Did anyone sign up to tally cyclists?

I just saw an article in the globe about Somerville hiring volunteers to cyclist street usage.

From the article:

“The goal is to understand how bicycles and pedestrians are using our streets,” said senior planner Kathleen Ziegenfuss.

People will be stationed at 34 locations during both morning and evening rush hour.”

whose ass is this?

Has anyone on here signed up to do this? Do you know someone who has?

What’s the skinny, chaps?

New York at the SAME TIME

About 9 days ago, this article was in the New York Times.

It was the story of a lawful good cyclist who, for the sake of the law, god and country, stopped at every red light.

The NYtimes article was actually published on the same day that 100PSI wrote his article about stopping at every red light for a week. Weird, right? It’s like we’re all connected, man. And then everyone tears off their business suits, and they’re all wearing tie-dye.

So, this week some readers responded to the good cyclist. One was a biker who blamed not-stopping on the unruly New York pedestrians. This sort of makes sense at first – I mean the pedestrians in NYC (as well as Boston) are terrible, but wouldn’t they be worse if you were trying to run a red? Two true statements does not an argument make.

The other response was from a non-biker who said we need more regulation, and hadn’t thought about how expensive it is to regulate something.

I love watching the NY cycling debate unfold at the same time as the Boston debate. It’s weird because (from my perspective) New Yorkers seem to have a wider cycling base, and roughly 20 times the amount of bike lanes as Boston (400 vs. 20, right?). It just reminds me that we have a lot of ways to go; New York has done so much in the way of physical infrastructure and they are still in the same place that we are.

As much as I hate to say it, it’s shit like running red lights that is going to make the difference in the end.

Heart and minds, you assholes. That’s what we need.

You get this part of the road

So, biking around town gives me some time to think. It’s never about fun stuff, or interesting stuff. It’s usually about how shitty it is to bike on these roads, and why I’ve volunteered to be an enthusiastic member of transportation’s lower class.

Here is how I see the road:

Thanks for the right hand side, guys. If anyone is interested, this is Willow Ave in Somerville, and I just ride in the middle of the road. People beep, and rev their engines to pass me, but I don’t care. I can’t handle riding on this crap. When they fix the right hand side of the road, then I’ll ride there.

When I ride in the middle of Willow Ave, I have imaginary disputes, where some guy in a car yells at me and we get into an argument. “Get to the right, asshole!” and I ask him if he lives in Somerville. If he doesn’t, then he has no right to lecture me about riding on the roads that my taxes pay for. If he does live in Somerville, then he needs to do more to keep the roads from falling into disrepair. The guy in the car is stunned by my impenetrable logic and he just sits there in the middle of the road, blocking traffic. Then I bike off, knowing that I have blown. his. mind.

Songs to Cycle by

So I came across a story on NPR’s website, where they have a playlist for urban cyclists (that’s us!).

And I’m totally into it. How does NPR always know what I like?

I guess the idea is that you’ll listen (but not too loudly) to this while dodging cars.

Nuovo Pepsi

So, this has been bothering me for a while. Pepsi started using a new font about two years ago, in 2008 and the font has always looked awfully familiar.

That’s because it is strangely similar to the Univega model labels. Available on univega top-tubes everywhere.

Am I crazy, is this the same font? Or is it just very similar?

God it’s so close. They switch up the second “s” to be italicized, but the first “s” in “supra” seems so close. The top “s” loop just doesn’t hook around enough.

This one seems a bit too removed from the pepsi font. Maybe it is because the loops never fully close.

I need some graphic designers to help me out here. If only graphic designers rode bikes!

Discouragement and Bike Crashes

In light of recent events, my first instinct is to say, “Whatever the opposite of prescient is; that’s how I would describe my last post.”

But maybe this might be over simplified. I saw lots of new cyclists, and I saw lots of women on the road. Perhaps my optimism about “things getting better” was unjustified, but that’s how it felt to me at the time.

After two horrific accidents, I’ll be curious to see if we lose our green shoots: the bikers that just started this season.

My condolences and thoughts go out to the families of the bikers who were hit.

Reaping the benefits of infrastructure

Yesterday I posted about the new bikers that I see everywhere and how they are important, but annoying.

Today I wanted to share a key observation that I left out: A lot of them are women.

I don’t mean this in the way you assume (ie: women can’t bike, or something awful). I’m saying this because of a recent article about how women are an indicator species (original in Scientific American). This means that an influx on women biking is indicative of an increase in perceived safety. Since This past week was probably their first time on the road, the actual safety rests on the perception and not necessarily the actual safety on the road. Allow me to elaborate.

1) Spring time is when Boston, Cambridge, Brookline, and Somerville, all reap the rewards of the new infrastructure and PR of the previous year. People look out their bus window and see new bike lanes in November and think, “Enough of this shit: when it gets warm, I’m biking to work” (or the local bakery).

2) This time of year is when the green shoots (see previous post) are generated. If we treat these cyclists right, they’ll be around for years. But they’re fragile and to paraphrase Lance: ‘if one of them gets brushed by a car [or discouraged in any way], they’ll never get on a bike again’.

3) Yes, I know that some people are “thinking of biking”  and might get their act together by mid June, but these people aren’t going to become urban cyclists. At least not until the Spring, when it’s clear that they are interested enough to unlock their bike from Central Square and haul it in to Cambridge Bikes for a lube/ lesson about why not to leave your bike outside all winter.

