Open letter to the city

I live a few streets away from Seaver Street in Roxbury, and was at the community meeting last year at the church regarding the bike lanes on Seaver. One loudmouthed community member (who is not a cyclist) shouted everyone down about putting in a protected bike lane on the westbound side of Seaver (non-park side), and apparently won the argument.

While I’m happy there is now a painted bike lane on Seaver just for the sake of showing people that cyclists are welcome, people constantly double park in it, just as they did when it was a lane of traffic. Traffic has not been slowed by the narrowing of the street. Riding a bike here is no safer than it was before the bike lane was put in. If anything, it is more dangerous because provides a false sense of security and causes cyclists to have to ride out into traffic to get around double parked cars.

I regularly use the shared path on the park side, which is often full of gravel or broken glass, but at least I don’t seem to be in danger of getting hit by a car. I refuse to use the other side of the street for cycling. This is a real shame and I hope the city will reconsider it, although it is probably too late.


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good morning!

I managed to get out of the house before it was too hot this morning, and had a nice ride to work.

THREE drivers let me go at intersections! Four if you include the lady at the 4-way stop sign (I let her go instead).

Then I talked to a guy at a stop light who was on a sweet 1940 Schwinn World.

Mornings like these – it’s why I love riding.

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use yah blinkah!

You know how annoying it is when a car in front of you doesn’t signal, right?  I hope, as a driver, that you always signal, knowing how cyclists appreciate it.

I had a funny experience the other day.  I was driving a car (yes, sadly it does happen now and then) in Cambridge.  When I drive, I am generally very aware of cyclists, since 95% of the time I’m on a bike myself.

I was merging from Cambridge Street onto Mass Ave at Harvard Yard.  At this intersection, there are two lanes of traffic heading toward Porter Square, so you don’t actually really have to merge, you just keep going.

As I was heading straight, a cyclist entered the merging-intersection-space.  He or she did not signal or look over toward me, and I didn’t really think about what he or she was doing because traffic to my left should, by rights, be staying straight.  But the cyclist pulled into my lane, no doubt angry that I hadn’t stopped to let them in!  I realized that of course a cyclist in this position would want to merge right so as not to be in the middle of the street.  But I was unprepared.

What happened?

S/he didn’t use her/his blinker!  And by blinker, I mean hand signal or just eye contact.

Eye contact is an incredibly helpful tool for cyclists who want to communicate with drivers.  In my experience, drivers who would like to enter a roadway and cut me off tend to stop if I look them in the eye.  If I need to pull into traffic to pass a car parked in the bike lane, I use my face as a directional signal if I can’t use my hand.  It really does a lot to signal intent.

Drivers are not (always) out to get us – sometimes they honestly do not know what we are about to do, even if it seems painfully obvious to us.  Remember, they are driving around in large metal sensory deprivation tanks.  They are not afforded the panoramic views we cyclists are, they have audio distractions like the radio or have their windows up so they can more easily ignore the world outside.  Look them in the eye – this helps break down the barriers and helps them recognize you as a person.

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ladies who cycle

The city of Boston has posted bike statistics here:

I’m really shocked by the gender gap.  During my ride to work this morning I made my own survey.  Granted, a quarter of that ride took place in Cambridge, but I counted 11 other cyclists, and including myself (a woman), the split was even.  And it’s wicked cold out today.

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miserable bike trip – a vision of the future

This past Wednesday evening I had one of the worst bike trips in recent memory.

Going to a friends’ for dinner around 6pm, I found the stretch down Beacon Street Cambridge from Inman Square to Park Street to be THE WORST!

Not only is the bike lane (and the rest of the road) in poor repair once you hit Somerville, but the bike traffic was INSANE!  It was cold out, and I wasn’t expecting such a lot of bicycle riders.  They say it’s good for all of us when more people are cycling, but the reality of a lot of people cycling is a huge mess.

Some people observed the rules of the road, stopping in a line at a red light.  Other people cut the line.  Some people just sped right through, cars be damned.

People were riding at a huge variety of speeds.  A couple were cycling side by side having a conversation.  Another guy was riding at 15mph between the other cyclists and the cars.  Some people had lights, some didn’t.  Some kept cutting lines at stop signs or red lights, but then were riding wicked slow so others kept overtaking them anyway.

The bottom line?  Aggravating and dangerous!

The worst part about this is, it looks to me like the future.  More and more people are riding bikes in the city, which I theoretically love.  Bring them on.  But this is the Boston area where people don’t know how to drive, and they are now out there not knowing how to bicycle.  A scene like last night made me re-evaluate how I feel about bikes on the road.

