Friday, August 22, 2008

Wonderful bike commute

The third and final Bike Friday of the summer this morning and the Newton bike convoy numbered over 35. (Lexington won the largest convoy contest with 51.) Each ride has seen more people join the trip from Newton City Hall to Boston City Hall. Boston Bike tsarina Nicole Freedman says that Bike Fridays may continue into the fall. Here's hoping.

Newton Bicycle/Pedestrian Task Force chairman George Kirby charted the Newton convoy and led the first two rides. No pictures for this ride because George couldn't ride (though he did stop by to send the riders off) and yours truly set the pace.

George missed a terrific ride. It's really wonderful to be part of the growing contingent of people riding to work.


Canadian bike thief

This is, at best, tangentially related to biking in Newton, but it's too weird not to share. Toronto police busted a guy with nearly 3,000 stolen bikes.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Biking Head

If NS&S had an official soundtrack, it would have lots of Talking Heads and David Byrne (in his solo incarnation). We only love him more that Byrne is a long-time biking rider and activist. So, how cool is this: he created nine arty bike racks that have been installed (temporarily) around New York City.

Here's a shoe for in front of Bergdof's.


Sharing the Road, India

As if taking a cue from the DHL signboard, everyone has begun to "move forward," regardless of those still clearing the intersection. The cyclist appears to be dead center, but is actually somewhat to the left of most of the traffic here, which is making a right turn. (Keep in mind that you drive on the left in India, not the right; a right turn crosses traffic.)

Cyclists have to contend with a lot of competition for road share: scooters, motorcycles, auto-rikshaws, cars, small trucks, large trucks, buses, cows. As I posted before, the space for bicycles is getting smaller. Low prestige. The shoulder-strap & package on the back suggest that this one is making a delivery, and likely, in the brutally honest argot of Indian offices, a "peon."

In the photo at the right, note the pecking order of vehicles waiting for a green signal: cars to the extreme right, then motorcycles and rikshaws, then bicycles. There are exceptions, of course (exceptions are the rule on India's roads), but the rule of thumb is that slower, smaller vehicles move to the edges. At lights, cyclists tend to creep around other vehicles to fill in nooks and crannies toward the front. As more vehicles congregate for a right turn, the turn "lane" expands to fit them, until turners block straight traffic.

What relevance does all this have for cyclists in the US? I'm not yet sure. But I'm sure there's a happy medium somewhere between the chaotic heterogeneity of Indian roads and the regimented monoculture of American roads.


Monday, August 18, 2008

More Walnut-y goodness

Apart from the occasional Bike Boston-sponsored group commute, I rarely ride (or drive) on Walnut Street south of Comm. Ave. So, it was a special thrill to ride with son of NS&S down to the New Arts Center this morning in the freshly striped shoulders.

This completes a project to stripe Walnut Street from Beacon down to Newtonville. Beacon to Comm. Ave. was completed in July.

Pictures to come.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Globe Magazine Pedestrian Article

This Sunday's Globe Magazine had an excellent article about pedestrian issues, and all of NS&S Nation has been asking: when is the walk light going to turn green when will we have our indispensable analysis? The article has so many good things to write about, I haven't been able to digest it all. While you wait, I urge you to read the article.

The next post on the article arriving in 13 37 hours!


Are you ready?

A happy confluence of things we love: a talk, by a Project for Public Space staffer, sponsored by the LivableStreets Alliance, on the topic of transportation reform. Thursday, August 21, 2008, from 7:00 to 8:30, 100 Sidney Street, Cambridge.

Gary Toth, Director of Transportation Initiatives for the Project for Public Spaces, will ask the question "Transportation reform for the US - are Americans ready?"

Quoth Toth:

The decisions engineers make will affect people's lives. The street can't be looked at as just a vessel for cars. It's a place with many uses. What we want to do is try to help foster sustainable, livable communities.

Another thing we love? Free beer and soda (courtesy of Harpoon). Be there.


Ad irony

This report of a fatal car crash brought to you by Frost Cadillac. Clearly, the ad-matching algorithm needs some tweaks.


How's my kid driving?

Way too many teens die — needlessly — in car crashes. Just this week a star runner and soon-to-be Dartmouth student died in a one-car crash in Wenham and seriously injured his teen passenger.

Two Wellesley women are doing something about it. They created a company called Steer Straight, which sells "How's My Teen Driving" stickers and supporting phone service, modeled after the "How's My Driving" stickers on commercial trucks. If someone calls the toll-free number on the sticker and complains, the offending teen's parents receive an e-mail.

Incomprehensibly, doesn't have the web address in the article, much less a live link, even though the article makes reference to the web site. You'd think it would be a public service of a sort.

Here are two similar services: another How's-My-Teen-Driving company and Tell-My-Mom (1-866-2-TELLMOM).

