Author: Jeff Mapes
Title: Pedaling Revolution
Publication Info: Corvallis, OR : Oregon State University Press, 2009.
A good overview of the ongoing changes to American cities as more and more people switch to bicycling as a major means of commuting, running errands, and recreation. Biking meets obvious challenges in both the safety of sharing roads with high-speed automobiles with indifferent drivers and the political hostility towards bicycling and bicycle infrastructure. The book covers many of the same points as Harry Wray’s Pedal Power, but I find Mapes’ work a more engaging read. Mapes is preaching to choir when I am his reader but this book sets in good detail the detrimental effect of prioritizing the automobile in our cities and the benefits of switching to a bicycle-based culture.
“It is true that cyclists don’t pay gas taxes (except when they are driving, as most cyclists do at one time or another). But they do pay property taxes, which nationally account for 25 percent of spending on local roads, which is what cyclists most heavily use. These streets have always been seen as public space, free to whomever wanted to use them. Motorists may want to turn them into a kind of gated community, but that is contrary to our traditions and to our law.
More importantly, very little is said about the huge subsidies received by motorists that far outweigh any freebies received by cyclists. The largest is free – or cheap – parking.” -p. 19
Recommended books: Pedal Power by J. Harry Wray, Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne, and Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do by Tom Vanderbilt.
My son Peter & I participated in Boston’s citywide bike ride Hub on Wheels yesterday, our second consecutive year of participation. Participants could ride a 10-mile route on Storrow Drive or extend it to 30 and 50-mile routes around the city. We did an abridged version of the 30-mile route ending at the Arnold Arboretum since it’s near our home.
The ride started at City Hall with thousands of riders (apparently 5000 total) lined up past the Old State House. It was exciting to turn Storrow Drive into a big bicycle party. Peter enjoyed passing his day care center twice. The route then followed the Muddy River along Park Drive and the various Ways (River, Jamaica, and Arbor) to the Arboretum. Honestly the ride went by almost too quickly for me. We started at 8:08 am and arrived at the Arboretum around 9:20. I’d like to ride farther but there’s only so long one can expect an active 3-year-old to sit still in a bike seat.
The event went off without a hitch, with perhaps the one exception of the rest area at the Arboretum. The portable toilets and snack stands were set up along the road right in front of the visitor center creating a huge bottle neck as thousands of bicyclists tried to cram in. Last year the rest area was deeper in the Arboretum where Meadow Road and Forest Hills Road meet allowing a place for bikes to pull off without obstructing ongoing traffic.
Nevertheless, Peter & I had a good long snack on the hill by the visitor center. The bike traffic cleared out quickly and about fifteen minutes later it seemed that almost all the other cyclists were well on their way. We stayed in the Arboretum to play at Peter’s favorite little bridge, throwing rock and sticks in the stream.
Hub on Wheels is a great event and I love that every year Boston becomes more and more of a bicycle-friendly city. I’m going to have to figure out how to ride next year since Peter will have outgrown his child seat.
Video of thousands of cyclists at the starting line:
On Sunday June 26th, my son Peter & I rode in the fundraiser Bike-A-Thon for Bikes Not Bombs. We were able to raise $376 for this worthy cause (feel free to add to our donations). All-together 464 riders raised over $135,000 to support the work of Bikes Not Bombs!
My photos are online and some other great photographs from a professional photographer are also available.
The 15-mile riders prepare to set out.
- There were rides of 65-miles, 25-miles, and 15-miles in length. We rode the shortest of these, the longest I could expect Peter to stay still.
- Riders were sent off with a “trumpet” blast played through a modified set of handlebars.
- The PA system was powered by cyclists spinning on stationary bikes.
- There were an impressive number of children riding on their own bikes on the 15-mile ride.
- Some of the steepest hills were near the start of the ride challenging everyone especially the young children.
- The first place I’d never been before was the Stony Brook Reservation which featured a bike path through the woods that felt miles away from the city.
- The path rather gloriously zipped downhill, but wet pavement and downed leaves forced me to be cautious.
- Near our rest break there were well-uniformed adults playing baseball.
