The Surprise on Pothole Avenue

Pothole Avenue runs straight as an arrow, coinciding with the border between Cambridge and Somerville. In recent months, this street has seen an increasing number of bicycles of all kinds – road bikes, mountain bikes, commuter bikes, recumbent bikes and yes, even cargo bikes. The unsuspecting inhabitants refer to this street by its pseudonym – Beacon Street, its real name manifested only in the bone-jarring, sore-butt sensations that we experience while traveling up and down the gentle slopes bedecked with potholes and uneven tar patches.

I’ve been avoiding Beacon Street lately during my morning commute, trading off the straight pothole-punctuated ride for the more circuitous sedate paths that weave through Harvard, and then onward to Kendall. These last few evenings, my return commute has changed as well; after discovering that long-under-construction-Somerville Avenue is ready at last, smooth like a tennis court with a beautiful bike lane all the way up to Porter Square. Thus, Beacon Street has not been getting much mileage from me, and both bike and butt are grateful for that.

However, it so happened two weeks ago that a group of friends decided to ride from work to Lexington via the Minuteman Trail and as if by force of habit, all the cyclists made a beeline to Porter Square filing northward along Beacon Street. As I jangled miserably down the slope and past the Washington Street intersection, something unexpected came into view.

The Hubway has come to Cambridge and Somerville! People have already started using the bikes as evidenced by some empty stations. I have yet to ride one – even though they’ve been in Boston for the past year – and am eagerly awaiting the day when a similar bike station is set up at Porter Square. The bicycles themselves look sturdily made, painted in a somewhat understated gray color compared to their bright red cousins in Washington DC.

Many bicycling advocates say that the best way to make American cities safer for cycling is to have more cyclists on the road. In the years to come, Boston and its boroughs will get a chance to test that hypothesis. Whether due to the bad economy and gasoline prices, or owing to increased awareness of the benefits of cycling,  the number of people on bicycles has increased perceptibly in the last 5 years, and it is possible that the advent of the Hubway will continue to take more people out of their cars and onto the bikes. Maybe, increased awareness of the Hubway stations will cause car and truck drivers to become more mindful of sharing the road, and less prone to right-hooking or dooring an unfortunate cyclist.

In other bicycling-related happenings, Nicole Freedman recently left Boston to pursue a job with Maine Huts and Trails. As the city’s Bike Czar — appointed by the bicycle-friendly mayor Thomas Menino — Freedman was responsible for laying more than 50 miles of bike lanes in a very short time, and oversaw much of the feasibility studies, planning and deployment of the Hubway – generally transforming Boston from the worst bicycling city in the US to one of its best. Those are big shoes to fill, and one hopes that her replacement will be at least half as dedicated as she.

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