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.

Bike Fatalities, by age and location

It seems like everyone knows someone who was hit by a car in the last 3 months. I don’t know what it is about fall, but cyclists are dropping like flies, and so I’ve been thinking about bike fatalities. I dug up some numbers, and I’d like to share some graphs.

Fatalities by age group

Above is the breakdown for all of the cycling accidents in 2007 (most recent numbers, as far as I know). Most people I know that were hit were in the 25-34 age group, but the most fatalities occurs in the 45-55 age group. Strange isn’t it? I’d be curious to see if this is due to an increase in accidents, or just the fact that their middle aged bodies can’t handle what a younger body could. In other words – this might be a an age where people are still active, but they don’t just roll off the hood of a car like they used to. So, be careful out there, my middle aged friends.

The next question someone might ask is “Where are these accidents taking place?”. They could occur anywhere – and indeed insurance companies and the national highway traffic administration keep track of this. The simplest distinction is between an accident that occurs in an intersection, and an accident that occurs in a non-intersection.

Where do accidents occur?

Here is where things get interesting: this age peak in fatalities for the 45-50 year olds virtually disappears when looking at accidents that only occur in intersections. So, this bias is due to an increase in non-intersection related accidents. I don’t know exactly why this could be. If the above hypothesis is correct – and this effect is due to an increase in fragility, rather than an increase in accidents – then perhaps there are more non-fatal non-intersection accidents for 21-24 year olds. These non-intersection accidents could be less severe for the young and rubber boned, but just fatal enough for the middle aged.

I don’t know if this is a fair assumption, but I’ve chosen it as a starting point. Whatever the truth actually is, we all have to be careful out there.


Hat-Helmets for the fashion conscious

Yes, those people in the photo above are wearing disguised helmets. They pretty much look like helmets with hat fabric put on top.

The article is titled “Dweeb Free”,(VIA) but I dunno – those still look kind of dweeby. I like the idea, but I’ll make a bet that when you aren’t being photographed at exactly the right angle, with exactly the right amount of hair, those helmets will look ridiculous.

Repainting Bike Lanes

NYC cylists repaint bike lane.

Basically what happened was a popular bike route was un-bike-laned. The City of New York painted over them, and some cyclists decided to put them back. Nice job folks! Want to come paint some bike lanes in Boston? I’ll buy you all beers. Seriously.

I like this idea: can we do this here? Why wait until existing bike lanes are taken away? We should just put bike lines wherever we want.

via TreeHugger


So, the reason that the bike lanes were taken away is because of the Hasidic Jew population in Williamsburg.

The Hasidim were complaining that girls biking through were too scantily clad, and that it became difficult to not-look at them (as mandated by Hasidic Law). Or, so says the Post, but I’m not sure how much stock I’d put in this particular part of the report.

As a secular Jew, I’d like to think that I have the right to complain about the Hasidim …. but I don’t. I’m just going to let that hang…. and never complain about the Hasidim again.

(They will fuck you up)

Estimation of Average Speeds

So, in further speculation of a car racing a bicycle, I have graphed out what I know so far.

Assuming the car is going 20 mph, and the bike is going 15 mph, the car will win every time. Obviously, we don’t need any math to figure out that 20 mph > 15mph, but that’s not the question I’m interested in. The real question is “who gets there first?”, so I estimated about 5 extra minutes for parking, walking to the car, and walking from the parked car.

For out race, we’re doing a common city trip, which is typically less than 4 miles.


They y-axis is time, so the faster vehicle is the lower line (bike, in this case). It is obvious that the lines will cross eventually, maybe around 5 miles, but for the majority of city drives, the bicycle is actually faster.

Before anyone gets upset: yes I know that cars can go faster than 20 mph, but this is average speed. So, when you kick it up and drive 60 mph down Broadway, for 10 seconds, and screech to a halt in front of a red light, and wait for 30 seconds, your average speed is 17 mph. Meanwhile, the bicycle is a more steady pace, and doesn’t need to stop as often or for as long. Some might say that I am underestimating the car, but I’d say that I am actually overestimating the car’s speed in a city.

