Ken Sent this lovely recap of the Hub On Wheels ride this weekend, thanks Ken!
When a major city closes a main road for even part of a day there is always a very good reason. For the past few years Boston has shut down Storrow Drive, the main thoroughfare along the east shore of the Charles River from Mass. General Hospital all the way up to Harvard stadium. With the long-time support of Mayor Thomas Menino, Boston Bikes has hosted Hub on Wheels in which thousands of bicyclists take to every Boston neighborhood to highlight the fact that Boston is a top cycling city in the US.
Starting at City Hall plaza, this year in the pouring rain, participants ride down Cambridge Street and onto Storrow Drive. Some take a leisurely pace planning on a ten mile ride, enjoying Storrow for what it was originally designed for, a slow Sunday drive along the river. Others drive their pedals hard pushing through the puddles and potholes to get a strong start for the full fifty mile circuit. Reversing direction in at the Harvard Stadium and heading back towards the city, the ride veers right along the Fenway and up the Jamaica Way. At every major corner Boston and State Police have set up safety barriers and EMS are ever present in case of a spill.
From the Jamaica Way riders follow the route up past Jamaica Pond and into the first major rest stop inside the Arnold Arboretum. Along the way a young boy riding a tandem behind his father chugs up a long hill pedaling as hard as he can; beside him what must be the crazy uncle (who doesn’t have kids yet) whoops and cheers with joy encouraging the future Tour de France hopeful to help dad make it up the hill. An elderly couple in their 60s slowly take in the fall foliage starting to turn red, and gold, and orange, as it does only in New England. Five young riders, three men and two women, in matching racing jerseys blast past the group yelling out ‘on your left’ so they can pass in safety and keep up their heart pounding pace. Cars and trucks are halted, drivers look on at the happy throng rolling past waving at each safety vehicle and local residents raking leaves.
At the rest stop it’s a chance to reconnect with riders from other events, meet new friends, or just take it all in. Bike broken? No problem, Landry Bikes has five stations open with expert repair technicians ready to help. Hungry? Not for long. Fresh fruit, power bars, and all the Gatorade you can drink are available for free. Need a break of a personal nature? What public event doesn’t have well stocked and clean portable toilets?
Once through the Arboretum, the route takes riders into Forest Hills Cemetery, where the second major rest stop and medical tent are located and where the 50 milers reconnect with the 30’s. Together again they ride across a hundred year old stone bridge and through a forest as lush and spectacular as its cousin The Mt. Auburn Cemetery just 10 miles north in Cambridge. As the route winds through Franklin Park residents of the Pine Street Inn homeless shelter, golfers escape from a sand trap, and the gorillas behind the fence at the Franklin Park Zoo stare back at wide-eyed kids and parents in-kind. Through the streets of Dorchester and Mattapan riders can hear the sounds of gospel music ringing out as neighborhood parishes overflow with Sunday worshippers. How great and diverse a city, where a horde of sweaty rain soaked cyclists in neon shirts and skin tight shorts share the streets with ladies, gentlemen and children dressed in their finest fall fashion for church.
At Codman Corner another major rest stop. Riders are greeted with the same un-ending supply of food, beverage, and good cheer from the volunteers. Straight is the way for the 30 milers to the finish line, but a right for the 50’s down Washington Street and onto the Neponset River Path past Pope John Paul Park and across Granite Ave where there’s a plaque commemorating the first commercial rail road in the country that was used to carry stones from Quincy Quarry to make the Bunker Hill monument. Under the South East Expressway and along the Harbor Walk with its tall reeds and grasses, shore birds darting through the clearing skies, and a small stretch of mud for those wanting a change from city streets. Views of the inner harbor, Dorchester Bay, and Thompson island. Are those the Hull turbines? Better stop for a minute and check the map.
Legs starting to feel the burn as the now disperse group rounds UMass Campus past JFK’s day sailor and Library and another cheering enthusiastic group of volunteers keeping everyone on course. The skies now clearing, sunshine to the west, and views out to the Deere Island plant with planes from Logan flying overhead. Just in time there’s another rest stop at Carson Beach. More food, hydration, a guy playing drums, and a young father helping his special-needs son mount their tandem for the final push back to City Hall. Young and old, men and women, hale and hearty 50 milers share stories smiles and encouragement with the 30 milers. The finish line is in sight.
Cutting along the back side of Pleasure Bay and through South Boston, the route turns right at Murphy’s Bar on Summer Street and across the canal where one of the pleasure cruising floating cities awaits passengers bound for Canada. Past the Boston design Center and up through the Seaport District, no Hub on Wheels ride could be complete without a great view of the city across the water to welcome riders back to the Financial District. A short pop along the Harbor Way, across the Moakley Bridge and onto Atlantic Ave where international travelers watch and hale cabs while the riders enjoy what was once the steel forest of the express way and is now the lush Greenway with flowers, grass and fountains.
More volunteers, police and EMS guide riders past the old Custom House tower with views of forty-floor glass office building erected in the past twenty years frame a view up to the Old State House which dates from 1712. The sound of cheers from city hall can be heard, one more turn and the ride ends where it all began, 9 years ago. The plaza is filled with riders celebrating their accomplishment. Vendors and sponsors hand out all sorts of goodies including a free lunch for all riders. Non-profits and causes make their pitches for continuing the effort of making Boston one of the most livable, walkable, and bikeable cities in the country.
This ride didn’t just happen, nor did the transformation you can see throughout the city. Many dedicated people have spent hours, weeks, years planning, preparing, meeting and working with local officials and volunteers alike. To some it’s an economic imperative, our roads and bridges cost millions each year in construction, maintenance and repair costs while budgets are getting smaller. Bikes and pedestrian traffic don’t cause potholes, require less physical infrastructure, and help keep people healthy. To others it’s a livability issue. Pedestrians, open spaces, and neighborhood sharing bring people together to make this a vibrant, diverse community.
Whether riding for a cause or just enjoying a rainy fall day in Boston, Hub on Wheels 2013 was a great success for the riders, the support professionals, and the community. Hope to see you on the trail, and for the 10th Anniversary Hub on Wheels 2014!
Photos by: Anne Marie Biernacki-Smith & Ken Smith, Cambridge, MA
Tags: Hub On Wheels, ken smith
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