Friday, August 30, 2013

Does Beacon Street need more cycling infrastructure?

Somerville has been struggling with the idea of putting cycle tracks on Beacon Street for some time.  The actual plans look like this.  Some people disagree with the concept or at least the implementation.  See Jan Heine's recent blog post about cycle tracks and cyclists' opinions on them (and look for hist other posts on this topic).  Between the vehicular cyclists, the neighborhood opposition, and the reality of how well these things work, it seems that Somerville ought to be sure this is what they should be doing.  What is clear is that the Beacon/Hampshire corridor is one of the busiest in the Boston area.  What's clear to me is that it is pretty well signed and marked right now.  It does have one pressing issue - the quality of the pavement.  It's unfortunate that with all of the money coming from outside Somerville that the issue has taken so long to come to a resolution.

I personally don't want the cycle tracks.  I'm happy with a bike lane, although I would want it wider so I could avoid the door zone without getting so close to the main travel lane.  Otherwise it all works for me and, apparently, a lot of other people.  So why go through with this tedious process?  And where are we in this process anyway?  The above document from the City of Somerville suggests that construction starts in 2014.  Is is really on track for that timing?  Is this what that corridor really needs or should Somerville focus on other, needier places?  My least favorite place is Elm Street from the just west of the Somerville Theater and on Highland Street heading into Davis Square.  In the latter case, cyclists can't ride on the section reserved for buses and walking a bicycle is often difficult at commuting hours and Highland Street is very congested.  This corridor is the obvious cycle route between the linear path and the Beacon/Hampshire corridor.

As an Arlington resident, I don't have much say over what happens in Somerville, except that Beacon/Hampshire is considered differently as it connects multiple towns and state and federal funds are involved.  But the final say ought to be with Somerville residents who can make their city whatever they want.  I'd be happy with decent pavement and bike lanes.

Arlington itself has had some growing pains in this area.  The Mass Ave project from the Cambridge border went up to a popular vote and narrowly lost (admittedly on a minor election - but the pro bike candidate beat the anti bike candidate).  And this eliminates a lane on the chaotic stretch of Mass Ave (multiple lanes but no lane marking) which, in my opinion, would work smoothly in any configuration if people would drive competently.  And the most recent Mass Ave reconstruction didn't even include bike lanes.  The bike path does parallel Mass Ave in the reconstructed sections but the access points to the bike path are few and far between for young and/or inexperienced cyclists.  I was hopeful they would be included.  There was no public discussion and I guess they weren't deemed important.

Regarding Beacon Street and cycle tracks, I have a couple of questions:
  • How many accidents and reported incidents are there on Beacon Street?
  • How many accidents in cycle tracks (wherever they may be implemented) can be attributed to drivers not seeing cyclists as they emerge at intersections and how many can be attributed to cyclists misunderstanding they rights and responsibilities at the intersection of cycle tracks?

Any thoughts are welcome.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Green River Ride

I went for a ride last weekend which is called the Green River Ride.  It is legitimately part of the D2R2 but the distance and the lack of hills makes it something different and the organizers recognize that and I agree.  But the ride did get us on dirt roads in western Massachusetts and that was fabulous.  If you don't know about the D2R2, it is worth reading about here and search around the web for stories about doing this ride.  In short, think hills on dirt roads and those hills are frequently steep.  I did the 2009 version of 100K D2R2 and it was indeed marked by steep hills and dirt roads.

I rode the D2R2 with Carl, Alex, and Carla.  Alex and Carla dropped off their tandem (which didn't fit in their car) Friday evening and went out to stay in western Massachusetts, a half hour or so from the start of the ride.  I left my house on Saturday around 6:30 AM and picked up Carl around 7 and made it to the starting point before 9.  Alex and Carla, with Carla's mom, arrived around the same time and put the wheels on the tandem after we all checked in.  It looked like we were ready to roll.

As he headed over to the start, Carl's chain jammed and in the process he bent or twisted his front derailleur.  While Carl and I messed with it, Alex and Carla went off on their own, expecting Carl and I to ride faster than they would (it didn't happen).  While we were finishing up, Alex called to say that one of his crank arms was too loose to continue.  We arranged to have the sweeper, who we thought had tools, check on them.  The sweeper didn't have tools and instead brought them back to the start.  Carl happened to have the tool and after tightening the crank arm, we finally got started around 10AM with one tightened but suspect crank and one dubious front derailleur.  It all turned out well despite some initial worries.

The approach to Greenfield was nondescript and uneventful.  We did get to ride on a lightly traveled bike path (except for the other Green River riders) and made our way north to Green River Road and dirt.  By then we had picked up Dave, who I met briefly at Ride Studio Cafe when he came in for a test ride and fitting for the bike he was riding.  The river road, while not spectacular, was very pleasant and scenic.  There were some sections that were right above the river with a significant drop from road to river.   The river road was was smooth enough - although there were certainly a decent amount of rocks on the road - and not too steep.  The section on Jelly Mill and Jacksonville Stage Roads were the nearest that we came to anything similar to the D2R2 proper.  They were quiet roads with some hill climbing and some great views of hills across cleared fields.  These roads led to the lunch stop at the covered bridge.

Lunch was good enough to keep all of us going, consisting of sandwiches, snacks and water.  There was sufficient space to find a place to sit despite the crowds already there.  Carl and I sat together after losing siight of Alex and Carla.  The more amusing part of lunch was the range of cool bicycles and the well known and local (to Boston) bicycle people.  The people who I talked with included Somerville Bike, Elton from Harris Cyclery, Rob Vandermark, and Jamie Maderos from Firefly.  I saw Tyler Evans from Firefly and J.P. Weigle but didn't talk with them.  And there were others who I didn't recognize - I hear the owner of Boulder Bicycles was there.

