Boston Bike Commuter Report, July 2015

I aimed for an average of 10 miles per day, or 310 miles total but didn’t quite get there.  Still, it was a fun month with lots of sweaty rides in the summer heat and humidity. And it’s my most bikey month so far this year.

I biked 23 out of 31 days, so that perfect month of biking still remains elusive. This includes the days that my bike was in the shop for necessary repairs. And I tried to replace my pedals on my own.  One just won’t come off!

On the bright side, my son is going to camp and riding his brand new bike to the bus stop.  So I have a commuter buddy for the first mile of my morning ride for four weeks.

Here are my stats:

Total miles: 270.56

Average miles per day riding: 11.76

Most miles in a single day: 24.04

Fewest miles in a single day (when actually biking):  2.7

Most consecutive days bicycling: 11

Most consecutive days failing to bike: 2 (2 x)

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

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Cranking Tunes While Cranking Gears

Recently I was biking along Massachusetts Avenue. Another bicyclist passed me and I heard the throbbing bass of a dance tune. I assumed the music came from a passing car, but as I caught up to this bicycle at a light it was obvious the the music was coming from that bike. I never got close enough to find out how (I think the rider had a speaker in his backpack) but it got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be great to listen to music while biking, or even podcasts and audiobooks?

The question is how. Many bikers chose to listen to music through headphones or earbuds, although this is controversial.  One local bicycle writer Josh Zisson writes in Bike Safe Boston that biking with headphones is inherently dangerous and should be illegal. Another local writer John Allen thinks the case against headphones is exaggerated and there should be no law against using them while biking.  Some bicyclists think that bone conducting headphones are a safer option but they’re not without detractors.

I find myself taking the middle ground.  While I don’t think riding with headphones is necessarily dangerous and I don’t think it should be illegal, I also don’t feel comfortable doing it myself.  I don’t want to put myself in a situation where I’m riding with the sense of hearing possibly obstructed.

So the other alternative is to find a stereo or speaker system that can be attached to the bike.  At first I thought this may be inconsiderate considering that anyone I’d pass by would hear it to.  But then again the tradition of car drivers blasting the stereo with the windows down is cherished in America.  This would be doing the same thing on a bike and not likely to be nearly as loud or disruptive.

After looking around for a bit, I settled on the Ivation Bicycle Speaker.


The speaker mounts on the handlebars, has a rechargable battery, and includes a protective carrying case for smartphones and other small objects.  I can plug in my iPhone through an auxiliary cable and listen to all manner of music, podcasts, and audiobooks.  And it can get pretty loud, so much so that I can feel the handlebars vibrate!

On the downside, the phone is hidden away in the compartment, so it’s not very handy if you need the phone for mapping or just to check the time.  The auxiliary cable gets bent easily and I’ve already had two of them go on the fritz.  Finally, the sound of passing motor vehicle traffic still drowns out the sound sometimes even when the handlebars are vibrating.  Makes you wonder just how much damage is done to our ears by the constant barrage of vehicular noise.  All and all though it was a pretty good $30 spent!

So do you listen to music while you bike?  Do you use headphones/earpuds or a mounted speaker, or something else entirely?

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Boston Bike Commuter Report, June 2015

I’m a slow biker. I’m a slow blogger too.  So, it’s almost the end of July and here is my bike report for June.

I rode 22 days out of 30.  Highlights of the month include the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon and taking my bike on a trip to Cape Cod.  Despite all that, I managed to ride fewer miles than I did in May. 🙁     My goal for July is to try to average 10 miles/day.

Here are my stats:

Total miles: 211.18

Average miles per day riding:  9.59

Most miles in a single day: 15.6

Fewest miles in a single day (when actually biking):  1.15

Most consecutive days bicycling:  6 (twice)

Most consecutive days failing to bike: 3

Cities biked in: 4 (Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Eastham)

I will put up my July report next week, I promise!

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2015 Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon

On June 7th, I rode in the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon for the third time.  I seem to participate every year, although it’s such a lovely event for a great cause that I need to commit to doing it annually.  I was joined by children Kay, who rode in to co-pilot’s seat, and Peter, who pedaled his own bike for the ten mile ride.  The three of us were able to raise $615 which was part of the record $209,280 raised by a record 866 riders!  Our donation page is still open to receive more contributions should you be so inclined

When we first arrived at the starting point near Stony Brook station, we saw lots of bikes with brooms sticking off the back.  I thought maybe I’d missed out on a theme for the ride, but it turned out this was a fleet of bikes for a team called The Golden Sneetches.  After checking-in and eating breakfast, we got on line to start the ride and found ourselves behind our nextdoor neighbors who were also festively attired. Note to self: wear a costume next time.

The Bikes Not Bombs staff introduced our ride, warning us that there were steep uphills early on as we headed away from Jamaica Plain, but we’d be rewarded with a nice long downhill after the rest area.  The hills were tough for Peter who rides a single-gear Schwinn.  He complained about having to go up so much and asked repeatedly when we’d get to the rest area, but persevered and kept on pedaling.  Another wrench in the works was that near the halfway point of the ride, we ended up running into a charity 5K run!  A person from that other event insisted that we bike down a side street meaning that myself and a number of Golden Sneetches had to navigate a new route on the fly.

At last we made it to the rest area in Brookline and refreshed by orange slices and Gatorade, were able to carry on with the rest of the ride.  Not only was it mostly downhill, but Peter began to recognize the streets of Brookline as being close to home.  We pedaled past Allandale Farm and the Arboretum and back into central Jamaica Plain to finish the ride.  The kids received medals and we ate some lunch and played for a while before heading home for a much-needed.  Well, the kids were still full of energy, so they played with Mom while I napped.

A refreshing orange slice. Finishers’ medals Peter shows off his medal Kay loves hula hooping (Thanks to Bikes Not Bombs for taking this photo and posting on Facebook)


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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.

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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

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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.

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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?

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