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The End Of The Car Age

Written by Boston Biker on Apr 28

Anyone paying attention knows that the mode-share (as those in the transportation biz call it) has been shifting.  Less people are using cars, and more people are using other things to get around.

In my mind roads are a public utility, who’s purpose is to move people and stuff around.  There are a lot of ways these people and stuff can get around.  We could use cars, trucks, buses, trains, trolleys, walking, carts, bicycles, horse and buggy, dog sled, etc.  These methods all have pro’s and con’s.  An efficient city would use the methods best suited to its people, and economic activity.

For a long time people thought the best way to use roads, was to cram them full of cars and trucks, and as such they kept running into the same problem. They would build a road, then a bunch of cars and trucks would drive on it, the road would get clogged, so they would build bigger roads and then these bigger roads would get clogged, so they built bigger roads, etc etc.    These larger roads lead to people moving out of the city centers and out to the burbs, so you had decreasing tax bases in cities, and lots and lots of commuter traffic.

This downward cycle got pretty bad.  We ended up with giant multi-lane highways through the centers of cities.  Inner cities devoid of people, traffic, air pollution, obesity, and a lot of other problems we didn’t think would happen.  All because we decided the best use of the public utility that is our roads, was to fill them with cars and trucks.

But that is changing, rapidly.  In our modern, technologically advanced cities, filling our streets with cars makes very little sense.

Gilles Vesco calls it the “new mobility”. It’s a vision of cities in which residents no longer rely on their cars but on public transport, shared cars and bikes and, above all, on real-time data on their smartphones. He anticipates a revolution which will transform not just transport but the cities themselves. “The goal is to rebalance the public space and create a city for people,” he says. “There will be less pollution, less noise, less stress; it will be a more walkable city.” (via)

We have seen this trend right here in Boston.  The entire Big Dig (for all its failings) was basically removing an eyesore highway that bisected downtown Boston.  Highway overpasses are being removed in Somerville, in JP, and elsewhere.  The city is being re-designed to accommodate human beings, not cars and trucks.  With beneficial effects for its citizens.

This trend will only increase with a multitude of factors contributing to the decline of car use.  Uber, Zip Car, Hubway, self driving cars, better and more public transportation, cycling and walking infrastructure are all chipping away at car ownership and use.  The high cost of car infrastructure (like car parking), the poor health and environmental effects of cars, rising income inequality, combined with new expectations of ownership (the so called sharing economy) have all converged to really put the hurt on car mode-share.

The upshot is that you should expect a future filled with cycling, walking, and public transportation, not single use car trips. We have reached “peak car.”  This will usher in a new era, one significantly better for everyone.

Have you given up your car?  Do you use ride share services instead of owning a personal car? Have you switched to walking, cycling, or public transportation?  If you have a car does it get much use?  Has your personal mode-share changed?  Let us know in the comments.

 


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EVERYONE IS BACK!

Written by Boston Biker on Mar 10

Urban-Cyclists

 

Oh man what a difference a couple degrees makes. Its like a someone pushed a button and all of a sudden all the cyclists are back on the road!  Welcome back everyone, we missed you, and are super happy you are back. Just an FYI, while you were gone the roads were destroyed by several snow-blastings. There are now pot holes, piles of sand/salt/rocks, still a lot of ice, and in general they are slightly more narrow.

All that being said, its been GLORIOUS riding these last couple days.  I actually got to wear actual bike shoes, instead of winter boots, and I feel like a million bucks.  HURRAH SPRING!

Have you started riding again? Do you remember what green plants look like?  Have you figured out what that glowing thing in the sky is?


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Cycling Adds Redundancy To A Transportation Network

Written by Boston Biker on Feb 18

I sometimes have odd thoughts on my ride into work.  Today’s were mostly around how nice the sun was, and how great it was to be riding, but as I locked up my bike (after an effortless commute), I realized something.  Bicycles add a lot of redundancy to a transportation network.

These thoughts were peculating in my mind because nearly every person at my job has complained about their commutes lately.  Be it by bus, by T, by car, or walking (the only people not complaining are the ones riding bikes…hmmm.)  Seems that if you dump enough snow on a city that has a lack of redundant transportation options and everything comes crashing down.

