Battling Boston on Bicycle

I love riding my bicycle like whoa.  I love being out in the world, and feeling like I have really been everywhere I travel.  You know, when you fly and there’s a layover in Chicago, even if you spend an hour there, you haven’t been to Chicago.  That’s what driving is like.  Just because you drive through Porter Square every day doesn’t mean you’ve been to Porter Square.  But do it by bike? You’ve been there! You can slow down, walk, window shop.  You feel the Porter Square breeze in breeze.  You can really be there.

Besides that, gas is apparently over $3 right now, and since I got my tires changed my mileage is decreasing rapidly.  I am not willing to drive around when 1. it’s just me in the car; 2. it’s still light out; and 3. exercise still provides endorphins.  With all the holiday petsitting I have going on this week, I not only have the opportunity to make a little more income, but also to gain about a million endorphins.  If you could count them, which I have decided you can.  Please don’t correct me.

me, on endorphins. (I hope you all appreciate how willing I am to post embarrassing pictures of myself.)

So here are some tales from the 12+ miles I rode today:

  1. I stopped at a light on my way out of Cambridge.  There was a bicycle coming up behind me; I had seen his lights approaching when I had turned onto Mass Ave.  I braced myself as I stopped at the light, and decided not to yell at him.  Today, be nice! was my thought.  Well! He never whizzed by me – he just stopped behind me, and when they light changed to green, we both continued on our way.  I wanted to thank him, but that’s always awkward; let it be known that I flung grateful endorphins at him, at least in my mind.
  2. It was getting dark out, and I was well-lit (of course, because I’m amazing like that.  And also I don’t want to die because a car didn’t see me.). I was taking a right on a green light, and there was a bicycle riding along the sidewalk… who rode right off the sidewalk and almost into me! Luckily, I was in a good mood, so I responded by calling (not yelling), “Hey, please watch out for other bicycles!”  To which the lovely gentleman – who, by the way, did not have ANY lights – responded, “Ehhhh, shaddup!”  Um, to which I responded, “No, you shut up!” and then rode away as fast as I could.  He wasn’t moving very fast, but I was taking no chances with an angry Bostonian.
  3. I stopped at a light at a very busy intersection near our house and waiting for my green light.  There was an older woman walking along the sidewalk.  And then! Out of nowhere, a bicyclist on a very fancy bike in very fancy spandex FLEW THROUGH THE INTERSECTION. He did not even hesitate, or look both ways, or anything!  And in my shock, I yelled (yes, this time I yelled), “It’s a red light!” He sort of waved over his shoulder, but was already gone.  And before I could consider whether I was being a jerk by yelling after him, the little woman said, “Good for you, honey!”
  4. Lastly, I was riding along the road in the bike lane when a truck pulled out and nearly cut me off.  He stopped and as I rode by, navigating around him, I said, “Thank you.” You know, for not killing me, but also for watching out and seeing me and stopping for me.  And he said, “You’re welcome,” and we both meant it, and it was nice to be friendly.

I used to say that riding a bicycle in Boston was sort of like falling in love: you keep your eyes open, hold on tight, and hope you don’t get hurt.  It’s not all up to you.  You try to make good decisions and be smart, but you also count on other people to, you know, not slam into you with their thousands-of-pounds-of-metal-on-wheels.

an accurate depiction of how bicycling in Boston often makes me feel.

Do you ride?  If so, how do you deal with the rules (stop or don’t stop?), the people who interpret them differently than you (a la “the red light is just a suggestion for bicycles”), and the people traveling differently (walking, driving, skateboarding, etc.)?  If you’re not riding yet, what is keeping you off the roads?

