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For those not in the know, the Registers Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), is a yearly ride across Iowa. Now in its 43rd years, it is sort of like mid-west burning man on wheels. A rolling party of 15-20,000 people having fun in the corn. If you have never tried it, I highly recommend it.
The route changes every year, and this year was widely hyped as “the shortest, and flattest.” For the last three years I have ridden a fixed gear, and figured this would be an even better year to do so again. So I began the ritual dance that has become a familiar part of RAGBRAI for me.
Figure out what airport is closest to the start, buy one ticket from Boston to that airport, find a shuttle bus that will take me from the airport to the start. Find another airport close to the finish, figure out how to get to that. But a separate ticket for a different airline. Deconstruct the bike, pack the bike, ship the bike. Take a train to the airport, take a large plane to a small plane, to a shuttle bus, to a bicycle, ride for a week, repeat in reverse. On the face of it its a logistical nightmare, but in reality it always goes smooth as butter, and every single person you meet along the way is very nice and makes you happy. It’s hard to return to Boston with its cranky drivers and dirty air. You miss the corn when you leave.
That’s not to say that this year was without its challenges. Here is a day by day break down.
Day one: Rock Valley To Okoboji
After a pleasant night spend in a tent on soft grass I awoke to a glorious Iowa sunrise, and it just felt good to be on a bike. The winds were calm, the temp was decent, the corn was growing (in the places that had not been killed by the recent floods). The Town was decked out in bike finery and everyone waved at us as we left.
The 70 miles flew by in a flash, town after town flying by in a blur. That isn’t to say we didn’t see some awesome stuff.
Check out this 36er!
These guys rode these things the entire time…
Some people over did it on their first day…this man is asleep in the center of the beer garden, when I went to make sure he wasn’t dead, his wife (!!) told me to leave him be because it was funny…he wasn’t dead. Our camp ground was in an awesome super soft field, I slept like a baby.
Day 2: Okoboji to Emmetsburg.
I awoke to this outside my tent.
Bike udder in the morning, cyclists warning. But the portent proved not to be true as today was another PERFECT riding day. As you rode out of town you got to see every single state flag flapping in the glorious Iowa sunrise.
The day was short, only 40 miles, but I still managed to see some cool stuff.
Checking out old barns while eating ice cream.
A lot of people do this ride…from horizon to horizon nothing but cyclists. This little traffic jam was caused by the ice cream man. Ice cream is serious business on RAGBRAI.
You might not know this but Iowa is a leader in wind power…hmm all those wind turbines I wonder if it ever gets windy around here…I probably should have seen this for the ominous sign that it was.
I was not going to be eating nasty fried food all week. 1 box of salad, one apple, one package of goat cheese, some dressing, and some blue berries, everyone was jealous. I went to bed happy.
Day 3: Emmetsburg to Forest City
The century day! I always like this day, it feels like a proper day of riding, and you get to see a lot of beautiful country. I awoke to a nice calm beautifully blue Iowa sky. There was a slight breeze, as we pedaled to the pancake man for breakfast.
Pancake man is not fucking around, he can make 200 pancakes every 3 minutes, and you are allowed to eat as many as you want…so good. While we ate the wind slowly increased, so gently we didn’t even notice until we got back on our bikes.
They call it the Iowa mountains, head winds so steady and strong that it feels like you are always going up hill. The wind turbines were spinning merrily creating loads of energy but all I could feel was a steady never ending push against me that started off refreshing, but slowly, ever so slowly, began to steal my strength. What started off as a 20 mph wind, grew to 25, then 30.
We were headed east, and the wind was blowing west. But it was gorgeous, and the temps were not too high. So we pushed against the pedals, and the wind pushed against us. If you look at the map you can see we had some brief lovely breaks from the constant wind, just enough to allow us to rest, and the day went by as days like this do. Slowly but steadily.
Want to ride a tandem, don’t have a partner? Build one!
Not only did this town have a bitching Camero, but they also have a tradition of tossing toilets for distance. Not a plastic toilet, but a real deal porcelain throne. It seemed unlikely a bunch of tired cyclists was going to beat the town record, so we didn’t even try. If we had though we would have gotten a free t-shirt. Oh Iowa.
