Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Upcoming bike events

A couple of events I wanted to put on your radar:

This Thursday, Livable Streets is having a summer social.  It will be in the Boston Society of Architects  new space, at 290 Congress street just off the Greenway.  The exhibit space is currently hosting a show called "Let's talk about bikes"  which is about Boston bike culture and ostensibly about the impact of the bicycle on the city.   I missed the opening, but was there for the Hubway birthday party last week.
So let's get this straight- the woman in a nice dress is a "recreational rider" not a "commuter" ?!? 
The Elusive "Mayor's Bike" a specially painted Hubway which is normally in the circulating fleet

#4 With a bullet
I didn't really get enough of a chance to study the exhibit or take many photos because I was in a rush and the place was super crowded, and I spent more time talking to people than taking in the exhibit.    It will probably be just as crowded on Thursday, but it's really worth checking out.  More information here.

Do you like Basketball?  Or Hockey?  Or do you take the commuter rail out of North Station?
If so, you may be particularly interested in a meeting on Wednesday August 8th about the possibility of a cycletrack on Causeway street all along the front of the Boston Garden.   The city would really like to put one in,  but is getting pushback from local businesses, so getting cyclists there to speak up in favor of it is critical.   I don't know if you're ever ridden there around game time, but it's really a zoo, with cabs lurching in and out.   I can absolutely guarantee that a bike lane will become a double-parking lane if it's not physically separated somehow.  Information here

Finally- and this is a ways out, but sounds great- Spokes 2012 in Somerville on September 8th will be a celebration of bike culture of all sorts in Union Sq.  I'm kind of toying with the idea of riding as a "civilian craft"  with SCUL!!!  I'm way too timid to go to one of their normal "missions"  but I might just tag along if there are enough other people going too.  There's a "taste of Somerville by bike" tour too, and you have to sign up for that ASAP if you're interested- it may even be full by now as there were only 20 spots.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Update:The Hubways are coming! The Hubways are coming!

(updated- I misread the statistic on increase of space as increase in employees- they probably track, but may not be linear- see below)

At long last, a year after the system opened in Boston,  the system is finally extending to Cambridge.
I took a minor detour on my way home to go down Mass Ave to check out two of the new stations!
Am looking forward to seeing where all the locations end up.  Hope there's one at my end of Harvard square- would be handy for combining with the T when I can't ride my bike for some reason.

The dock at the Kendall end of Central Sq:
The sign reads:  1 out of 10,000 Historians agree - If Napoleon had led his troops into Russia on bicycles, he would have won
And a double (back to back) dock at the Central Sq Post office:

I know they're installing one at the West side of Harvard Sq- can't wait to see where else they're going.

There's been a lot of buzz about them on twitter, but I haven't heard if they're going in on the Somerville side of things yet.  Do you have any sightings from your neighborhood?

I was thinking, it seems like a larger percentage of those interested in biking in Cambridge already have their own bikes.  We also don't get as many tourists as the downtown areas of Boston.  I'll be very interested to see if the demographics of people using the bikes are different on this side of the river.

I read an interesting article that the Kendall sq area has increased the number of employees  amount of commerical and office space by 40% in the last decade but automobile traffic has actually been reduced by 14%.  Cambridge has been really active in requiring businesses to have a traffic management plan which encourages active transportation and transit and limits new parking.  Hubway will be a great new addition to this kind of planning.

(Second update:  map of first phase of stations can be found here)

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Boston has an unusually high number of European City bikes floating around for a place without a distributor of such bikes.  I suspect it's because there are enough students and academics who come here that a certain number end up importing their own bikes, not satisfied with the bike options they find here.

Just the other day, I sighted two such bikes in my evening commute alone.  Neither one is a brand I've ever heard of being distributed in the US, so they're almost certainly self-imports.  I would suspect that they're typical run of the mill  city bikes, nothing fancy or exotic- the classic bicycle as appliance.

The first one, which I see quite often actually, is a modern version of the type:

Note the cable activate front drum brake

Searching the internets for information on the bike- I see that I've already photographed this bike in Cambridge at least once :)   It has a very distinctive coat-guard.  It also has a slightly fancier saddle (leather brooks) than most European city bikes do, which mostly make do with rubbery waterproof vinyl saddles.  

The second bike is a little more typical of the everyday bikes that are used in the hundreds of thousands in many European cities:

I like the head badge image of a pointer dog quite a bit.

I started my relationship with city bikes when I lived in Italy, and I self-imported the generic no-name city bike that I rode there to the US, and rode it for many years until it became too difficult to get replacement parts and the rust started to eat it alive.  Somehow I suspect that this flow of bicycles is one way, and that very few Americans who go to live in Europe bring generic Treks or Huffys to Europe with them.  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Gorgeous day for a ride

As a matter of fact a whole watermelon WILL fit in my Linus Panniers!

Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous day for a ride here in Boston  and I took full advantage by running errands all day!   The advantage of running all your errands by bike is that you can be out in the fresh air, getting a bit of exercise instead of cooped up in the car, shuttling from parking lot to parking lot.

I don't think I'm unusual in getting grumpy and irritable when I slog through a day of errands in a car.  I've come this close to being reduced to tears in a Target, feeling overwhelmed by all the options, and just dragged down by a day of necessary inconvenience and artificial light. But on a bike, any frustrations of the retail experience get soothed away on the ride to my next destination,  and the worst complaint is getting hungry!

I've always been a "trip chainer"  but on a bike, even for someone who prides herself in being able to carry vast amounts of stuff, there's a limit to how many errands can be run before I have to head back.
On a bike, I tend to organize my errands in loops, stopping and dropping stuff off before heading out again.   Sometimes there's things to carry away from home which needs to be factored into the capacity equation too.  Very occasionally I find myself playing the fox the chicken and the grapes problem,  where I can't combine two errands, even if it would make sense spatially.  Yesterday, I had two giant bags of compost, after doing a massive post-vacation fridge purge.  Even though the route to the compost dropoff passes the library, I didn't want to either risk dripping compost juice onto my books, so I went oe.

Once I've done the big errands, like a big grocery shop  that fills my bags with one stop (5lbs of onions,  a watermelon, half gallon of milk), I can do a longer loop with more stops, picking up only a couple of things each stop- filling my panniers over 5 or 6 stops.  I generally don't worry about theft from my panniers.   It would be a real pain to remove and re-attach the filling panniers at each stop, so I take a small purse with my keys/wallet/phone,  and run in to get coffee beans without worrying that someone is going to steal the bread or cheese out of my bag.  I do worry a bit about leaving things strapped on top of the panniers, that seems like it's tempting fate, and if I have to do it, I try to organize things such that I'm not leaving the bike somewhere where I feel it would be easy for someone to mess with it.

By the end of the day, after three loops of errands (brunch, grocery store, home, compost, other grocery store, library, home, bank, third grocery store, hardware store, cheese shop, coffee shop), and a bike date to get indian food and see the new Batman movie, I was as tired as is I had gone for a long ride that was just about riding for its own sake.

Do you run errands on your bike?  What's your strategy for multiple stops and combining trips?
Do you consider running errands by bike "a real ride?"  or is that only a trip that involves no errands?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

OK It's Official

Summer is really here! It's been a brutal transition from mountain weather in the 70's, but it's not unexpected or unseasonable.

However, you know it's going to be a hot ride when the weather report says the temp is 81 and it "feels like" 85 before you even get out of bed.  I was thinking that this weather might deter other riders, but there was a pack of 9 at the stoplight at Broadway and Galileo Gallilei (yes, there's a street at MIT named that).

When it gets this hot, I do make a couple of concessions to the weather:

1)  I wear a more ventilated helmet.  Yes it looks dorky with my dress, but the Yakkay just doesn't have much airflow. I've been meaning to retrofit it with more grommets, but haven't found big ones in the right color.

2) I don't dry my hair in the morning (this may not be an option for some)

3) I bring iced coffee instead of regular, and sip along the way

4) I bring a damp handkerchief (in addition to my dry handkerchief) to wipe myself down at stop signs.

5) I ride much slower.  I have to constantly remind myself to drop it down a notch.

6) Whenever possible, I ride along the river MUP so that I can go as slowly as I want and ride without a helmet for that portion.   I couldn't do that today, as I desperately needed to take the stinky compost away, and that route is through the middle of Cambridge.

How's the summer weather treating you?

Monday, July 16, 2012

I'm back!

Just got back from a week's vacation in Denver/ Estes Park with my extended family.

It's funny how everywhere I go now, I tend to see things through a bicycle lens.  In Denver, I dragged my Mom over to the corner of a parking lot to check out the B-Cycle bike share program:

I think it's interesting that they come with an integrated cable lock.  I guess that bike theft isn't as much of a problem as it is in the Northeast. I'd be afraid to lock a bike that I was "on the hook for" with a cable lock, even for a few minutes.  It also may speak to the density of stations and the locations of destinations vs stations.  Boston's system is paired with a robust transit network, which completely changes the dynamic of parking the bikes.

The basket seems nice- I think it might be more useful for a lot of people than the rack on the Hubway type (Bixi) bikes.   The bikes look (if possible) more clunky and heavy than the Bixi-type bikes.  Check out that extended bottom bracket/ gusset:

I chatted a bit with my brother's "across the alley" neighbor who has a garage full of drool worthy road bikes.  His Dad worked for Raleigh in Nottingham, and is evidently a bit of a bike collector.   He showed me a bike, which was custom built for a racer in the Tour de France in the 70's, but never used.  I swore I took a photo of the gorgeous lugs, and ridiculous low clearance between the tire and frame, but it seems to have disappeared from my memory card.

