing bike racks at Whole Foods (and everywhere around Cambridge).
I stopped by after my training on Sunday, and the good news is that after a year of requests,  there was another rack installed!

The bad news is that it's a crummy wheelbender type that's totally useless for most riders.  The mixed news was that people were so desperate for bike parking that they were locking just their front wheels- risking not only theft but a taco'ed wheel if the bike fell over.
Note that the rack is too close to existing racks- There's no way to get into the empty spots in the middle, even if you could manage to lock your bike there.  The person who ordered and  installed this rack had no idea how to actually park a bike.
Minerva and another bike locked to a pole because we couldn't fit in any other spots.   I could easily carry $100 of groceries in those big panniers.
Newsflash for Whole Foods:  Biking for urban transportation is a real trend, not just greenwashing!
People who bike to the store (your customers) on a regular basis tend to have bikes with fenders and racks and baskets for carrying all the groceries that they want to buy at your store.
This bike is set up to carry a serious load of groceries.  The owner was complaining to me while she locked up about how lame the new parking is.
  The racks you put in need to accommodate those kinds of bicycles if you want these kinds of people to come to your store.   If it's not enough to you that I am arriving in an environmentally friendly way, consider that I have $50 a week that I'm not spending on gas, that instead I could  spend on grass fed beef, locally grown kale and compostable trash bags.  You claim to have a larger mission of sustainability, yet you provide plenty of car parking, while providing substandard facilities for truly sustainable transportation.  Transportation cyclists are your target audience.  By shortchanging us, you risk losing us as customers, and make your mission seem hollow.

I've written to Whole Foods asking if they have a national bike rack policy.  If they respond, I'll be happy to let you know what they say.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

In Training

All weekend I've been in a training session run by the Alliance for Biking and Walking aimed at learning how to be a better advocate.   Since I've kind of fallen into advocacy work as a volunteer and in essentially a reactive role, it's interesting to step back think formally about the steps involved in successful advocacy, and learning to balance strategy with tactical operations.

It was a weekend full of stimulating conversations about the ways our cities could better serve people, with a group of very smart, very thoughtful, very informed people who are as passionate about making the city a better place for people not in cars as I am.  In some ways the issue we chose  to take through the process of the workshop was poorly suited for the structure of the event- too big and too complicated to parse using arbitrary guidelines.  The struggle brought home for me that concrete ideas and actions are so much easier for me to get my head around than abstract strategy issues.

By turns I was exhilarated by the possibilities for positive change, terrified by the potential for lost opportunities, and overwhelmed by what seems like a insurmountable list of challenges that advocates face, each one seeming like a monumental struggle.

Mostly though, I'm intellectually exhausted.  Two and a half days of non-stop focus and incredible conversations with bright, dedicated people who are totally on your wavelength is exciting, but left me feeling drained,-like I have no words left.  The training was not only a chance to meet advocates from different organizations, but for the large group from Livable Streets to really get to know each other better.  I have often been thankful that it's such a congenial group of people, and it was great to spend so much time bouncing ideas off each other and engaging in intellectual debate.

I think tonight (and perhaps for a couple of days) the agenda is to decompress with something fun to read and a glass of wine.   I've been reading Wrestling with Moses  about Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses, but I think that's too intense after this weekend's laser focus.  Swamplandia is in my pile, and sounds like a welcome diversion. I'm going to  let some of the issues from the weekend digest, and hope that in the coming days they'll become fully incorporated in the way I think about advocacy issues.

Friday, April 27, 2012


Even though I was late on my way to a lecture, I had to pull over and walk back half a block to study this fabulous leopard  print bike:

From just a few feet away it looks like it's been obsessively hand painted,but it's actually a 70's ish Fuji,  which has been meticulously wrapped in leopard print tape. The "regular irregularity"
of the spots and the gloss of the tape make it look very professional, like it had been painted and then clear coated.

I do hope that that's not the entire lighting system...
Very nice wrapping of a tricky intersection- very clean looking
They missed a spot- presumably they didn't want to pull the crankset to get those last couple of inches of chainstay

I'm not so big on the gold duct tape "handlebar tape"   It smacks of last minute Halloween costume-  although the gold itself is a nice choice, aesthetically.   Maybe it's just me, but this would be drool worthy with VO leather bar tape and a carradice olive with leather piping bag.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Livable Streets Party Tonight

Just a heads up,   Livable Streets is having its annual Spring Meet and Greet tonight, April 26, 6-m to 8pm 100 Sidney Street, Cambridge.   Free for members, or become a member at the door for $35.
Beer wine and munchies, mingling on the patio (weather permitting) and a chance to celebrate, if nothing else the BU bike lanes, for which Livable Streets spearheaded the campaign, as well as hear about current campaigns for a more livable city.