I might be overestimating the bicycle as well. I have overall averages of my cycling down this route, but I wasn’t timing myself with a real test in mind. Then again, I wasn’t racing anyone either.

Personally, I’d like to test this. Maybe someone with resources or social clout could help me out (Shane? Interested? Eh?).

Both the driver and the cyclist would have to start form home, so we can add in the extra time for the driver. The driver would have to walk to his car, drive, then park, then walk from the parking spot. I think that this would provide more external validity, so that we could generalize to the larger population of drivers.

Anyone want to race a car? Anyone was to drive against a cyclist?

Transport Comparisons

Who would win in a race between a car, a pedestrian and a bike? Some may remember a Brazilian race of a similar style, which I posted about a few months ago. Since I don’t have the ability to organize a proper race, I tried to figure this out with some simple math and Google maps.

For the fake race, I chose one of the longest roads in Somerville to use as a preliminary example – Broadway. From Teele Square in Somerville, down broadway, and then continuing into Charlestown has got to be one of the longest stretches of road in the whole Cambridge-Somerville-Charlestown area. Yes, there is Mass ave, and Beacon St. and Somerville Ave, but they’re not quite as long. Mass ave from rt 16 to memorial drive is a curvy 4.2 miles, while Broadway from Teele Square to the Charlestown navy yard is about 4.5 miles – and almost a straight shot.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Teele Square to Charlestown Navy Yard
View Larger Map

Most car rides are under 4 miles, and this also happens to be the maximum length you can really travel and stay within the boundaries of route 16 and the mystic river. So, this seems like an appropriate length to race a car vs. a bike. Pedestrians can be eliminated at the start, since google maps says it will take an hour and change to walk this length, and 40 minutes by bus (assuming you catch the bus – NOW).

So, it comes down to the car and the bike, by which I mean:


This is tough, because google maps doesn’t have a “bike” function and cyclists vary quite a bit in their speeds. If you’re a casual cyclist, maybe you ride between 5 to 10 mph, meanwhile some others might have trouble biking in a straight line at those speeds. People faster than me claim to ride at 25 to 35 mph, but to be honest I doubt that they maintain those speeds for very long. Personally, I cruise around 15 mph, but thanks to a low gear ratio I spin out around 20-25 mph.

For cars, this obviously isn’t an issue. Google maps put the expected time for this trip at 13 minutes. This seems reasonable, until we refer to other trip times (like route 16 to the mass ave bridge through harvard square taking 10 minutes), it becomes clear that traffic is not directly included in the google algorithm.

However, we can gauge the current traffic, but using google’s traffic indicator.

Traffic Screen Shot

For reference, google has only recently begun recording traffic for Broadway, so there wasn’t enough data for them to figure out what the traffic will look like on Monday at 9am. The above screen capture, with the red lines all over the street, is for Sunday at 11am, which I would presume is less than Monday commuter traffic.

So, you may ask yourself, “What does RED mean?” – good question.

Red basically means LESS THAN 25 MPH. Although another poster claims it to be between 10 MPH and 25 MPH.

So, cars. It seems that the playing field is even.

Personally, I can get from Teele Square to the Navy yard, riding comfortably and stopping at necessary lights, in about 20 minutes. When I am bookin’ it, I can be there in a sweaty and panting 15 minutes. This means that I am moving between an averaged 13.5 MPH and 18 MPH, respectively.

Has anyone else made this trip? I’d be interested in hearing what the time is by both bike and car. I don’t know how average my personal times are, and I’d be curious to see how much of an impediment the traffic and red lights really are.

I know you’re all excited about cryptic clue fest day 4 (or 5 or whatever), and Rachel Uchitel, but c’mon – today is a beautiful day to test a hypothesis.

Somerville Bike Auction Inventory List

Once, Robert Plant said that sometimes words have no meaning, and in reviewing the inventory for the Somerville Bike auction, right now I am convinced that Plant and his giant cock were right.

Figure 1: A sample from the Somerville Bike Auction inventory.

