Sunday, October 16, 2011

New England bike-commuting snapshot

We're fortunate to be spending a few days in New England, to visit family and enjoy a change of scenery. (Unfortunately for us, the famous fall foliage is a few weeks behind schedule, and the autumn colors are just starting to emerge. But hopefully a jaunt to northern Vermont will give us a better glimpse.)

We're "headquartered" in Providence, RI, a hilly community with old, narrow streets. I've seen very little here in the way of bike facilities, although the narrowness of the streets lends to slow traffic speeds. (Also, the streets tend to be in pretty poor condition. People slow down when they're dodging potholes.) I've been somewhat surprised at how few cyclists I've seen here.

Yesterday we spent the day in Boston. I saw more cyclists there, although fewer than I expected. I saw a few bike lanes, and some "sharrows." (Sharrows have a bicycle logo and some arrows painted on the pavement; frankly I don't know how they would be any different from what we call a "bike route" back home... a street that's specifically designated as "bike friendly.")

Also in Boston I saw sidewalk riders (which quickly gets complicated when they're attempting to ride on sidewalks occupied by thousands of pedestrians). And the usual complement of "salmon" going against the flow. I guess they annoy everybody else, everywhere. And everywhere you look, bikes are locked to parking meters, trees, railings, fences. Some have obviously stayed too long; every part that isn't physically locked up has gone missing.

Boston has also recently started hosting a "Hubway" bike sharing program. All over the city in strategic places, you can find a rack with a row of shiny silver comfort bikes. Swipe your credit card or your membership token and it releases a bike. Then you just drop it off at a rack close to your destination. So - you can be a dedicated big-city transportation cyclist without even owning a bike. What'll they think of next?!!

boston rental bikes

Early reports are very encouraging. In the first month there were 36,000+ station-to-station trips on the shared bikes, and 2,319 Bostonians signed up for an annual membership.

Overall, I'm happy to be a transportation cyclist back home in Boise. Our rush hour is small potatoes compared with what you see in the big city. Our streets are wider and better organized. And despite obvious problem areas and bottlenecks, it's pretty easy to get anywhere you might be going on a bicycle in Boise.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I live in Boston, and I can tell you, the rush hour can get pretty hairy. Pretty excited about Hubway though, although I don't use it myself...I have a folding bike, so I pretty much already have a bike with me, whenever, wherever I want, and if I need to hop on the T or something, it's no big deal. All the same, I do sort of dream of somewhere with less traffic, wider streets, etc. Maybe I'll have to check out Idaho.