Special guest this year will be Nicole Freedman, former city of Boston Bike Czar,  so come by and thank her for her years of service and incredible accomplishments!  Also meet all kinds of people interested in making the streets more walkable, bikeable and transit friendly.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Study in Pink*

I couldn't help noticing that this bike parked in a Somerville front yard exactly matched the azalea behind it.
I was tempted to go into the front yard to take photos without the chainlink fence in the way, but thought that might be a bit too bike obsessive and weird :)

I like the contrast of the black rims, spokes and fenders.

A perfect match with the shocking pink of azaleas, and an object lesson on how not to lock a bike you want to keep.

* and if you haven't watched Season 1 of Sherlock, you need to hurry and get caught up- season 2 is coming the first week of May.  I'm not a big TV person, but I thought it was a great fresh take on the somewhat crusty old story.  Benedict Cumberbach is fantastic, but he makes me very glad not to be named Benedict OR Cumberbach.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Rush Hour Race

Livable Streets Alliance, and the Somerville and Cambridge Bicycle Committees are sponsoring a commute challenge where three commuters- one in a car, one on a bike and one using the T race from Redbones in Davis sq to Genzyme in Kendall.   It's a "door to door"  race, so walking to your parking or to the train, and finding a parking spot at the other end are included in your overall time.
My money is on the bike, but at least the person on the T can read while they wait or ride :)

They've been doing this in NYC for many years, and the cyclist won for at least 10 years in a row. I know that the Scientist and I used to be neck and neck on our commute, but I know I'm a lot slower now that I don't filter.   If you can find a route that's all bike lanes, I suspect that the bike might well win though, especially since the parking time is negligible.   Who do you think will win? Do you think it's a fair "fight"?
UPDATE:   I hear a rumor that Josh from Bike Safe Boston has agreed to be the biker-  will he ride the Paper Bike?

Monday, April 23, 2012

April Ladies who Bike Brunch

I had a great time at Saturday's Ladies who Bike Brunch.   We went to Area 4 again, as it worked out so well last time.   We sat at the big communal table, and I think there were 12 people, although I think I lost count at some point as people trickled in :)  Was having too much fun chatting.

It was great to see some familiar faces and some new ones,  and as usual, the food was great.   I went straight to "lunch" instead of "brunch",  with one of their wood fired pies- YUM, and shared a basket of baked goodies with my neighbors.   

We milled around a bit afterwards, enjoying the wonderful warm weather,  and admiring Megan's bike- with "new"old chainguard.  Hers was the only bike parked close to the entrance- everyone else was either parked out at meters, or at the bike rack around the back of the building, so I didn't get photos of people on their bikes before everyone dispersed :(
Next month we're going to try a Sunday instead of a Saturday,  so we'll be meeting on the 20th of May,  location TBD.  I'm thinking we should try somewhere on the Boston side of the river for the ladies coming from that direction, but I don't know as many brunch places "over there".  Any suggestions for a place that can handle a group and not freak out if we linger for more than an hour?   A picnic would be great, but I'd like to have a backup if it's not great weather.  We might also do an earlier time (9?10?)  to stay out of the busiest brunch rush.  Would love to hear suggestions!

Also, for a future meeting, would people would be interested in any sort of bike maintenance clinic?   I dropped by Hub Bikes after the brunch, and Emily was more than willing to do a short demo- I just couldn't say exactly what kind of demo people would like.   I thought at the next meeting we could chat about it.  It might also be nice to connect people to Hub bikes, as one of the constant complaints at these brunches and with women bikers in general is issues with male-centric bike shops.   While Boston has lots of options, and I've learned pretty quickly to vote with my feet if I'm not happy my treatment as a woman at a shop,  I think it would be great to connect our group with Emily's shop.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tough slog in

For the first time in so-long-I-don't-remember-when-it-happened-last, I got a flat on my way to work yesterday morning.   It was a slow one, and I managed to make it to the Scientist's office before I had to ditch and take the T.
It's hard to tell it's flat, but put any weight on it and it smushes down completely.
 Of course it's a rear wheel, which is absolutely no fun to deal with  :(  Good thing I have Minerva to ride the rest of the week.  Maybe I'll try to patch it the sneaky- wheel still on the bike way.