If the T is delayed, and the bus can’t run, and your car is stuck in a snow bank, you basically have the option of walking, or taking your bike.  While walking is a fine and useful form of transport, if you want to get some place really fast you will take the bike. Plus no one shovels the sidewalks.

The amount of infrastructure it takes to keep bikes “running” is relatively small, you don’t need to even plow the entire street, just a slim strip down the middle.  In a perfect world without on-street parking, you could have the roads clear enough for bikes in a relatively short period of time.  (as one commentator said “I still don’t understand why my tax dollars go to subsidize a nice paved parking spot in front of every car driver’s house. If people don’t have enough space on their own property to store all of their possessions, maybe they should just get rid of some of them?”)

Currently Boston has very low bicycle ridership, below 10% on even the best days.  But if we could get 15-30% of our population riding regularly (and making sure we put forth the minimum amount of effort needed to keep the infrastructure clear for them in the winter), we could dramatically reduce the burden on our public transportation infrastructure.  This would free up space for more people to take the bus, or the train, or even for folks that absolutely needed to drive (especially folks like fire/ambulance service).  These numbers are not as crazy as they might seem, as many places around the world have experienced this level of ridership (even in snowy places).

Increased redundancy means we are better able to handle extreme weather events (like say 6 feet of snow in a month), would have decreased levels of air pollution, less use of fossil fuels, and a whole host of other economic and health benefits.

The amount of money it would take to build and maintain a vibrant bicycle infrastructure would be peanuts compared to what we currently spend to just pay the interest on the dept the MBTA has.  This problem is well within our grasp, using technology that has already been demonstrated successful by other cities.

Or we can just keep doing the same thing, and having the same problems.  The choice is ours.

 


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Relevant Repost: Types Of Snow

Written by Boston Biker on Feb 04

From way back in Feb of Aught 14:

 

This winter I have felt like a native of the northern reaches, developing dozens of words for snow. Here are a few:

Play-dough: When the snow has been thoroughly mixed with road salt, but its just too damn cold to melt, you get play-dough snow.  Has the feel of clay, and squirts out from between your front fork like a play-dough fun factory.

Rump Braille: When the snow hardens to the ground in little archipelagos of solid ice.  These seem to form when the snow has been packed down by cars, and then it warms up real fast and rivulets of water run through the snow only to freeze again real fast,  leaving little islands of solid ice.  So named because of the feeling on your ass as you roll over them.   If only I could read their secret language.

Solid Water: A type of snow that for all intents looks totally solid, until you hit it with your front wheel and it explodes into water.  MAGIC!  I would imagine that there are just enough ice crystals in the slush to keep it solid until impact.  This snow can be cause brown shorts, as you think you are about to hit a giant ice ball and crash only to have it splatter harmlessly all over the road.

The Good Stuff: Crunchy for traction, but light and fluffy enough not to stick to your bike.  This is the snow we all dream about riding on.  Makes a satisfying “Crrrrssshhhh” as you ride on it.

Road Boogers: Much like ancient boulders left behind when the glaciers retreated, these mounds of snow are left after the plow comes through.  Ranging in size from “golf ball” to “holy shit I’m going to die!”  These clumps are usually not attached to the road, and therefor wander about as cars and pedestrians paw at them.  Avoid the big ones and you should be ok.

Salt Lick: Not snow at all, but looks like snow.  Its when the plow trucks lay down so much salt that it appears in heaps like snow on the ground.  Usually solid, but sometimes like a big pile of sand.  Avoid.

Trails of our Ancestors: When you ride on snow that many other cyclists have already ridden over.  You can see the tracks of all the wheels that have come before you, giving you a sense of security knowing its a good route, as well as letting you know that you are not the only one braving the storm.  Gives you sense of camaraderie even if no one else is around.

These are but a few of the many names that could be applied to biking snow.  What are some you have thought of?


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Last Winter Riding Pic!