Solutions: Basically, I think the police do need to enforce bicycle road rules.  Those police should be on bikes.  I don’t think bicycles need to follow exactly the same rules as cars all the time, though.

Speed: I think we need two lanes of bicycle traffic in each direction – a slow lane and a passing lane.

Red lights: Rules need to be enforced for this.  I think bikes should be able to treat them as stop signs, and can go ahead if nobody is coming, but they do at least need to stop.  I think the bicycles need to stop behind each other in line in an orderly fashion.  None of this bullshit where everyone pulls up in front of each other and clogs the front line of traffic.  That blows.

Bike lights: Front and rear should be required for all bicycles in the dark and in the rain.  No exceptions.

Signaling: Bikes (and cars!) need to signal when they are slowing down, stopping, or turning.  Every time.

Stop for pedestrians: Come on, people, we all have to get off our bikes sometime!

I’ll be interested to see how this all pans out in but in the meantime, the bottom line: POLITENESS COUNTS!

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Dangerous intersection!

Good evening.  This morning, I was on my usual route to work. I was in line behind a few cars, making a left from Winsdor onto Main Streets in Cambridge.   An 18 wheeler tried to negotiate [an illegal] right on red as I was trying to negotiate my turn & I thought he was going to run me down!   I yelled Hey what are you doing! & escaped unscathed.

This is a dangerous intersection.  I understand the plight of truck drivers, who must really hate delivering to our medieval streets.  Truly, it’s a tough turn to make.  However, I only have one life!

I called the fuzz when I got to the office.  They were sympathetic but, naturally, could do nothing.  They agreed it’s a bad intersection and they sometimes patrol it.  I didn’t get a license number.  What if I had?  Then they would tell the police to keep an eye out, since a driver who does something dumb once may well do it twice.  But, as the man said, “unfortunately it’s not illegal to be a jerk.”

I emailed the trucking company.  I knew where they had just delivered to, and the name of the company was pasted large on the side of the truck.  They called me almost immediately to follow up.  Later in the day, a manager had spoken to the driver (who had seen me and apparently wasn’t trying to run me over!), and they called me back.  I talked to him a little about trucks and bicycle safety, and he seemed pretty receptive, but I still got the feeling the driver didn’t think he had done anything wrong (or out of the ordinary).

Anyway, all’s well that ends well, and I did my part.  I encourage you to do yours if it comes down to it!

In closing, stay safe around trucks.  You can’t win in a fight against them.  Always assume they can’t see you or won’t see you.

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Boston, you’re OK. Cambridge, get it together!

During my morning commute today, I got cut off by not one but THREE drivers in the space of one block on Mass Ave.  The offending block?  Probably the worst one on my commute on a good day – between the Mass Ave bridge and Vassar Street.  The shittyness actually extends to Albany Street.

If you are cycling through this hellacious area, be alert and slow down!  I’ve seen many accidents around here, and cyclists have been killed.  Be especially careful of people making right turns.  In fact, I usually assume everyone in the right lane is turning right but not signaling.  It does not pay to try to pass them on the right at the intersections of Albany or Vassar – they will just run you down.

Anyway, on to this morning’s complaints.  First, an airhead started pulling into me.  I had to smack her car with my hand to alert her that she was about to kill me.

Almost immediately after that narrow escape, a Partners Healthcare van pulled out without warning from a parallel parking space (in the bus stop, I might add).  The tour bus that was parked in front of it pulled out at the same time, a graceful synchronized attempt to flatten me.

Has anyone else noticed how bad the Partners van drivers are, BTW?  I’ve had many run-ins with them on this stretch of roadway.  Not literal run-ins, but very poor driver behavior (ie “what bicycle?”).

I turned into raging psycho cyclist. I’m sure you’re familiar with this devil, perhaps you have become one yourself.  I caught up to the van at the next light and screamed at the driver.  Riding off alone, I felt a bit of a fool, since pedestrians must have been like “what is her problem?” but seriously, WTF?

So I just wrote an email to Partners and I wrote this, so I guess I can relax and get to work.  Be careful out there, drivers and cyclists!

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The Fall

Ah, Boston, fall is upon us.  Time for my yearly blog post!  (Suzanne, I know you’ve missed me!)

I love riding my bike every day in Boston and Cambridge.  Anywhere, really.  But we are presently in my least favorite time of year for cycling.  It’s almost as bad as spring!  It’s Back to School time!  New cyclists, new drivers, new pedestrians.  The new cyclists are the worst, though.  Showing off, being flakes, getting in my damn way.