To add insult to injury the one Hubway left in the rack at DTX wasn't working (someone had just grabbed the other one), so I had to walk from the T to work.

Just one of those mornings.   At least it was a gorgeous morning- low 70's and sunny.  I wish I'd had my camera to grab some street shots of all the bikers who didn't get flats this morning:   including a stately older gentleman in a natty hat who was taking his bike off the bus rack, a woman in a hot pink pencil skirt with legs pumping- in a hurry to get somewhere,  and a bunch of regular everyday riders in business clothes.

In the evening I rode a hubway from the financial district to Charles MGH.   Merging through that nasty traffic circle was not made any easier by riding an enormous and slow to accelerate Hubway, but I made it fine by being assertive, and then becoming a pedestrian.   Then I walked across the river to MIT where I put Gilbert in the basement of the Scientist's building and hitched a ride home with him.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Women who Bike Brunch- April 21

Just a reminder, the next Women Who Bike Brunch will be this Saturday, April 21, at 11, at Area 4 in Cambridge.   If you're coming, please RSVP in the comments so I can make a reservation.

It was great fun last month, so I hope to see familiar faces, and new ones too this month!

Sunday, April 15, 2012


This bicycling thing is becoming too popular!
Everywhere I went today, the bike racks were full to overflowing!

Note Paper Bike at the right.  I swear I'm not stalking it
This rack is OK, but is about 6" too close to the wall for easy locking of front wheel and frame.
The lovely weather this weekend, after weeks of chilly greyness brought bikers out from every nook and cranny of the city,  which is, of course, overall a great thing.

However there are a couple of places that really need to improve their bike parking.   When places like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods have absolutely full parking at night in January,  you know that when the weather gets good they're going to need more parking.   I've asked and asked at the customer service at Trader Joe's and finally wrote the main contact email for the whole company in hopes that they'll do something.  It doesn't help that a lot of bike racks, even here where people should know better are "wheelbenders" which are virtually unusable for anyone with a front basket or fenders.

One of the "overflow bikes" (locked to a pole next to the full rack) had a very heavy duty front fork/ handlebar mounted rack, paired with an unusual "basket" It's odd, because that style rack isn't very available here, and most people who search one out would probably look a little further than a milk-crate for their front carrying needs.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Bike Coffee Cup Hunt

I have been trying to find a really spill-proof coffee mug for use in my relatively new bar-mount coffee holder.   The problem I've had with my regular coffee mug, is that even if you don't really drink from it en-route, a few drops can leak through the seal, and then they fly up onto your clothing when you hit a bump. Blech!
My home"brew" solution, which works, but is not exactly elegant.

I had high hopes for this bottle from Thermos, because it has a lid that completely covers the drinking hole. Unfortunately it's too narrow for the bike holder, and slips through the ring! I tried another Thermos brand mug, and it leaked the first time I hit a bump,  and I had to dig the plastic bag I keep under my saddle as a rain cover out to keep it from splattering on me the whole ride.

I finally managed to find the OXO good grips that Portland Design Works (the company that made the holder) recommends for use in the "bar-ista".   My search was complicated by the fact that Target, where I had been looking has some insulated liquid carrying devices in the sports area (think "hydration")  some in the automotive section, and still others in the kitchenware area.   So far so good on the maiden voyage-  no leaks and no spills and it fits snugly in the holder.  I probably wouldn't go to all this trouble, except for I'm trying to reduce my caffeine intake, and the office only has caffeinated coffee.  It will be also nice if I ever make a stop at the new Dwell Time coffee shop on my way in (just a short detour) to get a treat like a latte'.

Do you ride with a cup of coffee onboard?  Is it part of your daily routine? What's your system for portage?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Nothing to see here

Sorry for the lack of posts lately- not much going on.  Riding my bike to work, to the library, to the grocery store, same old same old.

Ever since that glorious week when everything was bursting into bloom and we enjoyed record warm weather it's been cool and windy and often grey.  The one upside of the cool weather has been that the trees have clung tenaciously to their blossoms- much longer than they would have if the weather had stayed warm.   It's not precisely cold,  but it's cool enough that a jacket seems like a good idea when setting off,  only to be shed after the first mile or so.

