Support Bikes Not Bombs!

This Sunday, June 7,  I will be riding with my children, Kay & Peter, in the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon! Peter will be riding his own bike and Kay will be the co-pilot on my bike.  The Bike-A-Thon is always a fun event and it raise money for a terrific cause.

Based in Boston not far from where we live, Bikes Not Bombs serves two great purposes. First they collect and renovate bicycles to ship to developing communities in Central America, the Carribean and Africa. These bicycles help people meet crucial transportation needs with a easily maintained and environmentally-friendly vehicle. Secondly, they help youth right here in Boston learn skills such as urban bike riding and bicycle repair that contributes to building their confidence and leadership skills. Please help us in our efforts by making a generous donation!

Donate now at our Bike-A-Thon page.

Posted in Advocacy, Bicycling, Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon, Boston, Events, Jamaica Plain | Leave a comment

Boston Bike Commuter Report, May 2015

To my great shame, I am not a winter biker.  I’m always impressed by the photos and stories of Bostonians who bike all year long, even in the midst of record-setting snowfall! In my defense, I once had a nasty fall when I went over a patch of ice, landing on the base of my spine.  I’m also cheap, and haven’t gotten around to investing in winter gear and clothing.

All of this is a long way of saying that I took a long break from bike commuting before getting back on my bike in April.  The last week of April turned out to be the first time in 2015 when I rode my bike every day. But I’m hoping to make up for lost time.

May has been an excellent month for bike commuting with lots of pleasant days, and few days that are too wet or too hot.  I biked 26 out of 31 days.  I’m still hoping one day to do 30 or 31 days of biking, but alas this wasn’t the month (June is looking good so far).

Here are my stats:

Total miles: 216.72

Average miles per day:  8.34

Most miles in a single day: 14.5

Fewest miles in a single day (when actually biking): 1.33

Most consecutive days bicycling: 12

Most consecutive days failing to bike: 2

Cities biked in: 3 (Boston, Brookline, Cambridge)

If you’re a bike commuter, let me know how your May went in the comments.

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Casey Arborway Construction Meeting, May 7

I received an alert from the Boston Cyclists Union regarding a Casey Arborway Construction Meeting tomorrow May 7th, 7pm to 9pm at Boston English High School Auditorium, 144 McBride Street, Jamaica Plain.  As I’ve written in the past, I live in the Forest Hills neighborhood and eagerly await the permanent removal of this highway infrastructure that will be replaced with new facilities for bicyclists, walkers, and public transit, open up a significant amount of public space along the Emerald Necklace, and spur economic development in the form of new transit-oriented housing and small business.

Unfortunately, a small but vocal minority insists on building a new overpass and prioritizing high-speed/high-volume automotive traffic at any cost.  They plan to flood the community meeting in an effort to convince Governor Charlie Baker to kill the Casey Arborway project and construct a new highway overpass instead. If you support a Boston that prioritizes walking, biking, public transit, green space, and local economic development instead of allowing some car commuters to zip through the city a bit quicker, please attend this meeting and offer your opinion.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to attend the meeting myself, but I have sent a message to Governor Baker.  My message is copied below.  Feel free to crib for your own message.

For more information on the project, please read the Arborway Matters post The Casey Arborway Project – a broad defense.

Dear Governor Baker:

I live in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Jamaica Plain and I’m eagerly anticipating the permanent removal of the elevated highway structure that passes through my neighborhood called the Casey Overpass. Once removed, a new human-scaled boulevard called Casey Arborway will be constructed as well as opening new public space, improved access to public transit at Forest Hills, and bicycle lanes.

As a Republican focused on fiscal responsibility you will appreciate that the Casey Arborway costs significantly less to construct than a new overpass, and will require less taxpayer money to maintain and repair in the future. Removal of the highway also opens the Forest Hills area for economic development with room for new housing and small business. The improved facilities for transit, walking, and biking will also help the environment and reduce the overall traffic congestion in Jamaica Plain.

The decision for an at-grade street in Forest Hills came after a multi-year processes involving a couple of dozen community meetings, working groups, and analysis of traffic engineers. The people of Jamaica Plain through their attendance at public meetings and correspondence with elected leaders showed their support of permanently removing this highway infrastructure by a 3 to 1 margin. Please don’t be swayed by the campaign of a self-interested minority to delay or alter the Casey Arborway plan.

Thank you for your consideration.

Liam Sullivan

Posted in Advocacy, Bicycling, Boston, Forest Hills, Jamaica Plain, Public Transportation, Urban Planning, Walking | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Fun Way to Fenway!