There was also this dapper gentleman, a bold fashion choice indeed. He rode the entire day in the sun like this. I am guessing it had something to do with the fact that his entire crew were drinking “special” water bottles that looked to my untrained eye an awful lot like rot gut.
100 miles later the wind no longer had anything to push against, because my ass was done pedaling. Tired and HUNGRY I rolled into camp, set up the tents, and found myself something made out of vegetables to eat. After double helpings of some sort of noodle thing, some more ice cream, a cookie, a couple power bars, and some sort of smoothie I passed out feeling good.
Day 4: Forest City To Mason City.
It wasn’t even 40 miles…we laughed, we dawdled, we spent a lot of time lounging, it was a good time.
There were big ass wind turbines!
And Kittens! I named the grey one smokey, and the black one Beelzebub.
Pikachu made an appearance.
And of course ice cream!
Even though the millage was the shortest of the week, we spent the most time on the road. Mostly having fun and goofing around.
Day 5: Mason City to Waverly.
Its a funny thing about Iowa, it will go from Flat as a pancake to hilly as hell in a moment. We went up, we went down, we went up again, and down again. The same 300 feet of climbing and decent over and over again. It was nice, the landscape was gorgeous, rolling hills, verdant greens everywhere.
The day went by in a blur of lovely vistas and big ass hills. That night we camped in yet another soft and lovely field, we went to bed feeling lucky for yet another awesome day. While we slept, clouds gathered, and winds increased.
Day 6: Waverly to Independence.
We woke up and it was cold, just barely 70. We had been enjoying temps well into the 90′s even 100+ so 70 felt cold. The sky was black and ugly, like it had gotten into a fight the night before and was bruising. The wind tugged at our jerseys, and made taking our tent down hard. We were going to catch a whoopin.
The maelstrom held off until about a mile outside the first town, and then it let fly with both barrels. First the wind kicked up, and then the temp dropped. It went from 75 to 59 in half an hour. The rain started off fierce and only got worse. Driven by 35 mph wind it hit you in the face with a significant force. It felt like ice, even though it wasn’t frozen. It stung and made you turn red. The wind was blowing north, so we either got it full in the ear, or dead on in the face. This was not pleasant, in fact, it was the opposite.
I had nothing on but a jersey and some shorts. The moment I stopped for any reason my entire body started to shake with the shivers. I actually took refuge in a Kybo (Iowa for porta-potty) just to warm up. As the storm worked up its rage the winds got stronger, 35 mph with the rain, with gusts into the 40′s. It would grab you and toss you around, like a bit of fluff. Luckily at that point all the riders had spread so far out that you could get blown all over the road without hitting anyone else.
The corn was bent nearly sideways, and we had no choice but to move forward against the wind. No one moved fast, and many didn’t move at all. There were a lot of people waiting in each town for the SAG bus. Each mile was a triumph of the will over nature. Hands and fingers went numb, you could see your breath, it was cold and extremely windy, and the whole day was a grind.
I put my head on my handlebars, got as small as possible, and pushed for all I was worth. The rain fell, the wind blew, and I creaked slowly across Iowa. By the end I just wanted to go to sleep, but in an irony lost on no one, just as we pulled into camp the damn sun came out and the wind died down. Nature had a good belly laugh at our expense, but at least we didn’t have to set up our tents in the rain.
The end town that day had a cool dam, bursting with all the rain we had gotten that day. We had Chinese food for dinner, it was cheap…and surprisingly tasty. Which might have been because we were dying of hunger, or because for some strange reason we had found good Asian food in the middle of Iowa. I fell asleep in a heap, I don’t really remember much more than being tired to the bone.
Day 7: Independence to Guttenberg (Pronounce Gut-n-burg):
I awoke and found my bike to be strangely heavy. When I titled it upright about 4 cups of water ran out of the frame. It had been driven into it yesterday. Once drained I started on the last day of riding.
The winds had blown, the rain had fallen, but Iowa had saved the best for last. This part of the state is mind blowing-ly pretty. There are actually trees, and the Amish have made many homes here. We saw old fashion barns, and old fashion farming methods, and a whole crop of little Amish kids let out to watch us crazy folks in spandex ride by. Each of them had the same exact hair cut, and each of them smiled and waved at us as we went by.