Written by Boston Biker on Feb 04

Hurray, got one more entry for the winter rider contest, I am sadly out of books, so if you want to send in any more pics, I will be happy to post it, but can’t offer any books.

commute

Looking good Brian!


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Another Winter Rider!

Written by Boston Biker on Jan 20

doug

Doug looking great in safety yellow!  Also is that a built in headlamp?!

Still have two books left, get yours!


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Mini-Contest Still On!

Written by Boston Biker on Jan 16

I still have a handful of books to give away, send me a picture of you in your full winter riding gear and get free stuff!


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Site Updated

Written by Boston Biker on Jan 16

Just updated the code base, you shouldn’t notice anything except the site running a little better.

Let me know if I broke anything.


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The Word On The Street

  • RSS Here is what people are saying

    • THE PURPOSE OF TRANSIT: Neither Reform Nor Revenue are the Needed Starting Point May 22, 2015
      It’s now semi-official – everyone agrees that the MBTA needs both reform and revenue.  No one says (publicly) that the current T and Commuter Rail budget is too big for its mission.  And that’s where the agreement ends – with the question of what is the MBTA’s mission, vision, and values:  what exactly are we […]
      Steve Miller
    • Cyclist Killed In Hit And Run In Dorchester May 20, 2015
      Tweet A teenager on his bicycle was killed Tuesday after being hit by a car following a crash in Dorchester. Two cars crashed at the intersection of Talbot and New England Streets. A young man on a bike was struck … Continue reading →
      Boston Biker
    • Cyclist Killed In Hit And Run In Dorchester May 20, 2015
      Tweet My deepest sympathies go out to this persons friends and family. This is a horrific tragedy. ————————- A teenager on his bicycle was killed Tuesday after being hit by a car following a crash in Dorchester. Two cars crashed … Continue reading →
      Boston Biker
    • Cyclist Killed In Hit And Run In Dorchester May 20, 2015
      Tweet My deepest sympathies go out to this persons friends and family. This is a horrific tragedy. ————————- A teenager on his bicycle was killed Tuesday after being hit by a car following a crash in Dorchester. Two cars crashed … Continue reading →
      Boston Biker
    • Cyclist Killed In Hit And Run In Dorchester May 20, 2015
      Tweet My deepest sympathies go out to this persons friends and family. This is a horrific tragedy. ————————- A teenager on his bicycle was killed Tuesday after being hit by a car following a crash in Dorchester. Two cars crashed … Continue reading →
      Boston Biker
    • Cyclist Killed In Hit And Run In Dorchester May 20, 2015
      Tweet My deepest sympathies go out to this persons friends and family. This is a horrific tragedy. ————————- A teenager on his bicycle was killed Tuesday after being hit by a car following a crash in Dorchester. Two cars crashed … Continue reading →
      Boston Biker
    • Bike Jobs! May 15, 2015
      TweetHere are some bike jobs, so you can bike, while you job! ————— Prevention Services has entered into a healthy communities project with the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) and the Boston Alliance for Community Health (BACH), and are looking to … Continue reading →
      Boston Biker
    • QUESTIONING COMPLETE STREETS: An Open Letter to the Cambridge City Council May 15, 2015
      Having a vision of the kind of city you want is an essential foundation for purposeful and effective governance.  Some cities do a coherent overall process, such as Somerville’s SomerVision or Boston’s forthcoming Imagine Boston 2030.  Cambridge has constructed its vision together piecemeal, through policies around a variety of quantitative and qualitative issues.  In either […]
      Steve Miller
    • 2015 Annual Rush Hour Race May 12, 2015
      Tweet Come on bicycles!  We have had one victory, and one almost victory, but we all know that the fastest way around town is by bike.  But sometimes its fun to prove it. After a year off the race is back … Continue reading →
      Boston Biker
    • New Bike Kitchen Co-Op In Somerville May 11, 2015
      TweetThis sounds awesome!  A bike co-op where you can use the tools, and the collective information of the folks around you for a very reasonable price. About The Somerville Bike Kitchen (SBK) is a bicycle repair cooperative where members of … Continue reading →
      Boston Biker