This summer Mass Bike introduced bike valet parking at Fenway Park for ticketholders attending weekend Red Sox games.

My son is a devoted Red Sox fan and a biking enthusiast, so we decided to ride our bikes to the Red Sox – Mariners game on Saturday.  The nine-mile roundtrip turned out to be easier than anticipated as much of the journey from Jamaica Plain to Fenway was along the Southwest Corridor bike path, and the streets we traveled on were not heavily trafficked with automobiles.

funwaytofenwayThe Mass Bike staff at Fenway Park were friendly and helpful and checked in our bikes quickly, giving us a claim ticket and sending us on our merry way to the game.  At pick up time, not only did they give us back our bikes, but they gave my son a Dustin Pedroia bobblehead.

Great work by Mass Bike and the Red Sox to make it even easier to bike to the game.  I know we’ll be doing it again next season.


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Cycletracks on the Arborway

Recently, the DCR laid down new bike lanes on the Arborway, part of the network of Emerald Necklace roads running through Jamaica Plain from Forest Hills to Jamaica Pond. While this should be a positive gain for city cyclists, unfortunately the DCR ignored the advice of bicycle advocates and painted lanes that are inadequate and even dangerous to cyclists.

The Boston Cyclists Union is staging a campaign to replace these poorly-designed bike lanes with cycletracks, a six-foot wide path protected from automotive traffic by a two-foot buffer.  Please sign the petition and add your comments at the Boston Cyclists Union website.

The Arborway is part of a network of city parks dating back to the 19th century that has unfortunately been adapted for use as a freeway for automobiles.  While there are posted speed limits of 25 mph, drivers routinely travel at speeds close to twice that speed. Speeding is encourage by the inordinate space devoted to cars ranging from 4 lanes to a ridiculous 8 lanes between Centre St and Parkman Drive. Building cycletracks will create safe space for both bicycle commuters and recreational riders enjoying the parks.  A more inviting space to ride will encourage more bicycling and reduce automotive congestion. And narrowing the excessive space devoted to automobiles will help calm out of control speeding and reckless driving.

Posted in Advocacy, Bicycling, Bike Safety, Boston, Forest Hills, Jamaica Plain | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Should Cyclists Be Allowed To Roll Through Stop Signs?

The following article is getting a lot of attention among bicycle circles and even among friends not into bicycling:

Stromberg, Joseph . “Why cyclists should be able to roll through stop signs and ride through red lights.” Vox. Vox Media, 19 May 2014. Web. 12 May 2014. <>.

The author contends that bicycle riders are more aware of their surroundings than motorists and can determine whether or not it is safe to go through an intersection without stopping for a stop sign.  He follows with data on the energy expended by a cyclist to get up to speed after a full stop. Unfortunately, my experience conflicts with Stromberg’s theory as on multiple occasions I’ve been riding my bike and nearly been hit by another bicyclist who ran through a stop sign or red light (luckily, no collisions as of yet).  Obviously those bicyclists were not alert to the fact that I was there pedaling along the street before they passed the sign.  To be fair to Stromberg, he suggests slowly rolling through stop signs not buzzing through at full speed as these riders did.  But I have doubts. Should the law be changed I expect that many bike riders would bother with the nuanced distinction of a slow roll compared to just continuing at speed. Our nation’s current laws and infrastructure for motor vehicles tend to be guided by the idea of moving as many motor vehicles as swiftly as possible with as few hindrances as possible.  This creates a sense of entitlement among motorists that encourages speeding, reckless driving, and disregard for other road users (bike riders and walkers).  I think the Idaho stop would have a similar effect on bike riders.  Let’s face it, most people, regardless of conveyance are going to do whatever gets them to their destination fastest, and I don’t think the regulation of public roads should necessarily make everyone’s self-interest the top priority.

Instead of changing to a dual system of laws where some users stop at stops signs and some do not, I propose instead that we should focus on changing the infrastructure of the streets to encourage sharing roads and negotiation at intersections.  When I rode a bike in Amsterdam there were several intersections where two narrow streets met where there were no lights, stop signs, or any signs at all.  Instead of chaos, the effect was a calm crossing negotiated among all vehicles, much like Stromberg expects would happen with the Idaho stop.  The thing in the Amsterdam example is that everyone is following the same rules, and the lack of signaling actually makes it fairer for bikes.  Of course, the Netherlands’ vulnerable users laws and liability that places the burden on motorists would also make for a welcome improvement in the United States.  On larger roads, bike riders should be able to travel on buffered lanes that have protections at intersections such as separate bike signal lights or  protected lanes around a roundabout. Anyway, that’s what I would do if I were in charge.  What do you think?