The first order of business for the day was WAFFLES! All you could eat, 20 different kinds of syrup, fresh made whipped cream, and butter in a dispenser!
Nectar of the gods! This man was making waffles so fast that even the line of hundreds was only taking up one row of his waffle empire. It wasn’t until another hundred or so people got in line the he fired up that back row. But each waffle was so big that you could really only eat two before giving up, so he kept the line moving at a rapid pace.
I saw a giant strawberry, in Strawberry Point.
An Iowa farm bicycle.
Some local political flavor.
And a whole heap of gorgeous rolling hills…oh right Iowa has hills.
To the untrained eye that might not look very hilly…but glance over to the right there. See those ominous dips. Those are some big ass hills. There was 3k feet of climbing on this day, almost all of it in the last 5 miles. The climbs were not so bad…it was the downhills that nearly killed me. A fixed gear bicycle is great for riding in Boston, its relatively flat, not too much in the way of screaming madness inducing downhills…which is exactly what this part of Iowa comes standard with.
While screaming down the first of a series of three massive downhills a rather suicidal police officer informed me (while walking out into the middle of the street in front of hundreds of careening cyclists) that we could “slow down and take in the view.” So we did,with the help of the top layer of my brake pads, and some judicious swearing, we were not disappointed.
My aunt and uncle rode down the second hill with me and said that they were “afraid my legs would fly off and kill them both.” We hit 50 mph for about 20 seconds, which is about 19 seconds longer than I ever want to move my legs that fast ever again. I actually had to pull over and rest after that downhill, it crushed all the life out of me, but in a good way.
We made it to the mighty Mississippi, and dunked our front wheels into it, symbolically and figuratively completing our trek from river to river (Missouri to Mississippi) that marks the start and end of every RAGBRAI.
I stayed with some Iowa friends that night and was treated to the best in vegetarian Midwestern culinary tradition.
Then it was asleep in a tent for one more night, up with the dawn to fly out of the tiniest airport I have ever seen (gates 1,2, and 3 all shared the same door), to a larger plane, to a bus, to a train to my own bed again. My poor bike only showed up a week later, having to suffer the indignity of traveling by UPS.
My fourth year in the corn was a memorable one, I am already planning for my 5th.
Tags: 2014, awesome, corn, iowa, RAGBRAI, rain, wind
Posted in bostonbiker | No Comments »
Did you know you can ride your bike to Red Sox Games? Did you know MassBike will vallet park them for you? Did you know you can volunteer to help park bikes and also get to watch the game! Not only that if you volunteer enough hours you will get a free membership to MassBike which gets you even more cool stuff!
Did you park your bike with us at Fenway Park on July 19th or July 20th? If so you were one of the many who took advantage of the free Valet Bicycle Parking for Bike to the Ballpark. The launch of this program was a big hit, and we are extremely pleased to announce that MassBike is continuing to partner with the Boston Red Sox through our Valet Bicycle Parking service for #biketotheballpark.
Now through September, every Saturday and Sunday home game will offer this convenient, free way to arrive at the ballpark. Coast in, hand your bike to one of our trained staff, and enjoy some baseball. When you are done cheering on the Sox, come back, claim your bike, and ride away.
If you have tickets for this weekend’s August 2nd or August 3rd game, ride your bike and avoid the expensive parking lot down the road. After all, not only is it free to park your bike with us, the Valet Bicycle Parking offers the closest parking to Fenway during a game. In other words, if you Bike to the Ballpark this weekend, you can get the best parking and it costs nothing.
The MassBike free Valet Bicycle Parking is located by Gate D, at the corner of Yawkey Way and Van Ness Street. It is best to approach Fenway Park on your bike from the Boylston Street side of Fenway.
For any questions about Valet Bicycle Parking, please contact [email protected] or call 617-542-2453 (BIKE).
We’ll see you at the game!
And more here
We are so pleased to be working with the Red Sox by offering Valet Bicycle Parking at Fenway Park. Now, we need some enthusiastic volunteers to help us before the game. If you want to hang out at Fenway, support Massachusetts cyclists, and even get to see some of the game, please contact us today.
Volunteers help with setup, parking bikes, getting cyclists to the parking area, and ensuring a seamless and hassle-free experience for users. After your shift, you will get a special volunteer pass so you can catch some of the game.