Ran into Cris, a bike friend, riding home last Friday- there are so many bikers in my office neighborhood, it's a little surprising that I don't run into more of them more often.   We rode through Kendall and made a tentative date for me to pick up a bike wheel that I'd leant to a mutual friend and which had ended up at his house.  

Saturday got away from me.  I ended up actually driving to Home Depot, because I draw the line at carrying full size propane tanks on the bike. With a trailer, no problem, but on the rack, no thanks.

I made a loop up to Market Basket,  a local grocery store, which reminds me of Fiesta in Houston in its multi-ethnicity.  I would go to great lengths not to drive a car to this store on a weekend.   The parking lot is a crazy place, with cars circling and lined up double parking.   The bike parking is kind of lousy- wheelbenders too close to the wall.

 However Somerville did just install one staple rack in a convenient place on the adjacent side street.  For now, it feels like a secret, although I'm sure it will become a popular parking spot.

Heading back home I swung past Cris's house,  lucking out because he just happened to be returning from a ride to Groton (60 miles or so).  It made me feel like a slacker for riding my 3 miles to the store and back.  I picked up the wheel, strapping it on the rack, and headed to Trader Joe's.

The Scientist and I decided to grill,  but as he put on his down jacket to tend the burgers, he admitted that we might have been pushing the season a bit!

This evening I was followed down Cambridge Street by Dave, the director of Mass Bike, and one of his co-workers.  I could hear them remarking on my helmet, so I turned around to say hi.  I wasn't sure if they didn't filter because I didn't filter, or it they're also converts to that approach to biking. I'll just say that not filtering makes my ride slower, but much less stressful than trying to squeeze between parked cars and possibly moving/ turning cars.  

On the final stretch home, I was a little surprised to see a turkey, hanging out in the middle of the street.  The light was too low for good phone photographs,  but when I reprised the last part of my ride walking the dog, she was still hanging out there.  A woman was trying to feed her, and she said that the turkeys have been nesting in the tree outside her house.   Urban wildlife!

Anyway,  so it goes- not much to report, just the everyday bike comings and goings.  Hope everyone else is surviving early spring without too many complaints!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Longfellow street cleaning

A photo of the lousy street cleaning on the Longfellow- there's a stripe of debris (probably with a dose of crushed glass) down the middle of the bike lane.  In conditions like this I am very glad for my flat protected Schwalbes.

This is of course the problem with bike lanes being thought of as shoulders by those who maintain the roads.   I read about a European program (in Copenhagen I believe) that goes out with a robot that scans the pavement in bike lanes for imperfections so that they can keep ahead of the development of cracks and potholes. Obviously we're a long way from that here.

I called MassDOT district 6 offices (617-377-7150)  to complain about the lousy street sweeping.
The receptionist, said,  oh yes, someone called about it yesterday too,  and she said she would put in a work order, and transferred me to someone's voice mail.   If you're annoyed by it too,  call in and complain!

We need to train the maintenance people that that bike lane is real transportation infrastructure,  and shrugging our shoulders and feeling sorry for ourselves for being second class transportation citizens won't change that.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Hudson Update

My Dad informs me that the Hudson I saw in Chinatown last week was probably a Hudson Commodore, probably 48-50.   He notes that Hudsons had famously powerful engines, and when you drove on the freeway, people would try to pass you, just to prove that they could!

On my trip in this morning, I saw a slightly less vintage, but still old VW bug (the 60's type) with a "Yeah, it's got a Hemi" bumpersticker.  I would have been more charmed by the irony if it hadn't belched exhaust in my face as I followed it through the intersection.

Just after Charles circle, there was a tremendous traffic snarl caused by all the tow trucks lining up for the first street cleaning of the year.   Yea street cleaning, but boo the lousy job that Mass DOT did on the longfellow bridge.  It's like they just transferred all the scree into a line down the middle of the lane.
need to figure out who to complain to over there.

Chilly again this morning, and grey, but the rain that made the weekend dreary passed along overnight, so the ride was mostly dry.  I am wishing I had a lighter but still rain-proof jacket.  I realized after reading Velouria's review of her Nau jacket that my trench would be just perfect if it had a zip-out lining.  And maybe some reflective piping.