Figure 1: A sample from the Somerville Bike Auction inventory.


Sure, I appreciate the idea of posting the bike inventory online, but the amount of information here pretty much amounts to “Yeah, we got some bikes.”

Before reading the inventory, I knew that there would be some shitty bikes, and maybe some OK ones that I could fix up. After reading the inventory, I was basically in the same place, which makes the net information transmitted equal to zero.

Specific Criticisms:

1) Why would you list the speed. No one cares, and no one is going to buy a 21 speed over a 12 speed. I’m assuming that most of these bike are going to need new back wheels.

2) Really, what matters is the original quality of the frame and parts – information that is not provided. If the Bianchi listed is a forgotten Dolomiti, then it would be worth getting out of bed early. If it is one of those terrible comfort bikes, then I might sleep in a few more hours.

3) Which brings me to make – what they have listed here is the Brand. Fuji is a brand that made dozens of models. Some are amazing and some are pieces of crap. Saying Fuji is like saying you have a General Motors car – it would be helpful if the model was listed.

4) I don’t care about the color. Basically everything here is going to look terrible, until I fix it up in some way. Bikes can be painted – and these bikes probably should.

5) Style – Boy or Girl? Just say Mixte frame, or Step-Through frame. I don’t really know any girls that ride a girl bike. Who wrote this? What is a racer frame? Could this be a pursuit? Or is it the only road bike in a shit storm of comfort/hybrids?

I guess we’ll have to find out.

Elizabeth Lambert

Is it weird that I find this photo strangely arousing?

Pony Tail Pull


~*~* Christian Bike Mechanic *~*~ –

People don’t tend to have a lot of questions about their bike mechanics. Usually, if they are in a bike shop, they tend to trust them and their decisions.

But one question many people ask is, “Is my mechanic Christian?”. And now finally, via Craigslist, we have ONE mechanic who has stepped up and answered this question. Yes, here is a christian bike mechanic.

FINALLY, right? From the makers of witch trials, President Bush, and immortality, comes a new brand of bike mechanic. Christian Bike Mechanics – after all, bikes didn’t evolve from fish!

Come get Bike tune ups!

Calling (himself?) themselves the Holy Spokes, they are located in Union square – so watch out Open. Actually, I think that Open charges less for basic tune-ups – which is weird, considering Open has overhead charges.

Holy spokes also sort of sounds like the holy rollers:

Holy Rollers

Holy Rollers

I’d love to take advantage of the great deals offered by the christian mechanic, but my bike was raised Jewish, and sort of finds discussions of Jesus to be gauche. Personally, I’m cool with it though.

Somerville Budget – Bikes explicitly mentioned

Screen shot 2009-11-04 at 9.46.58 AMDear Boston Bikers,

As a fervent advocate of procrastination, I like to check out the websites of local governments and catalog cyclist oriented budget expenditures, and report them here – on my amazing blog. If anyone else wants to check out the proposed 2010 budget for somerville, you can find it here.

The first thing I’d like to talk about are bike lanes. Hey! They’re coming! I know that 2 miles isn’t much, but it’s more than nothing. Plus, somerville is really only 4 square miles.


Figure 1: Two miles of bike lanes in the budget.

I was really happy to see that urban cycling initiatives still made the list, albeit nearly last on most lists.

Figure 2 Shape up somerville

Figure 2 Shape up somerville

The fiscal year 2010 goals gives away where next years bike lanes are going to be. Elm (woo!) Mauslin (?) and Washington (that just makes sense).

List of initiatives

Figure 3: List of Goals

Oh and this is the first I’m hearing of a Cambridge, Somerville, Belmont bikeway (figure 4). WTF is this? They are budgeting for both design and engineering projects, so I assume that they are still figuring out how to work it.

In any case, I’m psyched that this was budgeted in. I’m sure a lot of people in the know (Shane, I’m looking at you) already had an idea of these projects, but a) I don’t keep up with this and b) you don’t really ever know until the budget comes out.


Figure 4: The Bikeway

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