4) Back to the indicator species: It looks like we really generated enough good-PR to get women out biking. This is fantastic. It means that people are viewing the streets as more safe than they have before. As I implied above, the real test will be whether or not they stick around until September. What will keep these women around until the yearly chilling will be the experience of these new bikers, which is dependent on the actual safety and integrity of the infrastructure. Not just the hype.

Do you think the experience of biking in Boston actually lives up to the hype?

Do we have the infrastructure to keep these new cyclists around? Will we lose the women?

Personally, I’ve felt pretty safe on the roads, but I wasn’t sure if anyone else felt this way. I’m beginning to think that the drivers are getting used to me.


Every year around this time, we see the the n00bs come out.

What do I mean by n00bs? Oh I think you know. They’re not a homogeneous group, but they went on a few bike rides last summer and are planning on biking to work on every nice day. Inclement weather might be a surprise to them and once it rains, we won’t hear from them for a few months.

They violate traffic laws (ok, so do I) but in a less savvy manner than the more seasoned cyclists. I’m talking wrong way down a bike lane, diagonal street crossing when one light is green and the other is red, and riding on the sidewalk like it’s OK.

The bikes: comfortable

The attire: for generic exercise

The body: sweatless

The face: either scared or bizarrely placid

On your left! "What? turn to my left?"

But the thing is that we need these assholes. In order for urban cycling to become more safe, it has to grow and these are the little green shoots of real cyclists. The tiny buds that will, one day, blossom into a differentiated member of the urban cyclist menagerie that we see every day. They are our stem cells… and cars are the ….electricity and… cell growth promoters…. whatever.

The point is that they are annoying, but important.

Treat them well, and we’ll have a better, bigger, bolder presence on the road.

[outro: song from the sixties about teaching children well].

Cyclist Alignment Chart

Like any good fan of dungeons and dragons, I view the world through alignment charts. I’ve given this some thought, and below you will find definitive cyclist alignment chart. I’m betting that one already exists, but this is going to be my version. Click for the full jpeg.

The Cyclist's Alignment Chart


Lawful Good: we have a photo of a dorky commuter, upholding the law and wearing ridiculously bright clothing in the middle of the day. It is accompanied by a Shane quote. 🙂

Neutral Good: Perhaps indicative of the more casual rider, who wants to do good in the world, might run a red light or two, might bike on the sidewalk, but is generally helping the cyclist cause and the environment.

Chaotic Good: Critical Mass. Doing good by mucking shit up once a month.

Lawful Neutral: Ol’ timey cyclist, abiding by the law just because he doesn’t want to anger the drivers. This is probably my favorite photo.

True Neutral: Fixed gear cyclist, with no ideology just biking in the most advantageous way possible for himself.

Chaotic Neutral: AKA “The worse cyclist on the road”. Shirtless, and borderline retarded. The term cyclist doesn’t seem to apply here. This is a guy who found a shitty bike in a friend’s yard and said, “Whoa can I ride this home?”. Opportunist and ignorant of the road, I want to make these people illegal.

Lawful Evil: I think if you asked Lawful Evil drivers, they’d conflate the ideas of lawfulness with good. Driving a car is really just a gradient of evil. You’re economically supporting terrorists, polluting the environment, the make cities a more unpleasant place just so you can get somewhere without taking a fucking bus. Yes, there are considerate, lawful drivers in smaller cars. But let’s face it, you’re perpetuating the problem that you’re pretending to solve.

Neutral Evil: Same as the kind, lawful evil drivers, but they don’t fucking care. No effort, they’re just going someplace.

Chaotic Evil: This takes some effort. This would be like one Dr. Christopher Thomas Thompson (pictured), who stopped short because he didn’t like some cyclists riding two abreast. He literally assaulted someone with a deadly weapon and got only 5 years in prison. If I meet this person on the street, I plan on punching or poisoning him. This is really why your parents tell you to wear a helmet. Assholes who are trying to kill you.

And there you have it. It’s all settled, and we have a common lexicon for communicating the different types of people on the road.

You’re welcome.


Walden II

B.F. Skinner, the mid century behaviorist, once wrote a book called “Walden II”, which was a Utopian novel about shaping people into perfection. I haven’t read it, but I assume it’s worth a read on some historical level.

If anyone has ever attempted the bike ride to Walden Pond in Concord, they may have used google maps, and accidentally found the OTHER Walden, up in Lynnfield (Walden II). BF was a local, so he might have known that there was a second Walden – who knows, maybe the novel takes place in Lynnfield.

So a whiles back in the Fall, the lady and I took off on an attempt to go apple picking in Peabody. We left a little later than we intended and realized that we were running out of daylight and consequentially the 50 degree weather was inching toward 40 degree weather. We cut our losses at Breeds Pond, and then turned back. Only later did we figure out how close we had come to  Walden II.

I haven’t been biking recently, but I decided that it was time to wax nostalgic for the warmer weather that once was. For anyone interested in Behaviorism, or geographical puns on mid century academic novels, here is the route we took:

Somerville to Breeds Pond/ Walden II

Breeds pond is nice in of itself, so even if you miss/ don’t care about Walden II, you could do much worse than Breeds. Also, if you’re into the absurdity that takes place outside of civilization, this is a great route.

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