Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Arise, Ye Bike Geeks!

Off-Topic Warning: Biking ahead.

The wheels of bicycle accommodation roll very, very slowly in Massachusetts. If you just can't tolerate wondering what's next, try the 2006 version of Moving Together -- the jolly friendly conference for car/bike/ped administrators, engineers, scholars and advocates. It's October 18th in the (he he he) Theatre District.

We'll be there to catch the update on the state bike plan and hear what public promises MassHighway Commissioner Luisa Paiewonsky makes. This will be our third go at this cult gathering. While it open to us hoi polloi, it surely is the geekiest, most incestuous state conference. Most attendants seem to be highway contractors and bureaucrats, with a smattering of bike advocates.

Links to last year's coverage start here and continue at the bottom of that post.

In response to an inane rant about cyclists as scourge of the roads, the Boston Globe ran the stereotypical set of pro-bike/anti-bike/let's-be-nice letters.

Hidden at the bottom is a self-serving letter by the Boston Transportation Department Acting Commissioner Thomas J. Tinlin. He responds to criticism of poor biking conditions here by noting several trends. One is that the city is adding bike lanes when they reconstruct roads. So there.

He conveniently does not mention that this conforms to state requirements. The city is finally covering its butt to help keep road funds flowing.

In total though, that is good. Painting bike lanes is extraordinarily cheap by highway standards (about $5,000 a mile). While it takes a singularly egregious accident -- with multiple witnesses -- to get a city cop to ticket someone who runs down a cyclist, putting the lanes in place is an important minimum.

Bike paths that go to where people actually need to end up are bigger deals and more important. However, letting car drivers know that cyclists belong on the road can quickly be followed with bike lust as they sit in traffic and watch middle-aged folk roll past them, staying fit and traveling for just a few pennies per mile amortization. Suck that up, you insurance paying, gasoline gouged, lease yoked driver person!

Adult Bostonians are not going to get out of their cars and on their commuter bikes until:
  1. They see enough peers biking to work
  2. There are enough paths and lanes to make they believe they can survive commutes
  3. They have chums bragging about being trim and saving bucks -- peer pressure rules
Like a dog biting its own tail, the car traffic can't let go, and causes its own problem. The congestion irritates the drivers, but they need to keep a sense of control by being behind the wheel. It would be great of all those other drivers were on bicycles, even in separate lanes or paths, but don't ask me to give up my car. Aaaar.

We have our own modest proposal for clearing Boston's roadways -- full subsidy for mass transit. Search this blog for MBTA for related testimony and opinion.

Meanwhile, there's been no question that our mayor has been openly bike hostile. This may be changing and I'll be on the outlook for Boston officials at the conference. Not surprisingly, Brookline has some workshop leaders, but Beantown does not. They guys here know that Da Mare bikes not and likes bikes not.

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Peter Porcupine said...

In my youth, my bike had not only a wicker basket and three speeds - it also had a license. And a license plate.

It would set the biking world MILES ahead with motorists if -

we could get a plate number on that spandex-swathed fool riding against traffic, while weaaving in and out and giving drivers the finger while shreiking 'I GOT THE RIGHT OF WAY, BUB!' from behind his mirrired glasses.

we could ban bike traffic adjacent to a bike PATH. Why did we build the damn thing if you're still going to ride in the street?

Good luck at your gathering. Many of us not able to ride anymore physically think you are doing the right thing.

massmarrier said...

You probably also know that there are loud forces claiming that bike paths are several times more dangerous than cycling with other vehicles on the roads. That's a debate not likely to find converts.

Fact is most cyclists like being separate from traffic. They perceive safety, even if that is inaccurate. Certainly, drivers are largely uncomfortable around even fully law-abiding cyclists. Yet in the bulk of the world where cycling is part of life, bikes share roads with cars and trucks, and cops enforce laws equally badly or well for all. We're far from that.

I agree about bike paths in the main. I also see cyclists who ride sidewalks adjacent to bike paths, muddling things even more. Those clowns should get expensive tickets.

I'd likewise like to see pedestrians who walk bike paths adjacent to sidewalks have penalties, and enforced ones. It is very dangerous and discourages cycling too. Here, the DCR's attitude is that the cyclists have to be responsible for even the ditziest and most inconsiderate dog walker or stroller. There's no penalty for pedestrians and not even signs forbidding using bike paths. Pedestrians generally ignore those cartoons pointing to bike or foot paths.

The concept behind Moving Together is in its name. The idea is that we should be able to work this out -- through road design, law enforcement, education and so forth. I suspect we're still a long way away, but I'll be there to ask the highway and biking experts how far along we are.

I'm an alter kaker myself -- my oldest son has asked me when I'm going to grow up and stop riding my bike. That's probably a never.

Anonymous said...

When I worked in Cambridge I tried many times to bike-commute from home in Arlington. Yes, the puttering out of the bike trail was a scarry problem. But equally vexing was lack of shower facilities at work. Most folks can't show up sweaty and reeking. Most/many can't afford a gym membership so they can freshen up post-ride, pre-work (if one is even available nearby). This is a big problem but rarely gets addressed in my experience.

massmarrier said...

Yes, indeed, that's a biggy. Here, some guys rinse off at the sinks and bear the glares of the train commuters.

I remember accepting one job in Kendall Square that did have shower facilities. I loved that and the seven mile bike to work. As soon as I started, they signed a lease for new space -- in Burlington. I biked sometimes and am surprised to have survived the trucks and buses on the narrow roads there. Crazy people everywhere!

There was a FitCorp in the building. I taught spin, so I got a free membership, and I could park the bike in my office if I rode it in.

For several years then, I became a car drone, subject to the loads and whims of traffic coming home. Biking is better, when distance and roads allow.

Your point is well taken and it suggests that such modest accommodations are necessary. We can do such smallish things to encourage eco-friendly commuting.