PS A few of you might have been expecting an early morning post; sorry for the delay! It had a lot to do with my inability to see the screen, but guess what! Problem solved!  Here is photographic evidence, taking with the assistance of my lovely wife (featured behind my head. Thanks, wife.):

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Battling Boston on Bicycle

  1. I don’t ride a bike–it’s not very practical for commuting purposes in the area where I live. But I am fortunate enough to live in a place where I can pretty much get anywhere I need to go either walking or by public transportation–the car is largely used for occasional stock-up trips to Target and out-of-town road trips.

    I just want to say THANK YOU to you and all the other cyclists who actually stop for red lights. As a pedestrian, I can’t even count the number of times that I’ve nearly been run over by someone on a bike who breezed through a red light without even slowing down.

    • You’re welcome! I hope that by saying something to other bicyclists, they’ll realize they’re doing something wrong… or at least people who hear me yell will realize that stopping is doing something right. Also, hooray for only using cars when necessary! Sadly, as it gets colder, the car feels more necessary (which is also silly because bicycling warms up your body faster than a car heats up in a short trip! But my mind doesn’t understand that when I have to go out in 20 degree weather. Oh well).

  2. I am jealous of people that can ride their bikes to work, school, the store, anywhere really. Where I live if you are riding a bike, it is for fitness or recreation. I live about 25 miles from where I work and we aren’t in a city area where commuting via public transportation is an option.

    I used to have a road bike, but it turns out running is more my style. Twelve miles on foot isn’t uncommon for me at this point (I’m less than 2 months from the Disney Half and Marathon).

    • ugh, 25 miles would be a really, really long ride. No thank you. I used to ride 10 miles to work and that was exhausting, but still took less time that taking public transportation. Good luck with your marathon! Can’t wait to read about it 🙂

  3. Living in Philadelphia, I almost NEVER see bicyclists for lights. More often I see bicyclists riding the WRONG way on a one way road, riding on sidewalks or whizzing by me after dark in all dark clothing or spitting on cars temporarily parked in the bike lane. We live in a city- there is no where else to park when you need to pack up your vehicle before leaving town!

    Most recently I was walking to work in the rain and I was crossing at a cross walk. As I stepped up onto the sidewalk I was almost hit by a biker riding on the sidewalk (ILLEGAL!!!). He had to skid to a stop (in the rain) to not hit me and then had the nerve to yell at me to watch out! I yelled right back at him and he ignored me, of course. I remained OUTRAGED for another hour or two at work and it ruined my morning! I don’t like nearly being hit and then having the situation blamed on me!

    • Ahh, that INFURIATES me, the riding against the rules (on sidewalks, without lights, wrong directions, not signaling, just generally being a jerk). I feel like the point of rules is to make us all be able to live safely and peacefully together, and mostly it’s the bicyclists that are breaking them… so then the drivers are like, why should we bother? Not to blame the victim, but we all have to do our part! I would never almost hit you, so there.

  4. Edward

    People on the wrong side of the bike path drive me crazy! They’ll going top speed heading straight towards me. I agree with you about rules, it makes life much easier.
    Big congrats on the wedding! Aww.

    • Oh my, don’t even get me started on the bike path! It’s not super intuitive here because EVERYONE, including bicyclists and pedestrians, are supposed to keep right; that said, there are signs everywhere telling people that. The worst is when people walk three or four wide and take up both lanes of the path, or have a dog on a flexileash in the wrong lane. Ugh.

      And thanks for the congrats! 🙂

  5. Kristine

    I don’t ride my bike very often because I am a coward. I generally only ride around our suburban neighbourhood and avoid any road major enough to have lights. You are my hero for being brave enough to ride on Boston city streets. However, I do use public transportation more often then not as we are lucky enough to live in an area where this is convenient.

    Those glasses, by the way, are excessively hot.

    • You’re not a coward! Riding is REALLY scary! I think it’s less scary for me now (and I’m still hypersensitive to EVERYTHING going on around me while I’m riding) because I spent a long time building up to it, first around my college campus, then around my suburban area on the way to work, and only now on real roads.

      And not only are my glasses hot (thanks!), I can see! Amazing.

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