Needless to say, the primary aim of the program is preventive; the expectation is that kids with the sticker will drive more cautiously. If I had a teen driver, I'd sign up.

The program's founders, though, appear to be sending a mixed message. One founder's seventeen-year-old son drives a Mercedes station wagon, having totaled his previous car. (Choice quote: "'I never drove too crazily,' says the 17-year-old senior, who totaled his previous car after crashing into a stone wall. 'But it definitely makes you think twice about doing things.'" Because cars total themselves!) And, in the accompanying photo online, the women stand in front of two SUVs with the stickers — presumably trucks their kids drive. Teens shouldn't be driving SUVs, especially because they don't need the passenger capacity. Teens shouldn't be driving teens.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

What people want

Imagine that each neighborhood could set its own speed limit. I'm guessing we'd see a lot more speed limits like the one at the Terraces, a private development on Langley Road. (Because it's a private development, they get to set their own speed limit.)

Instead we get speed limits — and roadway design — that cater to those driving through the neighborhood over those that live there.


Drive, but don't make me pay for it

Matthew Yglesias has a nice takedown of a Washington Post column by a beleaguered but unrepentant automotive apologist.

And, look, fine. If Terry Box wants to drive a gas-guzzling car, he should be free to do so. But what he shouldn’t be free to do is to expect large explicit and implicit subsidies.
Ryan Avent makes a similar point.


Tanglewood and the car

In a fascinating essay, Matthew Guerrieri takes a look at the intersection of car culture with high culture, connecting the BSO's current Tanglewood gas promotions — lawn pass vouchers with a $50 gas purchase or $50 gas cards as reward for buying $200 of tickets online — with Tanglewood's longstanding relationship with the automobile.

Automobiles are sequestered, so as not to interrupt the manicured landscape, yet their immediate proximity reminds and reassures: easy attainment for those eager to claim a sense of Gilded Age leisure, a quick escape for anyone uneasy with the anti-democratic overtones of such privilege.

It's a thoughtful, non-hysterical examination of one little slice of the car's role in our world. The prospects for alternative transportation to Tanglewood don't look bright, though maybe there's hope for nascent bus service. But, at least a little light has been shed on the status quo.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Comm. Ave. bike lanes

Got my first look at the new bike lanes on Comm. Ave., between Kenmore Square and the BU bridge.

What's there to say about bike lanes? They're lines of paint in the street.

And, they're beautiful!


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Brief Reflection on Sharing the Road in Pune, India

I've been out of commission lately because my only net access has been through netcafes with oversubscribed connections in a city whose power supply (50% hydro) has been less than dependable in a season with very late monsoon rains: empty reservoirs results in "load shedding," which means intermittent planned power outages.

I will post some very interesting "share the road" photos when I get a chance. In India, one shares the road with quite a wide variety of vehicles, pedestrians, bikers, and animals. We could learn a thing or two about sharing the road.

Then again, traffic deaths and injuries are higher in India than in the US, which is alarming, given that (at last look) only 7 in 1000 people own a motorized vehicle, vs. 700/1000 in the US. The "risk profile" of the average pedestrian or cyclist here is considerably higher than those who bike through Newton Corner.

The Bicycle & Pedestrian Task Force and Bike Newton have a potential sister-organization here called "Pedestrians First." They've successfully gotten some press in the Sakal Times, but I haven't yet been able to track down a contact. Their principle projects involve drawing attention to reckless traffic in front of schools, and trying to get the Pune Municipal Corporation to rein in reckless bus drivers.

I've seen two cycle tracks in Pune, neither of which seem to get much use; the general consensus is that they were boondoggles engineered by politicians to profit construction cronies; given that they don't seem to link anything, the consensus makes some sense.

The unfortunate trend that I've seen over the last 15 years of visiting Pune has been increasing use of motorized vehicles. Those who used to travel by bicycle now travel by scooter. Those who used to use scooters now use motorcycles. Motorcycles have been supplanted by small cars, and small cars by SUV's. With the release in September of Tata's $2,000.00 car, the roads, barely wide enough in many places for one scooter and a motor-rikshaw, will only go downhill. The trouble is, owning a car (a "four-wheeler") is a potent status symbol. 15 years ago, about half the traffic on the streets here were bicycles. It's now down to less than 10%. (Out in the countryside, bicycles still predominate.)

What I'd like to do is find some productive way to link the growing pro-bicycle movement in the US with similar organizations in India. The message should be, "Wait, wait! Been there, done that! It's not working!"


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Comm. Ave. bike lanes

Boston Biker reports that Commonwealth Avenue has new bike lanes between Kenmore Square and the BU bridge. (From Universal Hub.)


Kenmore to St. Mary's would be another good stretch, extending the bike lanes in Brookline.

And, some bike lanes on Comm. Ave. in Newton would look pretty good, too.