I recently returned from a visit to Paris and Barcelona. Both cities are ranked in the top 20 most bike-friendly cities on the planet by Copenhagen Design Co. As a first time visitor to Barcelona, I was incredibly impressed with its cycling infrastructure. As a recurring visitor to Paris, I noticed more bike lanes than on my last visit a couple of years ago. Paris declared 2017 the year of the bike (see Reuters article) and will be adding bike lanes and pedestrian zones on its most popular streets, including along the Louvre and in the Marais district. I suspect I will see more drastic changes on my next visit. In this post, I will dwell on Barcelona’s impressive protected bike lanes.
By 2018, Barcelona will have 300KM or 191 miles of bike lanes for 1.6 million people. This metric alone is not that impressive. Boston has a similar-sized network when adjusted for population (about 165 KM of “bike lanes” for 650 thousand people). Paris boasts 400KM for 2.2 million people. But a bike lane in Boston and a bike lane in Barcelona are two different animals. What makes these Barcelona lanes stand-out is the level of protection they offer two-wheelers. Most of these paths are protected. By contrast, in Boston, according to the Go Boston 2030 study (page 50), only 6 of 105 miles of bike lanes are physically separated from traffic.
Here are some pictures of Barcelona’s protected bike lanes. I saw a lot of oblong low bumps (a per the picture above) and delineator posts (see this resource about the different ways to protect a bike lane from traffic). The one I found most unique is the protected round-about bike lane which I believe is being considered for Somerville’s Union Square (see below).
Now we are back in Boston, back to unprotected bike lanes. See the picture below of my family and I riding the day before our Euro tour in June (Somerville Ave I think?).
After seeing the high-class bike lanes of Barcelona, I now feel even less safe riding on Boston’s streets. Until we get to 100 miles of protected bike lanes, we’d better gear up. That’s a subject for another post, or a full website dedicated to protective cycling gear. As a start, here is a list of Vision Zero safety equipment from Hobbr.
As a Boston resident, I’ve frequently visited the Falmouth area of Cape Cod. As a New York native, I am in the Hamptons every summer for a week or two. In both cases, we visit family and don’t have a place of our own. We don’t want the hassle of owning a second home, but, occasionally, I might day dream about the type of location I would pick for a “country home”. I would start to think about the activities I would want to fill my leisure time with. Hiking, biking, or skiing would lead me to the mountains or the forests. Sun bathing, sailing and swimming would require water and a beach or shore. Another critical choice that is not well considered is how to commute to those leisurely activities. Researchers have shown that people underestimate the cost of long commutes to their well-being when selecting a house (See this Science Blog article). I would guess that individuals who make second home decisions spend little time thinking about how they will get around, unless their main sport is biking.
Commuting to the Fenway area during baseball season can be daunting when the Sox are in town. On-street parking is banned on Brookline Avenue and surrounding streets as early as four hours before a game, while garage parking nearby is at least $40. The Green line train stops nearby, but is packed cheek-to-cheek with fans (and commuters) at gametime: not a pleasant experience in 90+ degree weather. Though the tough commute doesn’t deter Red Sox fans – it may even be part of the experience for some – a smoother version would be welcomed.
Well now there is a nicer way to get to the game. Thanks to a partnership between MassBike (The Massachusetts Biking Coalition), New Balance and the Boston Red Sox, you can now bike to Fenway Park and leave your bike with MassBike’s bike valet service for free.
According to the website, “The bike valet is located across from Gate D on the corner of Van Ness Street and Yawkey Way, opening 1.5 hours prior to game time and closing a half an hour post-game.” Note that they will also accept kick scooters. Yay for happier commuting to Fenway games! Other crowded city venues and event organizers should take note and hire MassBike to provide bike valet services.
I ran a survey through Facebook ads to take a pulse of Boston-area commuter happiness. As of now, I have 25 responses: not a sufficient sample size for a scientific study of the topic, but enough to start writing about on this blog. The survey will remain open for those in the Boston-area who still want to contribute. Not surprisingly, about half of my survey participants are unhappy with their commutes.
Source: Happycommutes.com survey conducted through Facebook, May-June 2016
Most of them take some form of public transportation. I had no bikers, one walker and four drivers, so a pretty transit-reliant population. About one-third (or 8 out of 25) consider themselves to be mixed mode commuters and combine public transportation with walking or driving.
We receive a good number of gift cards to restaurants and retail establishments throughout the year. Planning when to use them can be tricky amidst our busy two-child family schedule. For this reason, a perfectly good $100 gift card to a great restaurant sat in our nightstand drawer for over two years. We finally dug it out in search of something unique to do during our atypically quiet July 4th weekend. The most unique part of our dining experience was not the dining, however – though the food was very good – it was how we got there.
The Not Your Average Joe’s restaurant closest to us is in Watertown, just a short block from the same Dr. Paul Dudley White Bike Path that passes close to where we live in Back Bay. Biking there seemed to me to be the most fun and logical option. Unfortunately, my 7 year old son did not agree. To be fair, his longest bike ride was hardly 20 minutes, and that was about a year ago. This trip is almost 7 miles one-way if you take the scenic route, along the Charles River. Realizing that we were asking a lot from our kids, my husband and I reset our expectations and agreed that plan B probably involved returning home hungry with an unused gift card.
This week I was a research participant in an MIT Media Lab project with the Persuasive Urban Mobility team of the The Changing Places Group. A key goal of the research is driving adoption of environmentally friendly behaviors in cities through persuasive environmental and social factors as well as through technologies that make adopting these behaviors easier. One of the key researchers on the team, Agnis Stibe, describes the concept of persuasive cities in depth in his recent TEDx Beacon Street talk. One example of environmental and social persuasion that he uses in his talk involves posting stats about bicycle commuters crossing the Harvard bridge. If you knew that 2,500 bikers crossed the bridge today (instead of staring at the 5 bikers out your window), that might persuade more car commuters to give biking a try. Commuting by bike would then be viewed as a more normal activity and not something that a weird minority engages in.
The project I participated in was about testing a mobile app protype that hopes to turn skittish / reticent cyclists into more confident urban cyclists through a voice-based coaching app. Eager to improve my own cycling and to mix up my kickscooter routine with some bigger wheels, I signed up to test out the prototype. Project team member Matthias Wunsch greeted me outside the Media Lab and handed me a smartphone and some basic Apple headphones. At first, the coach told me to practice rapid braking. Once I had mastered this move, I was ready to start my urban ride on the busy streets of Kendall Square.
Here is a roundup of the latest in electric personal transportation equipment covered by Gizmag or discovered on Kickstarter:
Electric rollerblades: I had seen off-road roller-skates and roller blades before but I had never come across electric rollerblades until I read about Polish inventor’s Jack Skopinsi new off-road electric rollerblades. He designed these in response to customer requests for portable personal transportation that could be carried in a bag. Cost is around $1,200.
Jack Skopinski’s Off-Road Electric Rollerblades
Electric scooter and e-bikes: ETT industries designed one of each. As Gizmag reports, the firm won a design award for the bike’s unconventional industrial design. The range on these vehicles is 50 miles (impressive) after a 5-hour charge. The scooter can travel up to 45 km/h while the bike’s top speed is 25 km/h. Scooters are more expensive at $3.8K while bikes are $2.4K.