Doug's Bike Week 2008 Journal

All photos by Doug Mink, unless otherwise noted.
Check out what happened in 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003. 2004. 2005. 2006.

Saturday, May 10

Crossing the Blue Heron Bridge

Under the tracks in Auburndale

Over the river

Norumbega Tower in Weston

Today I biked to Watertown to lead a ride up the Charles River, getting there my usual 2-3 minutes late. 12 other people eventually showed up--I was nowhere near last--and we headed upstream on the Upper Charles Reservation path. All went well until we stopped at the dam a couple of hundred yards along. When we started off, we somehow lost the end of the group, who we had to wait 15 minutes for at the next intersection, Bridge St. From there on, things went much more smoothly until the trail was blocked by construction (or what looked like deconstruction) behind the Waltham Watch buildings. We went around it and continued into Newton and its Riverpath. Much of it had a recent crushed stone surface, and everyone kept up pretty well. The only troublesome trail surface was 20 feet of larger rocks at the DCR;s Forest Grove park.

When we got to Comm. Ave., we kept going, crossing over a narrow strip of grass onto Bourne Ave., which doesnt't quite make it all of the way through. We continued through the Auburdale neighborhood, under the Mass. Pike and some railroad tracks onto an ancient paved path which turned to dirt before the closed bridge over the Charles. The Recreation Road bridge over Route 128 (I-95) was closed to cars, but open to bikes through the gaps in the Jersey Barriers. Since the road currently doesn't go anywhere, it is a super-wide bike lane, which we enjoyed for almost a half mile. Some twists and turns got us to the Norumbega tower, where we stopped to look around. We started losing riders in Waltham center, but 10 of us made it all of the way back to Watertown Square, where the last few ended up talking bike activism for at least half an hour.

On my way home, I decided to play with my daily route and ride through Amory Playground in Brookline to Hall's Pond, as wildlife sanctuary with a great boardwalk around what is reputed to be the largest open body of water in northeast Brookline. For two years in the mid-1970's, I lived a block away, and for the past 20 years, I have been biking less than a block away every day on my way home from work, but I haven't seen the pond since I lived there, despite the fact that one of my colleagues on the Emerald Necklace Greenway Project worked on its redesign a couple of years ago. It was really beautiful, and I will wait less than 32 years before I visit it again.

Hall's Pond in North Brookline

Sunday, May 11

Lilac Sunday No Bike Week events were scheduled today, so I gave my wife a few hours of labor in her garden, spading out weeds, mowing, and spreading mulch. I also did some work on the yard of my next-door neighbor who has been sick. After I was worn out, we biked over to the end of Lilac Sunday in Arnold Arboretum and dinner at the Dogwood Cafe in Forest Hills.

with lilacs
Doug and Claudia and lilacs

Monday, May 12

University Park Bicycle Breakfast in Cambridge

I'm right behind Mayor Menino in this Boston Metro page 2 picture by by Nicolaus Carnecki

I got a late start this morning after staying up too late last night putting together a Metro Boston Bike Week Calendar so I would know what I was doing this week. I got to University Park in time to talk with the people from the City of Cambridge, the Charles River TMA, and MassBike about how Bike Week was going. At that point our 50,000 mile Commuter Challenge goal was way surpassed, with over 90,000 miles of bicycle usage pledged.

After lunch, I took off for downtown Boston to ride with Mayor Menino from City Hall to Post Office Square. Jim Gascoigne, who I spoke with this morning, announced that we had passed 100,000 miles. The Mayor and Cara Seiderman, representing Cambridge, whose Mayor did not show up, spoke, too, but not Nicole Freedman. Jeffrey Ferris talked to her about meeting afterward to get her more involved in turning the Fenway resurfacing project into a better bikepath, but she didn't show up for a long time and I left, after explaining on a BRA map Aldo Ghirin's idea for a loop around the city off of the East Coast Greenway. Patty Foley from Save the Harbor /Save the Bay dropped by and gave me an update on the South Bay Harbor Trail, where it sounds like more will be happening soon.

Mayor Menino
Mayor Menino and his bike at City Hall

Tuesday, May 13

Broadway Bicycle School Pancake Breakfast in Cambridge.

Barbara Lucas, Larry Slotnick, David Watson, and Dan Grabauskas show off their MBTA legbands

Today was the annual Broadway Bicycle School Pancake Breakfast for cyclists which always brings together a good assortment of people from north of the river. The chocolate chip pancakes were great, too. I didn't see that many people that I knew here this year, and I definitely spent too little time talking to the people I didn't know. David Watson found out that the MBTA press conference was a half hour earlier than he thought--and I had the announcement in my bag to prove it--so he rushed off to get a suit on and get back to Alewife in time.