- We returned to urban Boston passing through the rusty but charming Hyde Park area. The neighborhood was very quiet on a Sunday morning.
- When I finally returned to parts of the city I’d been to before on Walk Hill Avenue, I didn’t recognize it at first.
- Another new discovery is a corrections facility right behind Forest Hills Cemetery. I live on the opposite side of the cemetery and never knew it was there.
- In Franklin Park we saw men playing cricket in the field by the zoo. We were not able to find a toilet or port-a-potty that was open (several were chained shut) for when Peter really needed to pee.
- At the finish of the ride we were awarded medals made of old bike parts! Mine was a chainring, Peter’s a brake lever.
- The Green Roots Festival was a great follow-up to the ride (and very JP).
- Free food for the riders, which was delicious – hummus, beans, salad. Yum, yum, yum!
- Musical entertainment include some great drummers. Peter enjoyed that a band of bucket drummers had left their instruments out for children to play with.
- Children of all ages enjoyed zipping down the hillside on potato sacks down a large strip of cardboard. Peter spent most of the afternoon doing this. There were no real rules other than that you had to get off the slide so as not to be in the way of the next slider.
- Other activities we admired but didn’t participate in included yoga, face painting and massages.
Tired but happy we went home to cool off in the wading pool. I had a great time and would love to do this ride again next year. Come join me!
Today, Peter & I participated in the Hub On Wheels community bike ride and cycling celebration in Boston. This was our first time riding although I signed up in a previous year and then slept through my alarm. The only ride of this sort that I’ve participated in before was the Bike New York Five Boro Bike Tour back in 2001. Although there are no awe-inspiring moments like crossing the Verazanno Bridge, I’ll have to say that Hub On Wheels felt much better organized than the New York ride as the volunteers spaced out the bikes to avoid back ups. In the latter part of the rides cars & bikes shared the road without much fear of bicycle safety or delay for the cars. And unlike New York, everyone was well-behaved with no punk teens doing stunt riding.
Highlights from the ride for me:
- riding on the Orange Line with more and more riders and their bicycles boarding at each stop.
- check-in at the pre-register desk was pretty easy, and presumably on the honor system since no one asked for my name.
- we didn’t get started from our point in the line until 8:20 but after that there were no “bike traffic jams” and all the riders could cruise along at their own speed and ability.
- speeding along Storrow Drive without those pesky cars or joggers in the way.
- while crossing the Charlesgate flyover, I noticed that the wall was battered and covered in broken car parts. Do people really crash there that often? Crazy!
- Riding along Riverway bicyclists were pelted with falling acorns. One bounced off Peter’s helmet with a loud crack!
- lots of people said hi to Peter and told me how cute he is
- Gorgeous views of Jamaica Pond from Perkins St. and Parkman Drive.
- I have my own cheering section on the hills chanting “Go! Daddy! Go!”
- Big line at the Arnold Arboretum rest area but then the volunteers walked around handing out the snacks.
- Peter checked out the pond at the Arboretum and suddenly almost all of the bikers were gone!
- Peter chatted with a 1-year old who was riding in a trailer behind his Mom.
- Actually, almost all the people left at the back of the ride were people riding with kids.
- If I didn’t feel slow enough already, at the point where the 30-mile ride and the 50-mile ride merged back together, there were dozens of 50-milers speeding in!
- Forest Hills Cemetery is a gorgeous place to ride. I live right next to the Cemetery, why don’t I know this already?
- At the Forest Hills rest area, Peter enjoyed running around and around and getting out all that pent-up energy. I followed on my sore legs.
- Peter also picked up acorns off the ground and threw them over his head.
- Forest Hills was our “Finish Line” and we dropped out to go to Java Jo’s for a celebratory smoothie (and coffee for a tired Dad.
I’m looking forward to doing this again next year. My goal will be more miles and encouraging more people to ride with us!
Check out my photos from the ride in this slideshow:
Author: J. Harry Wray
Title: Pedal power : the quiet rise of the bicycle in American public life
Publication Info: Boulder, Colo. : Paradigm Publishers, c2008.
