My oft-praised Hubway Data Challenge entry has been featured by:
(My final personal Hubway data for 229 rides is coming soon.)
My commute home is almost entirely in bike lanes on Commonwealth and Massachusetts Avenues. Both are decent bicycle facilities on busy roads, but the Comm Av lane is rather unique in that it is a left-side lane. It’s very nice in that there are no issues with open car doors, and it runs alongside the Comm Ave median, so there are no pedestrians nearby. This facility was studied extensively: Google has a lot of information on it; the first five links here are a good primer.
(In the long run, this might work very well as a raised, separated and wider bike lane along the Comm Ave median would be a further improvement, which could be made eight feet wide by taking a foot from the median and a foot from each of the 11-foot travel lanes, which could be narrower since Comm Ave is closed to trucks and buses.)
There are even bike boxes, so that bicyclists traveling on the left and wishing to turn right can cross in front of stopped traffic without impeding the crosswalks. It’s quite nice. All of the roads are one-way, so when you’re biking the street there are only four crossings in each direction where you have to worry about any cars turning in front of you from the left-hand travel lane across your travel path.
However, at those four locations, turning traffic can be dicey or dangerous. The left-hand lane is the first of its kind in the area, so drivers are not accustomed to how to behave. And state law is not particularly applicable, as bike lanes are defined as lanes and the driving manual states that you must “turn from the lane closest to the lane you want to enter” while the statute tells you to be as close to the curb as practicable. And a bike lane is defined as a lane. So drivers might be supposed to signal, merge safely in to the bike lane and make their turn, rather than passing a cyclist and abruptly hooking in front of them. But cars don’t do that, and no one really knows what drivers should do. And that’s for right turns—no one has ever seen a left turn, which exists at less than a dozen locations on Comm Ave anyway.
Common sense dictates that a driver should, if they are going to make a turn, yield to cyclists if they are present, letting them cross the intersection and then make the turn. Which would be fine, but I’ve had multiple occasions of left-hook turns in front of me in the lane, causing me to have to slam on my brakes and nearly hit the vehicle. All of these cars had passed me and not noticed or not cared. I chased down and chastised two of these (it wasn’t much of chase; they encounter a red light in the Comm Av median) and both—one a civilian and one a taxicab—said I didn’t have right-of-way.
So I wrote to the city. “These are great lanes,” I wrote, “but at these intersections we should have signs telling motorists to yield to bicyclists on turns. I copied the bicycle coordinator (Nicole Freedman has moved on to white pastures) on an email to the Taxi police. The last time I’d sent an email about a dangerous road, the pothole was filled. But I didn’t expect much.
Until I was riding today and noticed the signs.
WOW. That’s perfect. I have no idea if it’s thanks to my email, but it gets the point across. It’s not foolproof, but it certainly lets vehicles know that they do not have right-of-way, and should think twice before cutting in front of a cyclist.
I’m impressed, Boston Bikes.
Quick note on the sign picture. I tried taking it with my phone with the flash on, and the reflectivity washed the sign out. I tried taking it without, and it was dark. So, finally, I used the headlights of the passing vehicles to get the right exposure, and it came out, well, good enough.
I was on the Silver Line today (mostly a failure on its own, but it does get you to the airport) and noticed what has to be one of the worst maps I’ve seen in recent memory. It’s a map of Logan Airport, located in the Silver Line platform area at South Station. It has some useful information, but it is so cluttered and so ill-presented that it might as well be in Greek. Or Swahili. It’s just a horrible representation of the information a transit traveler would need to navigate the airport.
UPDATE: Posted a new/better map here.
(As for Logan, a hodgepodge of terminals that makes little sense and is generally added to with little plan for the future, it should be added to Dave Barry’s list of airports that should be “renovated with nuclear weapons”. Although, thanks to the new tunnel, it is now easier to get to from downtown Boston than Colorado, which was not necessarily the case in 1999.)
Driving around Massachusetts today, I noticed some of the variable message boards—you know, the ones which usually flash YOU BOOZE, YOU CRUISE, YOU LOSE and infrequently tell you about traffic conditions were proffering a message near and dear to my heart.
NO HEADPHONES WHEN DRIVING. ONE EARBUD ON PHONE OKAY.
This is important. Just because we’ve said that hands-free driving is okay (Is it as safe as undistracted driving? probably not, but a conversation can be a good way to stay awake and alert, I’ve found.) doesn’t mean that you can rock out to your tunes on your headphones. That’s a primary offense and can get you a citation. And, jesus, people, haven’t you ever heard of a stereo? Or are your earbuds that good?
But here’s my message to whoever will listen (we’ll file these under Ari’s Friendly-if-Somewhat-Passive-Aggressive Helpful Hints to Cyclists, along with “For fuck’s sake, wear a helmet!” and “You’re riding the wrong way down JFK Street in Harvard Square in rush hour? Seriously?”): Wearing headphones on a bike is ridiculously dumb, and it’s against the law, too. When you’re in a car, what you’re listening for are sirens, car horns and, well that’s about it, everything else gets drowned out by car noise.
When you’re on a bike, you have a lot more potential to use audio cues. I’ve found that I actually can get more information as to the presence of vehicles by listening than a quick glance over my shoulder. I’ve heard other cyclists overtaking me (this happens more often on Hubway bikes than it does on real wheels), I’ve heard cars starting, I’ve heard any number of cues which affected how I cycled. And if I’d had earphones in, I would have heard none of it.
Yet so often I see people riding with earphones in. I sort-of-kind-of understand this in two situations. First, if you are a professional cyclists and your coach is telling you things in a race. Still, you don’t have two. Second, and this is the sort-of-kind-of, if you’re on a segregated bicycle facility (bike path) and there aren’t many other users and you’re going faster than them. But if that’s the case, just deal with listening to nature for a few minutes.
And a quick note: if you’re riding a fixed gear bike with no brakes, at night, not wearing a helmet, wearing earbuds without anything reflective and with no lights, only about half the things (brakes, lights, reflective) are illegal. But THEY’RE ALL STUPID. Colin Reuter made some similar points a few years back, so go read that.