happy bike week ! Watch movies!

In honor of bike week, the Harvard Film Archive invites you to come over and watch some (free) movies on Sunday afternoon.

BMX BANDITS!

a short comedy!

free free free!

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Thank you, Judge!

I’ve been meaning to say thank you to the unknown judge who gave my bike an award a month or so back. I was parked in Coolidge Corner, and when I was ready to leave, I found an award had been given to my bike! It was shaped like a little bicycle and said “Best Bars” or something like that on it. It made my night!

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My friend, the Mass Ave bike lane

Thank you, Boston, for the bike lane.  It’s a swell idea.  It’s great to feel welcomed.

The execution of the lane, however, leaves something to be desired.  I pick up Mass Ave at Washington Street every morning and head across the river to Cambridge, where I leave it in Central Square or Harvard, depending on my day.

It’s fine from Washington Street to Symphony Hall, but there it degenerates into potholes-in-training and uneven pavement until it hits the Mass Ave bridge.  I am surprised by how much damage parked cars have done to the asphalt!

On the Mass Ave bridge, cars whip past at an unseemly speed, happy to be free of traffic lights for a few feet.  Maybe you should install speed bumps or traffic cameras that automatically give out speeding tickets.  Think of the money!

Also on the Mass Ave bridge, trash accumulates and the water runoff drains have been clogged with grit for years, despite repeated calls to the public works of Boston and Cambridge.

But the view is lovely.

And the wind was at my back once, I think.

Once I hit Cambridge, the large intersections of Vassar Street and Albany Street are major menaces.  Prime right-hook land.

What can be done about this problem where the cyclist is in the appointed lane, approaching a red light, and the car at the front of the line of cars stopped at this light is ready to make a right turn from what is essentially the left lane?  The cyclist gets to the front of the line only to be right hooked if the light turns green before the driver sees them.  Both the car and the cyclist think the other person made the mistake.  I think the city engineers made the mistake here.

My return trip hopefully happens after 6pm, when the traffic on Mass Ave is a little less insane.  People are angry idiots at this time, be they pedestrians, cyclists, or drivers.

But back to the quality of the lane.  Getting back into Boston, the lane degenerates again around Commonwealth Avenue.  Buses here are ready to crush cyclists.  Valet parking causes a lot of doors to be flung open.  The intersection of Mass Ave and Newbury Street (where I once witnessed a pedestrian get hit by a car) is always a mess.

It gets worse from Boylston to Symphony Hall.  The lane is in bad shape, there is constant double-parking,  and I often ride in the “car lane.”

If police are “directing traffic” at Symphony Hall, add two points of annoyance to the commute.  (Do they get any training in directing traffic?)

The lane disappears at the Mass Ave subway stop, leading cars to belive they can now threaten the cyclist.  As soon as the lane reappears, they magically back off!   This reminds me that the lane works!

If the bus doesn’t kill me, I leave Mass Ave again at Washington Street.

Farwell old friend, see you tomorrow!

 

 

 

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good manners make good neighbors

Mass Bike had a good post about good bicycle manners.  It’s a post I’ve been meaning to make, myself, so I’ll do it now.

Ride your bike as you would have others cycle around you.

1. be predictable. Although in real life I would never suggest you be predictable, it is the safe route when riding a bike.  Let other people know what you’re doing.  Use directional signals.  Although technically you should use the signals drivers should use, in reality it’s probably best to point with your finger in the direction you are heading.

2. pass on the left. Don’t pass cyclists on the right.  Let them know you are passing them so they don’t swerve to avoid something and hit you.  And give them some space, in case they have to swerve anyway.  Consider getting a nice sounding bell.  I know “on your left” is descriptive, but I find it annoying to have people shouting at me even if they’re on a bike and trying to be helpful.

3. don’t cut the line. When you arrive at a red light, don’t just get in front of the cyclist who has already stopped at the light.  That’s plain rude.

4. try to keep your cool. When someone does something dumb that puts you in danger, but you somehow evade getting hurt, try to keep your cool.  I know it’s hard; it’s natural to have an explosive reaction to a near-accident.  But if you can calmly explain to the person what happened and how they nearly killed you, that might actually be helpful.  Sometimes people really are trying to hurt you, but I like to think they are usually just dumbasses who need to get schooled.

5. think like a driver.  If you think like one, you can anticipate what they might do.  For instance, a driver is stopped at a red light with his or her right turn directional signal on.  They do not expect someone to pass them on the right as they make the turn.  Don’t be that flattened person!

 

 

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I will not go to war

I often feel like war has been declared between cyclists and drivers of cars. I’m not enlisting.

I learned to drive in Boston and I still do it now and then. I bicycle Boston-Cambridge every day.

Last night I was biking down Mass Ave, and a common situation occured. A bus was turning right, and was stopped at a green light to let people cross the street. There was a car stopped behind the bus; I assumed it was going to turn right. I passed both on the left, but startled the driver of the car, who yelled something.

I caught up to the driver at a red light at the next intersection. His window was open & he was peering out at me. I smiled and said, “I’m sorry, I was just trying to pass that bus.” I think my apology and smile diffused the situation, and we had a brief but civilized discussion about what happened & why.   We both went on our way more respectful of the other person and glad of the chat.

I felt like a truce had been called.

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DANGER on the SW Corridor

Hello!

So, let’s say you’re bicycling from Mission Hill to JP.  You’d take the bike path, right?  This is the route recommended by map peeps.

However, if it’s after dark and you’re riding alone, especially in the warmer weather, the chances of you getting mugged, harassed, assaulted on the bike path at Jackson Square are rather high!  I’ve had things happen to me there during the day with other people riding around!