Dear new kids, please don’t forget to take your manners with you when you are leaving the house.

  • Do not pass on the right.  I will punch you in the nose.
  • Do not cut the line at stop lights.  Pass on the left, while actually overtaking.  You don’t cut people in line at the grocery store just because you assume you have fewer items, or do you?
  • Stop at stop lights, however briefly.  I don’t care if you treat a red light like a stop sign, as long as you treat stop signs with proper respect.
  • Stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk.  We all have to get off our bicycles sometime.
  • Ride on the right side of the street.  If you’re, heaven forbid, riding the wrong way on a one-way street, at least make sure you’re on the correct side of the road.  Other cyclists will thank you.
  • If you pull up right next to me, say hi!

Until next time, be seeing you.

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and a good morning to you, too!

Commuting to work this morning on Mass Ave near the intersection of Tremont Street, I witnessed a particularly grimace-worthy altercation.

A young man on a fixed gear was riding down the center of the right hand lane, no helmet, no hands on handlebars, fiddling with a smart phone.  Shocker of shockers, a car honked at him, and shocker of shockers he proffered the middle finger to the driver and screamed FUCK YOU BBBBIIIITTTTCH!!! (which, under the best of circumstances, none of which come to mind, is a sentence that makes me angry no matter what) YOU’VE GOT A RED LIGHT ANYWAY!!.  He then proceeded to dust the red light, ride in the middle of the street through a number of pedestrians crossing with the light in the crosswalk, and generally make everyone around this genius happy he was alive.  What a firecracker!

Thanks so much.  You give cyclists a dumb name.  Please consider annoying people in a different city.

This leads me to a related topic.  It’s the loud, annoying people who make reputations.  Squeaky wheels, if you will.  How do we ride nicely and attract attention at the same time?  Yell in traffic HEY I’M FOLLOWING THE RULES!!!  This seems silly and like someone still will yell at us for being loud.

We need to ride “loud” bikes!

Make your bike seen (if not heard).  Decorations, bright colors, bells and whistles.  Wear crazy outfits.  Overuse reflectors and lights!  Make your helmet into something a little more exciting!  Do all of this while riding like a normal cyclist, and maybe we can change opinions about cyclists in the city.  Here’s hoping!

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tractor trailers in the city

I was riding to work on Mass Ave in the pouring rain on Tuesday, not having a bad time, when I got to the intersection of Albany Street, where that big construction site is.  A huge tractor-trailer truck was making a right turn, and I was riding slowly, distracted by the side of it, which was a giant arrow pointing at the cab with text that read THIS IS OUR MOST IMPORTANT ASSET.

The truck made the turn and I got up to the intersection and found a girl and her bicycle lying in the middle of the road!  I stopped to help, and a cop and a guy helped get her out of the street and called the ambulance.  They couldn’t seem to track down the truck or the driver, who didn’t appear to know s/he had been involved in an accident.

I waited with the cyclist for the ambulance.  She was wearing a helmet, which she was grateful for, and was bruised and shaken, but OK.  She said she’d been riding fast, trying to get to work on time, and wasn’t able to brake fast enough in the rain to avoid running into the side of the truck.  I was so glad she was OK!  She could easily have hit the truck, hit the pavement, and then been run over by the rear of the truck without the driver having a clue.

But this brings me to my point.  Why are tractor-trailers allowed to drive in the city?  How many people have to be killed by them before the rules change?  A few years back, a pedestrian was killed by at the corner of Mass Ave and Prospect by a truck making a turn onto Prospect Street.  Tractor trailers making turns present an enormous risk to nearby humans.  They are out of proportion with the streets of our city and the sidewalks and sides of roads.  Cyclists and pedestrians are gnats compared to these behemoths.

I propose a system whereby the goods are delivered to the outskirts of the city and then distributed via smaller size trucks that are not a full story over the streets of our city.  I also propose that large liquid delivery trucks, are outlawed, and a smaller size truck used instead.  I wonder if the cities of Cambridge and Boston track, in their accident stats, what kinds of vehicles are most often involved in serious accidents.

In any case, stay free and stay safe, my cycling buddies and nemeses!  Intersections are easy places for accidents, and 18-wheelers and buses are not to be trifled with!

Be especially on your guard at these spots:

“The highest crashes in these three categories in the past two years occurred at Cambridge and Prospect streets; 725 Concord Ave.; 100 Cambridgeside Place; Mass. Ave. and Vassar; and Mass. Ave. and State Street.”

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