We need immediate help for the upcoming games.
Saturday, August 16: 5:00 pm-7:00 pm
Sunday, August 17: 11:30 am-1:30 pm
During your shift, you’ll have the chance to take a break. No previous Bike Valet experience necessary – we will train you.
Volunteers make up a huge part of our success, so we want to make volunteering with us even better. Anyone who volunteers ten hours of their time will automatically earn a MassBike membership.
Tags: awesome, free game!, massbike, red sox, vallet parking
Posted in advocacy, Commuting | No Comments »
Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the launch of the Boston Public Library’s Bibliocycle, and the re-launch of ReadBoston’s Storymobile, now in its nineteenth year. Both programs use a human-powered bicycle with an attached trailer to make their services mobile, and will be pedaling through Boston’s neighborhoods this summer.
“The Bibliocycle and Storymobile are innovative ways to reimagine libraries, and promote reading and learning across all generations,” said Mayor Walsh. “These services will keep kids reading through the summer and help to prevent summertime learning loss, while expanding library accessibility for adults.”
Boston Public Library’s Bibliocycle
The Bibliocycle is a partnership between the Boston Public Library (BPL) and Boston Bikes that will enable the library to take its free offerings to the streets in a friendly, active way. Features of the Bibliocycle program include library card sign up, book checkout, demonstrations of BPL’s digital resources, and help with reference questions. The mobile collection of up to 50 books includes new releases, bestsellers, cooking, gardening, picture books, and bike repair titles. The checkout limit is 10 items per person.
The Bibliocycle will travel to markets, fairs, and neighborhood events throughout the summer and fall to serve city residents, and the complete schedule can be found at bpl.org/community. On select dates, Boston Bikes team members will accompany librarians in order to provide bike and healthy living tips.
The Bibliocycle team is not equipped to handle fines and book returns, and patrons will need to visit one of BPL’s many brick-and-mortar locations to complete that type of transaction.
An annual summer treat for children in the city, the Storymobile aims to inspire a love for literacy at an early age. Children can enjoy storytelling at its finest, with books brought to life through tales and song. At the end of each session, every child receives a free, new book to take home.
ReadBoston Storymobiles will roll through the city’s neighborhoods weekdays from Monday, July 7, through Friday, August 15, to offer children in Boston a free and fun adventure at 78 sites each week. The Storymobile is a visual reminder that learning can happen anywhere, not just in the classroom. The program, which is most appropriate for children ages 3-8, is open to the public with convenient locations all over the city. No sign-up or registration is necessary.
A full schedule for the ReadBoston Storymobile is available here. For the latest updates on ReadBoston, visit their Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/ReadBoston. For questions about the program, please call617-918-5286.
About Boston Public Library
Boston Public Library has a Central Library, 24 branches, a map center, a business library, and a website filled with digital content and services. Established in 1848, the Boston Public Library has pioneered public library service in America. It was the first large free municipal library in the United States, the first public library to lend books, the first to have a branch library, and the first to have a children’s room. Each year, the Boston Public Library hosts thousands of programs and serves millions of people. All of its programs and exhibitions are free and open to the public. To learn more, visit bpl.org.
About Boston Bikes
Boston Bikes is part of Boston’s vision for a vibrant and healthy city that benefits all its citizens. It seeks to make Boston a world-class bicycling city by creating safe and inviting conditions for all residents and visitors. Boston Bikes focuses on improvements in all five universal bike planning areas: Engineering, Enforcement, Education, Encouragement, and Evaluation.
ReadBoston is the City’s only comprehensive early literacy program, reaching Boston’s children at all points in their day, all year long. It provides schools, after school programs, early childhood centers, summer programs, and families with the resources they need to set Boston’s children on the path to reading success.
This is awesome!
More from Bostoninno:
Boston Bikes is teaming up with the Boston Public Library to cycle mobile libraries into our neighborhoods. Aptly dubbed the Bibliocycle, the initiative is reminiscent of the City Hall to Go truck which provides communities with limited access to downtown a way of accessing municipal items.
For example, the Bibliocycle will allow new Bostonians the opportunity to sign up for a library card, to check-out books, to engage with digital offerings and have any reference questions answered.
It’ll carry up to 50 written works at a time and include a bevy of genres ranging from new releases and bestsellers to gardening tips and, of course, bike repair how-to’s.