Recently, a friend had her bike stolen out from under her at this spot.

AVOID AVOID AVOID!!

I know it’s the shortest distance between two points, but not if you lose your bike or you wallet in the middle of your journey!  I suggest this detour.

If, for some crazy reason, you cannot avoid this stretch, I recommend finding a buddy to ride with, even if that buddy is a stranger on a bike.  Just say, hey, will you ride with me to Jackson Square?  It’s a trouble-spot.  Or, secretly ride with them, as I have done.

Watch out for each other out there, please!

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The students are back!

September can be a somewhat dangerous (or at least adventurous!) time
to ride a bike in the Boston area – newcomers to our town don’t know
how to drive, how to cross the street, how to ride a bike….

But we expect this, right?  We see it happen every year.  To
paraphrase DAZED & CONFUSED, we get older, the college kids stay the
same age.

I think September should be a month for us experienced city dwellers
to take a deep breath and cut the new kids a little slack.  They’re
not out to get us, they don’t mean for us to hit them when they run
across the street against the light, they don’t drive in the bike
lanes on purpose, and they’re not trying to piss us off by riding
their bikes like ten year olds.

Tonight (Friday) I was riding my bike home, down Mass Ave from Harvard
Square toward home in Dorxbury.  I was actually riding a little faster
than ususal because I wanted to get home and eat some food.  But I
know it’s a dangerous time, so I was being careful.

A guy with a bicycle tattoo on his calf totally dusted me near MIT.
No big thing. Up ahead, I saw a car swerve a bit into the bike lane
near him, but the speed demon didn’t get hit or anything.  And the
driver didn’t appear to be trying any funny business.  Just the kind
of thing that happens.

As I rode up, he was yelling at the driver.
Screaming, actually, in a very threatening way, about how they
shouldn’t drive in the bike lane.  True enough, but his method of
education left something to be desired.  Sarcastic fighting words were
exchanged.  The driver was a young college type girl, hardly the
menacing type.  He smashed the car with his bike lock (or something
heavy) after I passed, and then rode over the bridge on the sidewalk,
no doubt to avoid more confrontation with the girl, dusting me again
once we’d hit Boston.

Unlikely as it may be, I really hope both reconsider their behaviour,
but especially him.  College students who drive around the city and
swerve into bike lanes admittedly suck.  But screaming and freaking
out isn’t helpful to anybody.  Certainly ignorance of the law is no
excuse for breaking it.  But knowledge of the law is no reason for
being an asshole.

I can understand why he was yelling at her.  But honestly, would it
have killed him to take a breath once she’d rolled down her window and
just calmed down enough to deliver the point without starting a fight?
Say hey, you need to keep your car out of the bike lane.  I’m not
protected by a metal cage and I don’t make a lot of noise.  Be careful
of this life I’m trying  to hold onto.

Cyclists who freak out on people give calm cyclists a bad name.  I
know you (yes, bike tattoo guy, I’m taking to you) don’t mean to speak
for us all, but honestly, give us a break.  College students driving
around in cars sometimes wind up as college grads who traverse the
city by bicycle.  Let’s give the kids a chance to evolve.  Don’t make
them hate bicycles.

Cyclists (and pedestrians) benefit from drivers who empathise with
them.  Do unto others and all that.  Drivers, at some point, have to
get out of their cars and mabye even cross the street.  This means
they recognize what a pedestrian is because sometimes they are one.

Drivers are not necessarily cyclists.  Many cyclists have been or are
at least occasional drivers.  This makes us good at driving around
bicycles.  We know to give the rider some space, to use our
directional signal (I hope), and to generally give them respect.

Predictability is the key.  Nobody likes a pedestrian who darts out
from behind a parked car.  They are putting us at risk of hitting
them, whether we’re driving a car or riding a bike.  Cyclists don’t
like people who pass them in cars and then unexpectedly take a right
turn without signaling or giving the cyclist a chance not to hit them.
And guess what?  Drivers don’t like cyclists who do unpredictable
things either!

I guess my point is, remain calm.  Empathy is what makes us civilized.

And be careful out there.

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red lights are for small talk

Yesterday I was at a red light in Roxbury, at Warren and Townsend.  A guy in a PT Cruiser called out to me.  As a woman cyclist, I tend to be wary of guys who want to talk to me – must be a hold-over from my teen experience with a pervy driver in the ‘burbs.

Anyway, despite my wariness, I do tend to try to be friendly when people talk to me at red lights, because it’s one of my fave things, these red-light chit-chats.

This guy said “Hey! I want to trade!  You know why?”  “Why?” said I.  “Because you don’t use any gas!”  And the light was long enough for him to go on that he often rides a bike himself.  I told him to “keep up the good work!”  He wished me a blessed day and then the light turned and we went along our way.  When he turned off the street, I heard his good-bye beep.

This little exchange put me in a good mood for the rest of my ride (and it happened very early in my ride).  I seldom am the one to initiate a red light chat, but I really enjoy them.  People are almost always talking about something in a friendly way.  I think the majority of my chats at lights are giving people directions (inevitably to Fenway Park), so the ones that are different are little gems.

It’s true, there are a lot of bad car-bicycle interactions every day in this city, but that only makes me appreciate the pleasant ones all the more.

Keep up the good work, everyone!

 

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I love you, cyclists

It was a beautiful day out there, reminds me how much I love you.

I love the cyclists who:

wear funny outfits

smile while riding

have nice bikes

have crappy bikes with nice accessories

have good manners

stop for pedestrians

chat at red lights

like other cyclists

I just thought I’d let you know I’m thinking of you!

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what’s in your future?

palm reading tonight

in the Broadway Bicycle School gallery!

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