The return trip was fast or it seemed fast to me.  It was largely downhill and the return past Greenfield was less urban than the Route 5 approach that used on the way north.  We were back at the start/headquarters of the ride by 2:30, in time for dinner and the Preservation Ale, which is a great beer.  I talked more with Elton there as well as John Bayley, who tells me my debt of beer (incurred at the Greylock lodge) was forgiven and I should forget it.  After a quick dinner and packing of bikes, we were off.

Carl shared his pictures with me, noted below.

Dave ("Ive never had this much fun at 10 MPH") and Carl:


At the first water stop (from Carl):

On pavement (from Carl):

 Leaving the lunch stop:

Some of the bikes we saw:

Weigle's Weigle (from Carl):

 Elton's Weigle:

A Boulder Bicycle (from Carl):

Somervillain's Rawland (from Carl):

Grant Peterson designed Soma (650b in this size) (from Carl):

Seven Ti 605b (photo from Carl):

A collection of NFG bikes after the ride:

Total miles for August 445.  Total miles for the year: 2120.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Night riding

I just got back from a night ride that sort of looked like this.  I forgot how fun it is to ride at night.  The evening was cool and I had a light wool sweater just in case, but I did not need it.  I was making enough heat to stay warm but not sweat.  I had a first quarter moon (but low in the sky, given the season) to help light the way.

Lighting, besides the moon:

60 lux Busch and Muller headlight and Spanniga Pixeo rear light powered by a Shimano 3N80 generator hub, Nite Rider MiNewt 600 lumen headlight, and a battery powered blinky light in the rear.  I have tires with reflective sidewalls and wore a reflector vest to round it out.  I felt safe on the roads and could see everything I needed to see on the unlit paths.  I used the Nite Rider only on  the busier roads, which means I didn't have it on much of the time.

Miles for the month: 252, miles for the year: 1930.

Friday, August 9, 2013

An impromptu group ride

Well, at least my participation was impromptu ...

I am back on schedule with early AM rides, both on weekends and on weekdays.  I got out a bit late on Tuesday morning after getting to sleep late the night before.  I managed to get myself out of the door by 5:30 or maybe a few minutes later.  I had lights on for safety and headed down Massachusetts Avenue towards Lexington.  I was passed by a reasonably fast group and I hung just off their wheels until Lexington center, when I figured I had enough of trying to keep up on my sleepy legs.  I passed RSC and saw the RSC fast ride forming - there were three people already.  At that point, the last rider on the ride I was nearest to asked if I wanted to join them.  He described the route going to Bedford and coming back by Page and Grove, a route I was interested in checking out, so I joined them.

We headed up Mass Ave over Route 128.  The hill on Mass Ave is substantial and I managed to hang on.  I followed the group over towards Lincoln Lab and lost them but knew that one of them was still behind me.  I saw him as I saw the last of the group head over the to the bike path.  These were strong riders.  I managed to keep up and then had a short rest after one of the riders suffered a blow out.  Getting it fixed was a cooperative venture with this group.  The group, it turns out, is the Winchester Rippers, named for a hill at the end of the ride which was guaranteed to be quite hard.  I haven't found out for myself yet.

The fast group passed us while we were stopped for the flat and once we got going, we went quickly.  There was a long uphill section, a mile I was told, which, while not steep, was a challenge, followed by a downhill stretched punctuated by a section undergoing a full depth reconstruction.  I was happy to have my 700x25 tires and maybe would have appreciated something wider if the construction went on longer.  We passed over 128 and then regrouped at the rotary at Hancock and Burlington.  The rest of the ride is a blur, except that one kind rider (they were all pretty nice) cut off the biggest hill at the end and rode with me to a corner of Winchester I recognized and could get myself home from.  While I was keenly aware of the time, I managed to get home, and do exercises (pull ups, sit ups, push ups, and weights) before anyone was out of bed.  That doesn't mean that I wasn't late.

The ride was 22 miles, which I finished at 16.2 mph.

Postscript ... I stopped at RSC on my ride the next day and Roger, who was a great part of the Highpoint team and, unfortunately, still calls me Trouble after I briefly went off route on that ride, told me he was part of the Winchester Rippers, which he called a very large group of riders who ride everyday.  They were quite a nice group and very welcoming.

That next ride was 53 miles.

Total miles for August: 170 miles, total miles for the year: 1850 miles.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Slow July

I usually ride a lot in July.  Historically it's been the month that I ride the most and that means usually 500 miles or more.  This year my best month will certainly be June.  I rode about 650 miles, including almost 120 miles on the High Point ride.  Much of the rest could be considered training for the Greylock ride and I do think that the ride would have been out of my league if I didn't train for endurance and hills in June.

Partly as a consequence of my June riding, I did much less riding in July, less than 300 miles.  I did manage 60 miles of riding during the family reunion in New Hampshire, including some decent hill climbing, and I rode 50 miles on our Cape week but the rest of the month was busy and having spent so much time out of the house, particularly on the weekend of the ride, I didn't push too hard to get out on my own in July.  August may be better.  I rode over 80 miles this weekend and I plan to take a day off this week for a ride.  I also have plans for a couple of other vacation days for riding.

I haven't been as fast I was in June but I did ride 25 miles on Wednesday morning at 17.2MPH.  I rode 40 miles last Sunday at 16.4, and today, after 50 relaxed miles yesterday, I rode 30 miles at 16.2.  Nothing stellar but for me it has been a good year.

Miles for the year: 1760.