From Denver we headed up to Estes Park.  I didn't do a ton of biking there, although I did take my almost 4 year old nephew for a 3+ mile trip around Lake Estes.   He had a really tough time even going that far, and ultimately we had to call Grandpa for a lift.  I think kids bikes are heavy for their size, and without gearing, any hill becomes a challenge

I rode my brother's beater mountain bike, a midlevel Trek from 10 years ago that he bought on craigslist.  Maybe I'm spoiled by having a bike that I have pretty well dialed in to my body,  but that was the most uncomfortable 3 miles that I've ridden in a while.   My undercarriage hurt,  my back hurt, my neck hurt.   I know that it wasn't perfectly adjusted, but I can imagine that most people buy a bike like this at a big bike shop,  and then they hate riding it, and it gathers cobwebs in the garage.

Coming back through Boulder, I dragged the Scientist into the downtown to check out the pedestrian mall and some of the bike infrastructure.

Even riding along the main highway through town, I noticed that there were raised pedestrian crossings at the right turn lanes, as a physical way of slowing down right turning drivers, and making them more likely to yield to pedestrians.

Parking around the Pearl Street pedestrian mall was pretty tough, and I commented to The Scientist that if we lived in Boulder, we would only come there by bike because it was so hard to drive and park there.

I was very impressed by the amount of infrastructure in Boulder.   Everywhere we went, there were lots of bike racks, which makes me think that they were required by the zoning or building code.  Lots of bike lanes, even on very busy streets, and some special infrastructure like buffered bike lanes, contraflow lanes, on-street bike corrals and neighborhood roundabouts.

The thing that the Scientist noted was that there were not really any "city bikes"   There were a lot of mountain bikes, and a generous helping of BSO's.   There weren't many bikes with fenders- I suppose they don't really get much rain in Colorado generally.  In general though, there weren't any bikes that had much in the way of style,  especially in comparison to the amount of customization you see on transportation bikes in Boston.

 I would be interested to find out how Boulder developed a bike culture.  Did advocates pressure the city into providing infrastructure?   Was there a visionary city planner, or a city council member or Mayor who was interested in transportation infrastructure.
I suspect that the politics of Boulder are not dissimilar to those of Cambridge, in terms of ecological consciousness, student population,  density etc.

I wonder how the process in Cambridge is similar and different from the process in Boulder, in Portland or in other places in the US that have been developing bike cultures.  Is the process in the US significantly different in Europe?   And what can be learned and applied to other cities?   I would be really interested in hearing from anyone out there who were involved in/ familiar with the creation of Boulder's bike culture.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Trash Bike

I've seen this bike a couple of times parked, and once or twice when I couldn't get a decent photo of it,  but I finally had a chance to watch it go past me and then follow it for a block or so.

I was surprised it wasn't noticeably stinky- riding behind a trash truck is normally a nightmare on a hot day.  

DIY mudflaps/  fender extensions

I think that this kind of bike-truck makes a lot of sense for a dense urban area.  It can carry a lot, has no emissions, and most importantly can fit in a very small parking spot/ tight streets and alleys.   One of my pet peeves are delivery companies that send 18 wheelers into dense urban areas.   With their wheel size and huge blind spots, they're incredibly dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists.
I would love to see more businesses doing "last mile" delivery with bikes or hand carts like this.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Two of a kind

One of the things about having a robust bike culture in Boston is that you see all kinds of unusual bikes around town.

Last week biking home, I was behind a guy with a big black city bike.  But something about it seemed different from the average Raleigh that you see every day around here.   I pushed a bit to catch up with him, and just managed to catch him at a light.   By then I could tell it definitely was something unusual, and I asked him what kind of bike it was.   He responded that it was a Swiss Army bike.  And from right behind him I could see that it had some of the features of the 1944 Swiss Army bike I saw a year and a half ago.

Since they're not very common bikes, I supposed that it might be the same bike, so I asked him if he'd bought it here, but he said that he had brought it from Switzerland himself.   Unfortunately the light changed, so we didn't get to have a longer conversation, but it was great to see yet another "One of a kind"  bike on the streets of Cambridge!  I hope that I see him again so that I can take more detailed photos.  (if you're interested in better photos, check out the earlier post).

Not two blocks later, I was stopped at a light when I was hailed by a guy on the sidewalk, commenting that he liked my bike.  He was unfolding what looked like a Strida- another cool bike that I don't see much around-although probably not as rare as a Swiss army bike :)