Wray writes in a dry, professorial tone about bicycle culture in the United States through a political science approach. While not the best written book it does have a lot of interesting facts and ideas about American cyclists. I think this book is best summarized with a little bit about each chapter
- Contrasting Visions – Wray introduces his political science method and explains that he will be writing about the political importance of bicycling.
- Biking in Amsterdam – A visit to the bike friendly city delves into the history of how bicycle accommodations were created and what effect they have on that city’s politics and culture.
- Culture Storm – Examining the way that Americans self-identify as “individualists” and how this identity appears to clash with bike culture.
- Biking Eccentrics – The stories of a people Wray knows in Chicago who have committed themselves to a bicycle-based lifestyle.
- Building the Case – Political advocates such as the League of American Bicyclists and Chicago Bicycle Federation.
- Pushing the Envelope – Organizations and leaderless movements on the cutting edge of bicycling including Critical Mass, SHIFT, ChiTown Cruisers, and The Rat Patrol.
- Politicians Who Matter – Portraits of a few elected leaders who have bicycle-lifestyles and are leaders of bicycle-friendly legislation.
- Metapolitics, Minibikes – The political effect of bicycling in reaction to environmental degradation and global warming.
All in all this is a good introductory look at the important political issues of the day relating to bicycling.
Recommended books: Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do by Tom Vanderbilt, Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America and How We Can Take It Back by Jane Holtz Kay
Last night I was fortunate to see folk singer/songwriter Peter Mulvey play a set at the Passim Folk Music and Cultural Center. Apparently, the last time I went to a concert it was also Peter Mulvey as reviewed on this blog a year ago (before the baby was born, but not before I was married). I sat with my friend Craig as well as his friend Sheila who I met for the first time. Sadly, Susan was not able to attend because our baby Peter had a fever. One day we’ll take Peter to see Peter.
Beyond brilliant guitar playing and lyrics, it’s a joy to see Peter Mulvey because he tells great stories between songs. Some of the best are about his father Frank, who apparently used the phrase “I told him I know where the monkey craps in the buckwheat.” Frank Mulvey tried to defend this as a commonly-used phrase, which it isn’t, but it should be and I’m going to work it into my everyday conversation. Peter Mulvey also told tales about his second No Gasoline Tour, where he traveled between shows in Wisconsin on bicycle. Next year he promises to ride to Boston.
Mulvey played a great set with many unfamiliar songs – some new songs of his own and a lot of great covers. The complete set list is below. The titles of songs #3, #4, & #14 are my best guesses.
Openers: Ryan Fitzsimmons (guitar) with Ian Goldstein (mandolin)
- Stranded in a Limousine (Paul Simon)
- If Love is Not Enough
- I Go Mmm-Mmm-Mmm
- Raven on the Roof
- The Kids in the Square
- Old Fashioned Hat (Anais Mitchell)
- Health Food Girl
- Welcome Back (John Sebastian) – with Ian Goldstein
- Easiest Thing to Do – with Ian Goldstein
- Hang Down Your Head (Tom Waits) – with Ian Goldstein
- The Knuckleball Suite – with Ian Goldstein
- Dynamite Bill
- Black Rabbit (instrumental)
- Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad, and Far Away From Home
Encore: All You Need is Love (Lennon/McCartney)
The snowfall on Tuesday made the city look so beautiful I had to take some pictures before it melted. I posted an album of pictures of JP and Cambridge in the snow on my website.
Here are some of my favorites:
Here’s another walking through Harvard Square story. On my way to work, a passerby said, “You just missed seeing that guy get hit by a bike!”
“Ouch!” I said.
“Yeah,” he replied.
The police were already on the scene and as far as I could tell no one was hurt. At least if the guy with the courier bag holding the bike was actually the bicyclist who got hit. His bike didn’t even look in bad shape. The car however was worse for wear as the entire windshield was shattered. Something for those anti-bicycle motorists who say things like “in a contest between a bike and a car the car always wins” to remember. Collisions can hurt people and damage vehicles, period. Hopefully everyone is okay after this accident, and well-insured.
Here are a couple of Bicycling in Boston links I’d planned to post before I’d witnessed the aftermath of this accident:
Good stories for Boston bicycling on a bad day.