I dropped in at work for 15 minutes and got a spectrum analysis job running on my computer before rushing off to Alewife Station for the MBTA's announcement of a bike cage there. There was a good assortment of local activists and planners, including David Watson from MassBike, Larry Slotnick and Steve Miller from the Livable Streets Alliance, Jeff Rosenblum from the City of Cambridge, and Barbara Lucas from the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission. MBTA General Manager Dan Grabauskas gave an inspiring speech about bikes on buses and bike parking, not glamorous subjects, but ones which make bike usage easier for everyone, and met with all of us both before and after. The T has designed a Bike Charlie card for entrance into the bike cage, which we hope is the first of many, and handed out really nice velcro reflective leg bands, which I have found you can never have too many of. It was nice to have two events close enough to work that I could get to them and not take too much time off.

Mockup of the MBTA's proposed Bicycle Charlie Card

Wednesday, May 14

Gosling on the Muddy River Path in Brookline

Stephanie Anderberg from the City of Cambridge and Kris Locke from Harvard Commuter Choice

I still can't get an early enough start to get to two breakfasts in one morning. Yesterday I missed Alewife in Cambridge, though I got there a couple of hours later for the T's press conference, and today I missed a Whole Foods breakfast at the Charles River Plaza in Boston. My late start let me ride up the Muddy River Path, where I got to see two families of geese during the brief time when the goslings are still cure.

I made it to Harvard Square just before 9:00, but they were serving until 9:30, so I had time for food, a drawing in which I won a locking cable, registration of my new bike with the Harvard Police, and greeting lots of friends, several of whom I have seen at other events this week. We also argued over the best routes to Dorchester and East Boston from Cambridge a bit.

Harvard Square is all dug up, so I asked Stephanie Anderberg from the Cambridge Department of Community Development what was going on, and she sent me to this web page in the Public Works Department. The streets are getting narrowed and the pedestrian crossings are getting widened, the kind of thing which should be happening in Boston on Tremont St. between the Common and Government Center, where like Harvard Square, pedestrian traffic is heavier than motorized traffic.

Thursday, May 15

I didn't get an early enough start to get to all three bike breakfasts as I intended, but I got lots of pictures of existing and proposed bicycle facilities along the way, including Murray Circle by the Arboretum, which I cross on a sidewalk to bicycle boulevard May St., which is two-way only for residents and bicyclists, the Riverway bridal path, which we would like to see paved by the Boston Parks Department, and the stone dust path along the Fenway between the Gardner Museum and the MFA, which we would like to see widened to 10 or maybe 8 feet when it is resurfaced this year.

At the Longwood Medical Area breakfast, I found out that the LMA is putting together a much-needed map of public bike parking around the hospitals. Many people come to the hospitals for tests and can bike if only they can find parking. I'm pretty persistent, so I've found places to park where I go, but it usually taken me several visits to a new building before I have found a place to safely and legally lock my bike.

At the Prudential Center Back Bay bicycle breakfast, I got David Strauss from the ABC TMA, who has been involved in organizing Bike Week breakfasts for over 10 years, to hold up this year's t-shirt as I have in most previous years. Jasmine from Bikes Not Bombs and Shane from MassBike were staffing tables and Dick Bauer from Somerville told me of his recent bike ride from Pittsburgh to Wahsington on bikepaths.

I didn't make it to the Kendall Square breakfast by 9:30, but I got to ride on the much-maligned Vassar St. cycle track, as well as bike lanes on Mass. Ave., 6th St., and Broadway, and they all worked quite well, connecting everywhere I wanted to go in that part of Cambridge. The streets toward Harvard Square are too narrow for bike lanes, but I used the contraflow lanes on Waterhouse St. and Little Concord Ave. on my way to work.

Friday, May 16

Today was an even harder start for me as I had to be in Roslindale Square by 7:10 am to meet the bike commuting convoy coming in from West Roxbury. Roslindale Village Main Streets director Janice Williams was waiting for us in Adams Park with juice, coffee, and muffins from Boschetto's Bakery, which bike fellow commuter George Ulrich and I gulped down in the few minutes we had until Steve Gag and Laura Gang's group from West Roxbury arrived. We had a great trip up the Southwest Corridor, paralleling a father and daughter (from my street!) on a Trail-a-Bike who were biking to school in the Back Bay. On the ride, I talked with a number of other parents about kids' recent and impending college decisions.

It was great to be greeted on City Hall Plaza by a flying water bottle thrown by Boston bike coordinator Nicole Freedman and see lots of friends from Bike to Work Days past. Retired Suffolk Law Professor Alfred Maleson was there without a bike, though he has served as an inspiration to me by biking well into his 80's. Deb Munson led 25 people in from Dorchester on her new DaHon folder, and the group from Jamaica Plain and the South End included Secretary of Transportation Bernard Cohen. The Secretary hung out for a while and talked to people before heading off to a meeting on Beacon Hill in a bright red "Kick Gas" t-shirt. Eric Shrier from the MBTA surveyed people on proposed layouts for the new Alewife Station bike cage, and there was lots to eat and drink.