The Storymobile, of course, is something that dates back 19 years to the thick of the Menino era which is essentially the same thing as the Bibliocycle but geared towards children.
As you’ll see courtesy of the July schedule below, the Bibliocycle will be rolling into farmer’s markets and learning centers throughout Boston. Here’s where you can catch up with it:
Wednesday, July 9, 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.—Tierney Learning Center
Friday, July 11, 4:00-6:00 p.m.—Allston/Harvard Farmer’s Market
Monday, July 14, 1:00-3:00 p.m.—South Boston Farmer’s Market
Tuesday, July 15, 5:00-7:00 p.m.—Elma Lewis Playhouse in the Park
Wednesday, July 16, 9:30-11:30 a.m.—ParkArts at Mt. Pleasant Street Park
Thursday, July 17, 4:00-6:00 p.m.—Dudley Town Farmer’s Market
Saturday, July 19, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.—Roslindale Farmer’s Market Bike Day
Wednesday, July 23, 9:30-11:30 a.m.—ParkArts at Mt. Pleasant Street Park
Saturday, July 26, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.—Fields Corner Farmer’s Market
Thursday, July 31, 3:00-5:00 p.m.—Dudley Town Farmer’s Market
A couple things to note before you head down to one of these literary hot spots. Check-out is limited to 10 items per person, which is one fifth of its entire offering at a single time so choose wisely. Borrowed items must also be returned to a branch of the BPL and cannot be submitted to the Bibliocycle. And finally, pay any late fees you might’ve incurred at your local BPL branch as well.
This is a fine idea, and one I hope continues with other forms of city services, imagine if you could get a hunting licence by bike, or parking permits by bike (oh the irony), or any of a number of services that might be better served by having someone on a specialized cargo bike going into the community instead of making the community come to one location.
What service would you have provided by bicycle?
Tags: awesome, Bibliocycle, bikes by book
Posted in Bike Business, fun | No Comments »
Last week, the League of American Bicyclists released their list of Bicycle Friendly Communities for 2014, and named Lexington as Bronze Level winner. Lexington joins Arlington, Boston, Cambridge, Newton, Northampton, and Somerville as a Massachusetts Bicycle Friendly Communities, and brings the commonwealth’s total to seven.
According to Lexington Patch:
The application process was coordinated by Bicycle Advisory Committee chair Peggy Enders, who worked with Town staff and bicycle advocates over the winter to assemble the data needed as part of the comprehensive assessment process required of applicants.
“The application process was essentially an exercise in benchmarking Lexington’s accomplishments in becoming a more bike friendly community,” Enders said. “There are a number of areas where the town has accomplished a great deal and other areas where there is room for improvement. It would be wonderful to receive a higher level designation in the future; the bronze level award is a great start that demonstrates Lexington’s growing commitment to bicycles and those who ride them.”
The League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Community award recognizes cities and towns that have taken steps to improve conditions for bicycle transportation, and incentivizes communities to continue improving through technical assistance.
Tags: awesome, bronze, Lexington
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Would you rather have this:
That was THE BEST COMMUTE I have had in weeks. The roads were sloppy as hell, more often than not my back wheel was not behind my front wheel, but it was sooooo nice. No cars, no pedestrians, so peaceful and serine. Like the whole city had decided to slow down, and be calm.
I also saw about 10 other cyclists out there having the times of their lives. We all smiled and laughed at one another, it was a good time to be out. We all had that look in our eye like “we have discovered something no one else knows about, and its awesome!”
Some of my co-workers think I am nuts for riding a bicycle in weather like this, but I think they are the ones who are nuts. You would have to be crazy to get into a multi-thousand pound vehicle capable of sliding out of control and crushing you or someone else in weather like this. Cars/trucks are just too big and dangerous to drive when the weather is bad.
The biggest problem I was going to run into today was plopping over into 5 inches of fluffy snow…or being crushed by a car…which are too dangerous to be on the roads on days like today. Lucky for me it most everyone decided to walk or take the T, so I more or less had the road to myself.
What was your morning commute like?