Posted in Bike Safety | Leave a comment

Bike Lanes (a couple of interesting articles)

A couple of interesting articles about bike lanes and their affect on traffic congestion (or as is demonstrated in these articles, the lack thereof.

First there is:

Bike Lanes Don’t Cause Traffic Jams If You’re Smart About Where You Build Them by Gretchen Johnson and Aaron Johnson,

Then there’s this response to the Johnson & Johnson piece:

Bike Lanes Don’t Lead to Congestion, But Some of Them Should
by Angie Schmitt, StreetsBlog, USA

Posted in Bike Safety, Links | Leave a comment

March 27th: LivableStreets’ 6th Annual Boston Bike Update

I’m registered for the 6th Annual Boston Bike Update.  Join me with an RSVP to LivableStreets.

When: Thursday, March 27, 2014

Where: Boston Public Library, 700 Bolyston St, Boston


5:30pm Doors open – No reserved seating.
6:00pm Presentations begin
7:45pm Q&A begins
8:30pm Q&A ends
8:30-10pm LivableStreets member social @Lir Irish Pub
Posted in Advocacy, Bicycling, Boston, Boston Bike Update, Boston Bikes, Events, LivableStreets | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Feb. 26th: Public Meeting for Protected Bike Lanes in Downtown Boston

Come voice your support for a vastly improved bicycling in Boston’s central core at the public hearing for the 25% design of Phase 1 of the Connect Historic Boston bike trail and Constitution Road protected bike lane proposals.

WHERE: Boston City Hall, Room 801

WHEN: Wednesday, February 26, 2014, 6:00 PM

More information via MassBike.

The proposed network. Image: Connect Historic Boston 

Posted in Advocacy, Bicycling, Boston, Downtown, Urban Planning | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Winter Biking and the Southwest Corridor

I’m not much of a winter biker. I’ve done it in the past and learned that it can actually be warmer and more comfortable than waiting for a bus. I expect I’ll do it again in the future.

But right now in my lice I drop off my daughter at daycare everyday on the way to work. Our bike commute already has it’s challenges. We live on a steep hill and when we get to the bottom we join the traffic frenzy around Forest Hills which is currently designed to support a highway interchange. The infrastructure encourage a high volume of traffic and is engineered to allow drivers to speed, and they do. Once we get through all of that, we can ride on the protected Pierre Lallement Bike Path in the Southwest Corridor Park and breath a sigh of relief. In the winter, the hill gets icy, snow mounds narrow the main roads and the drivers get testier. And, apparently, the Southwest Corridor bike path offers no refuge because the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation does not maintain it well after snowstorms, as has been reported in national news.

So, I don’t bike in the winter time. Maybe when my kids are older or if Hubway opens up year round in Boston that will change. But I have a lot of respect for winter bike riders and know that they’re in on a good thing. That’s why I find it outrageous that the DCR not only fails to properly clear snow from the bike paths, but as revealed in an email exchange posted on Universal Hub, some DCR higher ups have a dismissive view of bike commuters.  Unfortunately, Universal Hub tends to have a right-wing bias and so many of the comments there reflect the idea that motor vehicles are normal and that bicycling is done by outsiders.  They say that maintaining bike paths in the winter wastes “their” taxpayer money and that if someone wants to bike in the winter they should use the plowed city streets (of course, I expect that if they were drivers behind you on a bike they’d tell you to get off the road).

The way I see it is that the city has streets for everyone using whatever mode of conveyance of their choice, protected paths for bike riders and walkers, and limited access highways like I-90, I-93, and Storrow Drive exclusively for motor vehicles.  Their would be outrage if Storrow Drive was not properly cleared after a snowstorm and drivers were told that they could still drive on the city streets.  Similarily, the idea that bike paths are recreational  and intended for commuters.  Storrow Drive, Soldiers Field Road and other parkways are maintained by the DCR and are still expected to open for commuters at any time other than a state of emergency.  It shouldn’t be too difficult for the DCR to send a plow down the bike path regularly during and after snowstorms, or arrange with another agency to do so.  And yes, the paths are wide enough for a truck with a plow as they are routinely used by patrol cars and maintenance vehicles in the warmer months.

Anyhow, I’ve probably said too much, and I’m glad that other people and groups are working for a positive resolution as well as bringing attention to winter biking in Boston.  Check out these links for more!

There has already been a positive response as the DCR is planning a meeting to discuss winter biking issues.  More information at the ever-resourceful BCU website.

Posted in Advocacy, Bicycling, Boston, Forest Hills, Jamaica Plain | Tagged , , | Leave a comment