While I was talking to fellow Roslindale resident Lisa Laramie about starting an equivalent to Dorchester's Dot Bike, so we can have 25 people on our ride instead of 10 next year, Jeff Ferris came up with Julie Crawford of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy on his cell phone. She told us that we got a 8-foot stone dust path along the Fenway, instead of a reconstruction of the current 6-foot unshareable path which I rode and photographed yesterday. The goal is to have it completed by the time the Museum of Fine Arts reopens its Fenway entrance on June 20. I told Julie that we could use some bike parking near the new entrance, and she said that she would see what she could do. Click here to see pictures of the Fenway path.

Usually events like this in Boston have elevated our hopes far beyond what we would ever see accomplished. This year's MBTA announcements of an Alewife bike cage and South Shore bike trains and the improved bike path from the DCR and its partners may look like small advances, but they are really going to happen, mostly within the next month. If the bike cage works, we could see more at stations like Oak Grove, Quincy Center, and Riverside. The gravel path is at the nexus of the Emerald Necklace, Southwest Corridor, South Bay Harbortrail, and potential Charlesgate connector to the Charles River Bike Paths, and many of the same stakeholders are involved, so this sets a great precendent for our being able to work together on improving bicycle conditions. And it looks like the fourth annual Hub on Wheels ride this fall will be bigger than ever!

Saturday, May 17

I made it to Cambridge Common just as announcements were being made for the "trails, sails, rails, and wheels" Cambridge Transportation History Ride. We went on a few streets I had never ridden on, crossed over an ancient cattle tunnel on the Walden St. foot bridge, neither of which did I know was there during the long reconstruction of the Walden St. bridge. We got a good history of the Fresh Pond area from a Cambridge Park Ranger, though I jumped the gun a bit and talked about some of it at Alewife Station. After a stop at the site of the old car barns for the Red Line in Harvard Square, we rode to a mural about stopping expressways on the back of Microcenter on Memorial Drive. I hadn't realized that Cambridgeport had organized to stop the Inner Beltway just like the South End had organized to stop the Southwest Expressway. We heard about canals, turnpikes, and landfills by Tech Square and ended up in a new riverside park in North Point for bagels, juice, and cookies.

It was two by this time, and I didn't want to ride back to Harvard Square just to head south, so I decided to head home. A couple who were great greenway supporters wanted to check out the Harborwalk in Charlestown, so I offered to get them past North Station. Once we got to the New Charles River Dam, I niticed that there was now a path under the Charlestown Bridge on the North End side, so I decided to follow the Harborwalk from there to Fort Point Channel. It was a beautiful day over the water, so I took *lots* of pictures. Then I headed up the SOuth Bay Harbor Trail to the Ruggles MBTA station, where I picked up the Southwest Corridor (once-to-be site of the Southwest Expressway mentioned above) to Forest Hills. THen I took the Blackwell Footpath to the Arboretum and South St. to the Peters Hill section. Instead of taking the road up the hill, I took a path next to the railroad tracks. It had a really steep grade before turning flat; I think that the paved road is easier, even though it goes higher. You don't have to drop very much from the park road to Arborough St. to keave the Arboretum, but you do have to climb steeply once more from the rail-side path, which clinched the case for me for using the paved road as the East Coast Greenway route around Peters Hill. That also more bviously offers the option of going to the top of the hill for a view. I followed Arborough over the flank of Fairview Hill, crossed Roberts St., and took the tunnel back into my neighborhood from Conley Field. I think the East Coast Greenway route should connect to Roslindale Ave. and head up Bellevue Hill to the West Roxbuy Parkway frontage road and hence to Stony Berook Reservation, the clean-up of which I missed today... I made it home from Cambridge almost entirely on paths!

Saturday, May 24

I signed up to work at MassBike's valet parking from noon to 2pm, but Dick Miller called in response to an email I sent about surfaces for bike paths, and we discussed permeable pavements for way too long, so I didn't get to the Esplanade until 12:30. I stepped right in and helped park bikes for most of the afternoon, taking a half-hour off to wander through the environmental exhibits. I got to talk with a few people who wanted information about biking in Boston, as well as a few old friends who dropped by. It was fun to work side-by-side with the next generation of bike activists in Boston--at last there is one! We parked fewer bikes than last year, 235 vs. 300, despite good weather and expensive gas (which is starting to go over $4.00/gallon this weekend). I couldn't find tables by many of the major environmental groups I have visited in the past, but there were lots of people giving out samples of organic food.