Biking in Boston

Although I’ve now known the pleasures of on-the-road cycling: riding through the scenery of the countryside and enjoying the challenge of a climb and the reward of a descent, for some reason my favorite place to ride my bike is still through the streets of Boston. I lived there from 2001 to 2005 and it’s where I first commuted by bike and got my urban cycling “legs.” I enjoy the challenge of navigating the mixed-up streets and dealing with the crazy traffic. I also love how Boston looks, and it always looks better when I’m on a bike.

Spouse and I made a little trip up there last week and enjoyed an afternoon of biking around our former haunts. First of all, Boston has greatly improved it’s cycling infrastructure in the last 5 years (well, Cambridge has at least). There are many more bike lanes around the city, although some of them still are too close to the door zone for my tastes. There are also many signed bike routes, which I used to regard as a cop-out: “Let’s stick a sign on the side of the road that says that this is a bike route. That should about cover our need for cycling infrastructure, right?” But now Cambridge includes my favorite piece of bike infrastructure for many of its bike routes: THE SHARROW!

from the Cleveland bike plan

In my mind, it will always be called the sharrow because it’s an arrow marking that tells you to share the road. Evidently, the neologism comes from “shared roadway marking” which is not nearly as poetic. Nevertheless, the implied message is “bikes belong here” and the motorists have to make a little bit of effort to go around them. I’m sometimes hot and cold on bike lanes and the like, since they are so often poorly placed or horribly maintained. But as long as these sharrows are painted outside of the door zone, I’m all for them. As I’ve mentioned before, I think that increased cycling infrastructure and increased respect for cyclists leads to more cyclists riding in a safe and predictable manner. There’s hardly any infrastructure in Providence, and cyclists  are treated at best with benign neglect, thus many lawless cyclists. Boston (um, Cambridge) does a little better and I saw a much higher percentage of law abiding cyclists there. There were still plenty of scofflaws, however. Including – this cyclist with his shoal manuevre:

He was riding behind us until we reached the light. Spouse and I stopped at the light because 1. it was red, 2. there was lots of traffic and 3. there was also the green line train. While we were stopped, the shoaler passed us and proceeded into the intersection, where he had to pause at an island and wait for traffic to clear. Spouse and I just waited for the light to change, then we were unmolested by traffic and were soon able to catch up to Mr. Fancy Shoal. Not that we were racing or anything, just riding quickly and assertively (and legally) through the streets.

One of our destinations was the Taza Chocolate Factory. Spouse first introduced me to their chocolate in 2005. It’s stone-ground so it has a slightly grainy texture.  I’m not usually one to taste “notes of oak and berries” while drinking wine, but this chocolate has a delightfully complex flavor. They keep expanding their line, little by little, but for me, nothing is as good as their 70% dark chocolate. And their factory store even includes a little bit of bike parking dignity:

We may not have been riding vintage dutch bikes, but Spouse is certainly looking cycle chic.


2 responses to “Biking in Boston

  1. Boston is getting better. The July Critical Mass went down Commonwealth Ave, and I was delighted to see that there’s a bike lane now painted there. What’s best is it’s on the left side of the road, so there’s no chance of being doored, and you can take bike lane through the underpass at Mass Ave. I find that one bike path is very well planned, truly a pleasant surprise.

    • That Comm. Ave. bike lane is new to me. I’ll have to check it out the next time I’m in town. I did ride down Harvard St. / Franklin / N. Harvard in Brookline and then Brighton & Alston. The worst part of that is when the bike lane just disappears as you cross Soldiers Field Road. I guess you could go on the sidewalk there, but it’s kind of disappointing after that long stretch of good bike lane. I really liked the Franklin St. stretch of that route. After crossing the Mass Pike on a separated pedestrian/bike bridge, it drops you in a residential neighborhood. Much better than going down Cambridge street and then turning onto N. Harvard.

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