Behold Boston’s Bike Lanes

May 17th, 2010 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

bikelanesYes, it was a silly, short bike tour. Yes, I loved it.

Billed as the opening to the now-statewide bike week and billed as a ride with the mayor (Boston’s Tom Menino), cycling the few miles to play on the new Commonwealth Avenue bike paths was a spoke-geek’s delight.

First, a disappointment was that this was not a ride with the mayor. Instead, it was a ride to the mayor. I’ve asked him personally several times to ride into city hall together. He demurs — I’d be too fast; he only rides around his (our) neighborhood; and lately, he has been recovering from knee surgery. I even got City Councilor Steve Murphy, also from Hyde Park, to say he’d ride in with us.

Today when we arrived at the podium and mic set up on Commonwealth Mall for the press conference, Menino started his words with a promise to get back on the bike…starting next week. He got applause instead of snickers.

For us who ride in Boston, he remains a hero. Long stereotypically disdainful of cyclists, he had an enlightenment a few years ago. He hired hot shot champion cyclist Nicole Freedman to run the city’s biking program and backs her up with resources and words.

So today, he and she chatted up Boston’s emerging shift from bike-hostile to bikeable. As illustrated at top, they implemented one of the Comm Ave plans. That’s no small accomplishment and it compounds the bike lanes going in piecemeal as roads are built, rebuilt or re-striped. This actually makes a place on a major street, on the left, away from parked cars with their dooring dangers. It also sets the pattern for the possible.

For many decades, cycling advocates before Freedman heard repeatedly that we were unique among cities (horse feathers!) and such things couldn’t happen here. What critics, which used to include Menino, meant was that motor-vehicle operators had the rights and weren’t going to be asked to share the road.

bikerossmenino

Joining Da Mare and Da Champ was City Council President Mike Ross. He’s a cyclist, mostly, although he doesn’t commute by bike. This week, Bike Week, though he intends to go by cycle. We’ll see how his resolves holds up in Wednesday’s predicted rain. (That’s Ross and Menino.)

His head’s in the right place. He’s the one who encouraged Menino to bike. He backed that up with a gift of a mountain bike…and more encouragement. Ross was the catalyst, Menino has said repeatedly.

We’ll get Ross on a Left Ahead! podcast soon. It’ s been over a year since we’ve done a biking one. He told me today he’d like to do it.

Today was the week’s teaser. There’s lots of activities, free breakfasts, rides, movies, and of course, Bike Friday. Thursday evening, there’s a one-time presentation on cycling successes in various cities, at BU’s Sleeper auditorium. During the week, most towns in the Boston area will have their own bike events too.

Plus, it doesn’t stop with this week. For example, on Monday, June 7th, there’s the annual Redbones party to benefit MassBike. That’s only $15, with brew and food…and valet bike parking. Then, the Bike Fridays with all the goodies reappears on Boston’s city hall plaza the last Friday of the month through the summer.

In other words, you don’t even have to roll to Boston to do some of the stuff. There’s no way you can do all of it, but there’s plenty in many places for everyone.

Today was a little more focused on bike advances. Thursday’s presentation will be more serious still.

bikefreedman1

The good stuff this afternoon came from Menino recounting some of the successes of the city’s successes and continuing projects. Freedman (right) was as excited as the rest of us on the bike lanes, which she called “more than a four-inch stripe on the road.” Also, Ross promised more bike lanes coming to Boston.

I’m slowly becoming convinced that patience will out here. Word is that when car, truck and bus drivers see more cyclists, more bike lanes, more sharrows that there’ll be less threatening cyclists and resentment expressed in other ways. Bikes become part of the traffic. That can’t come fast enough for me.

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