Rack ‘em Up in Newton

August 19th, 2007 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

There’s still solid justification for the Snooton nickname for Newton, Massachusetts. Like neighboring Brookine, it has parking restrictions to limit hoi polloi, fur bearing blue hairs, and countless men trying to weasel special treatment as doctors with their Ph.D.s in English Lit.

I was puerilely and preemptively set for disappointment when I decided to combine a rare shopping excursion to the pretentiously named Chestnut Hill with a bike ride. The middle-brow shopping center at the bottom of the hill is literally and figuratively looked down on by the tonier mall up top. I think both are the lesser to the Atrium across Rte. 9. Nonetheless, all three are kind of glorified strip malls, as so many suburban shopping centers are now, filled with dozens of chain stores, even if those stores are Movado, Coach and Bloomies instead of Target.

Using my bike more for such 10 to 20 mile trips recently, I figured this was just what I’ve been doing otherwise. I had one thing to pick up in each of mall and shopping center. I was ready to be outraged at their lack of accommodation for cyclists. These are really SUV and luxury car lots and garages. Many of their shoppers can’t park in the lines and circle repeatedly to find a spot 100 feet closer to their store or the cinema.

I have a bad, whiny attitude about anti-egalitarian locales. I go to these particular areas a few times a year. I have never seen a bike rack and figure they figure their customers have motors under their butts.

Checking the net for details, I see that sure enough the mall and shopping center text and maps make no mention of racks or any accommodation for cycles. In contrast, the local planning committee had some docs, like this one, saying they should make sure racks were where people would need them and cautioning that a rack is not adequate encouragement for cycling instead of driving.

Coming up (stroke, stroke, stroke) the Hammond Pond Parkway hill, my fears found justification. Cruising the parking lot and garages, I not only didn’t find bike racks, I didn’t even see reasonable posts to use to lock up my bike. Then I tooled the front of the mall, next to Rte. 9. Nada. On the back side, there was a sever metal bench and picnic table, just the set up for masochists who want waffle butts. However, there was a sign post indicating for the intellectual feeble that the 11-f0ot walkway that led to the parkway was in fact a walkway to the parkway, not to a crosswalk or sidewalk but to likely death on the parkway.

Feeling self-righteous, but anal enough to be thorough, I rolled over to the storefronts. Oh, scandal and humiliation! By the Crate & Barrel toward the gap before Papa Razzi is a rusting bike rack. It isn’t bolted. It is grey on grey concrete next to grey walls, nearly invisible. At least that’s my excuse for never noticing it before.

I had a similar humbling experience down the hill. There too, the rack is a single, damned hard to find — grey on grey in front of grey. However, at the bottom of the ramp leading to the cinema, there is a bike rack.

There are quibbles to quibble. Why are there so few (probably matching the need; neither rack had any bikes)? Why are they so out of the way (likely that the stores don’t want their dolled up shoppers snagging their threads)? Why are they monotone to the point of invisibility with their surrounds (damned if I know; a contrasting color would make their obvious to cyclists and might keep cellphone slaves from walking into them)?

So, I came away from Newton with a little more on the plus side of the fulcrum.

Friends of ours who live in one of the seemingly countless villages of it like to joke about having gangs like urban areas do. Except in their case, the gangs comprise men who only have masters degrees.

If they decide to go cycling on one of their rampages, perhaps I can have a guidebook ready for them — Surprise Bike Racks on Newton.

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