Tags: awesome, commuting, open thread, snow storm
Posted in Commuting | 2 Comments »
Broadway is a fantastic shop, and if you got the mechanical chops I can’t think of a better place to work. See below for details:
Broadway Bicycle School is looking for some mechanically inclined people who are enthusiastic about bicycles to work at our shop as full-time bike mechanics/sales-people from Mid-March through October 2014. Previous bike shop experience is preferred but not necessary. For more information, stop by the shop at 351 Broadway in Cambridge or visit broadwaybicycleschool.com.
Tags: awesome, Broadway bicycle school, jobs
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I guess my earlier bedtime story to Hubway was premature. Like a kid who has gotten into the red bull and pixi sticks Hubway’s in Cambridge are going to rock steady all winter long!
See below for all the details!
|Hello from Hubway!
We’re excited to announce that part of the Hubway system will remain open throughout the winter for the first time. If you haven’t yet heard, while most Hubway stations will be closed by Thanksgiving and removed until Spring 2014, the City of Cambridge will run a pilot program during which almost all of the Cambridge-based stations will remain open and operational year-round. Read the full City of Cambridge press release here.
With winter approaching, read below for cold-weather riding tips, and also read about specific winter station closures for the rest of the Hubway system.
The Team at Hubway
WINTER RIDING TIPS
To prepare for cold-weather bicycling, here are a few things you should keep in mind:
But remember that riding will warm you up. If you get hot as you ride, pull over and remove a layer, but always keep your ears and hands shielded.
FIND BIKE-APPROPRIATE GLOVES & EARMUFFS
Local bike shops offer products that do not obstruct the use of your helmet.
PLAN YOUR ROUTE
Have your route set ahead of time.
PLAN FOR AN ALTERNATIVE MODE OF TRANSPORTATION
Always make sure you have an option in case a blizzard hits or if you simply decide that riding is no longer comfortable for you.
MAKE THE SMART DECISION IF YOU’RE COLD
Each rider has a different comfort level in inclement weather. If you are uncomfortable for any reason while biking, stop riding and walk your bike to the nearest docking station. If you are cold, make your way indoors to warm up.
Be aware that visibility is particularly limited during the winter, with fewer daylight hours, glare, and foggy conditions. Hubway bikes have 24-hour lights, but it is also a good idea to wear light colored clothing and reflective materials if possible.
USE EXTRA CAUTION
Under wintry conditions, roads may not be completely cleared of snow and ice. You are always permitted to ride in the general travel lane (not only the bike lane) and should do so if the bike lane is snowy or icy.
SEASONAL STATION CLOSURE SCHEDULE
As we wrote last week, the Hubway system began its seasonal phased station closures on Monday, November 18th. With the exception of the Cambridge stations, the final day of 2013 regular season operations will be Wednesday, November 27th. The station closure schedule has been published for removals through this weekend. The schedule is subject to change, so please make sure to check Hubway’s news site, facebook page, and twitter feed for the latest updates.
Tags: awesome, hubway, trans siberian hubway, winter
Posted in Commuting, infrastructure | No Comments »
Imagine a giant figure 8 loop around the downtown core of the city of dedicated car free cycle tracks for cyclists.
I really like this idea, I think it has potential as not only a way to see all the historic sights in Boston, but also as a downtown Bike Freeway system. Providing a way to get around the core of the city (and beyond) on a high capacity dedicated bike way.
Most importantly it can be used as an foundation to build future infrastructure from. Check out this meeting and attend to support this great idea!
got this in the email
Spread the word! Nov 21st 6pm
Crucial meeting: Support a cycletrack on Causeway St!
The Connect Historic Boston Bike Trail is a proposal for “a family-friendly bicycle loop around downtown Boston.” To make Causeway Street family-friendly will require a physically separate bike lane (a.k.a. cycletrack) for bikes, and new improvements for pedestrians. The Boston Cyclists Union, LivableStreets Alliance, MassBike and WalkBoston invite you to show up and speak up at a meeting presenting a new plan for Causeway Street — a crucial link the proposed Connect Historic Boston Bike Trail downtown.
SAVE THE DATE:
Public Meeting on Causeway redesign
Thurs., Nov. 21
110 Canal St.
Find more information on the Connect Historic Boston Bike Trail here.
Tags: awesome, cycle track, down town, Historic
Posted in advocacy, Bike Business, Commuting, infrastructure | No Comments »