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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So, which lovely car would YOU like to be doored by?

It happened again. I narrowly escaped being doored in Inman Square. I was on my daily bicycling commute going at a leisurely 8-9 miles per hour just past Cambridge Hospital (convenient, eh?) when suddenly: A woman abruptly strides into the lane 3 feet ahead of me, and in a split second flings open the door of her Mercedes straight into my path. I swerve, stop, and give her a shocked glare. She starts to apologize, “Oh, I didn’t …” and then, as if a switch flicks on in her mind, she suddenly changes tone. “I came here first, you should have seen me!”. And then, without bothering to listen, she repeats this twice. For emphasis. Then, she enters the car and shuts the door.

Sigh. I tried to control myself and explain. She had walked into the lane without looking left or right, on a busy street during morning rush hour. No effect. Apparently, I was at fault. I should have stopped when I saw her materialize in my path from behind a parked van. In that epiphanic moment when she switched gears from apology to defense, she must have calculated that at a speed of 8.5 mph, I had a full 0.25 seconds to react. See? If only I had lightning fast reflexes and good peripheral vision, I could have stopped and allowed Lady Mercedes to open her door and drive leisurely away.

She had medical scrubs on. When the buzzing in my ears stopped, I wondered if she was having a bad day or something. Or, maybe she had been on medical call the night before and was sleep-deprived. Who knows? I just don’t want to be doored, and after three close shaves so far, I wonder how much longer my luck will hold.

536 miles since Memorial Day

A bicycle ride happens every weekday at 8:30 am. It isn’t always fun doing this – creaky knees and unslept calves stoke the devil in your mind: “Don’t bike today”. You find it within yourself to persevere. At first, out of shame; the ride is less than 4 miles each way (come on!). Then, to avoid going to the gym. Then, to feel the wind on your face. To relive a rustic weekend ride out of town. To escape the loneliness of living far from a loved one. To be on a bicycle again. Just to be.

——- 0 miles: June 30, 2010 ——-

400 miles: September 19, Waltham (Walden Pond Ride)

500 miles: October 15, Cambridge

600 miles: November 16, Cambridge

700 miles: February 18, Cambridge

800 miles: March 15, Cambridge (Paper Source)

900 miles: April 2, Cambridge (the day India won the Cup!)

—– 1000 miles: April 27, 2011, Cambridge —–

1500 miles: September 28, Cambridge

1700 miles: January 29, Boston (Emerald Necklace Ride)

1800 miles: February 26, Cambridge

—– 2000 miles: April 15, 2012 Cambridge —–

2800 miles: December 12, Somerville

—– 3000 miles: February 4, 2013, Cambridge —–