Sunday, April 22, 2012

Guerciotti's big florida adventure

Spring breeeeeeaaaaaak!

It's great to be back in Palm Beach for a week with the family. Again, I'm trying to make the most of the weather and beautiful roads (okay, road). But this year, I've decided to forgo my usual rented racing bike and bring my Guerciotti from Boston.

I used a borrowed flight case and, I must say, it worked pretty well. It was a bit of a chore to disassemble my bike (stem/bars out, pedals off, wheels off, skewers out, seat/post out) because I'd never done it before and some parts were pretty stubborn. But once it was done, it was done.

JetBlue's policy is to charge $50 for a bike, but, remarkably, I wasn't charged at all - that could have been because my person didn't want to bother about it, but it was my only checked bag and I think it came in under the 50lb weight limit.

The thing I was most worried about was actually pre- & post-flight, but the bag did fit perfectly fine into the back of our Subaru and into Papa's trunk on this end. Whew!

And everything made the journey just fine.... almost. The points where the frame was supposed to attach to the bag came undone, so everything was rattling around in there and I got a couple little chips in the paint. Grrrr. (I'm planning to do a trip to Sephora later for some touch-up nail polish.)

 I also discovered that I'd forgotten my old flea-bitten helmet, so I needed another. So I went to Relentless Bicycles in Lake Worth to and got a new Giro for $40...  I also got a basic Cateye cyclometer (which I have yet to install, already more than half way through our holiday). The dude there is really friendly and we had a nice time chatting about this and that. I love bike people. Mostly.

I've had a couple great rides so far down the island - one to Boca and back, another just to Delray. Nothing epic, but nice and quick and perfectly pleasant.

I've been enjoying using Strava to track my rides - more basic than MapMyWhatevers, but also less battery-hungry.

Hoping for another good ride today! Better get out there....

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Chalk one up for John Henry

John Henry might have been a steel-drivin' man, but I'm a wheel drivin' man. And I beat the train and will live to ride again, unlike poor Henry. (The creepiest children's song of all, IMO.)

I finally got it together to commute into Boston on my bike once again, and I made it door-to-door in 40 minutes. According to Google, the fastest route on the T is 53 minutes - but I don't think I've managed it in less than an hour.

I obeyed all the rules of the road as well.

I took the most direct route, which worked out at about 8.5 miles, not bad. On the way home, I took a more circuitous route amounting to 10.6 mostly traffic-free miles, which took 54 minutes, including my long, steep slog back up the hill to my house.

Not bad! Of course, I didn't see any clients today, so I didn't have to worry about changing - but if I can keep up this pace, I should have plenty of time for my ablutions on arrival from now on!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Another day on the T

So I didn't quite get my act together to bike all the way in today... But I did have a nice ride to Alewife and locked up there.

Monday, April 09, 2012

I am a commuter again

With the advent of my new job (very exciting!), I find myself heading into Boston with increasing frequency.

Because I've been in a hurry and kitted out in relatively smart duds, I've been reluctant to bike all the way in - but that's due to change soon. It's chilly. Might rain. Must look spiffy. These are all the excuses I've heard from others for years and summarily poo-pooed. But they're pretty much what's been relegating me to the MBTA over the past couple weeks.

As a result, my average time door-to-door has been close to 2hrs for a trip of only about 10 miles. Infrequent and unreliable bus connections is the biggest culprit, but I've also spent plenty of time waiting on Red Line platforms. What a waste of time!

This will only get worse when they cut service this summer with a price rise to boot.

So today, at least, I biked to Alewife and caught the T (after a 20 min wait). Definitely an improvement over having to rely on a bus.

Tonight, I'm going to mount my trusty Ortlieb commuter bag and ride all the way in with a change of clothes tomorrow.

Probably. Unless it looks like rain...

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

My first Hubway ride

It's a beautiful if chilly day in Boston. I've come into town for a meeting with my new client near Chinatown, and this morning, I got a message from Boston Bike Czar Nicole Friedman about the spring relaunch of the Hubway, Boston's own bikeshare program.

I've been dubious of the program from the start... the climate, the limited number of bikes, and the great number of irresponsible students all seemed make it a non-starter in my book. But now I'm not so sure. I decided to get a bike at Park Street Station and ride it over to where Mayor Menino was speaking in Copley Square to see what's up.

All I needed to take out a bike was my credit card, and I paid $5 for 24 hours of bikes. The machine spit out a secret code, which I then punched in to the first bike bay - and I was off! The bike felt great - it was heavy of course, but that was barely noticeable. Very solid and easy to ride with a nice upright posture.

I rode through the Common and then walked across the Garden (trying to set a good example, you know), then down Newbury Street, and finally cut over to the Public Library, where the event was being held.

Lots of people were there, including a handful of my bike community buddies, so it was nice to see them and hang out for a bit. I also got a refund of my $5 as part of the event - sweet! I missed out on a free novelty-size burrito, though. :-(

The mayor did his thing, but I left in the middle and rode over to Charles MGH to hop back on the Red Line towards home.

Three big impressions:
  1. The facilities are fantastic! The bikes, bays, and payment stations are in great nick and very easy to use
  2. As much as Boston's improved it's cycle-friendliness, lots of work needs to be done on the routes still - it's really REALLY hard to get from Copley to Charles MGH without going the wrong way down one-way streets (I ended up going down the Esplanade just to stay on the right side of the law!)
  3. LOTS of people are using the bikes already! I saw people at every bay I passed, and saw at least a dozen users biking along here and there
The last point gives me the most optimism about the program. If people like the system and the bikes stay in good shape, they'll always find a way from here to there.

The biggest development should be when they expand across the river (come on, Cambridge!!!) - but in the meantime, I'm going to get my Hubway key!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Biking around NYC

When I was in New York this week, I decided to rent a bike and experience for myself all the new cycling infrastructure developments I've been hearing about for ages.

I mostly wanted to check out the new and improved (depending on who you ask!) Broadway from Columbus Circle to Union Square. And since my time was limited, having a bike would also allow me to get where I needed to be for meetings and still explore parts of the city I wouldn't have been able to otherwise.

A couple notes:
  • I had a copy of the New York City Bike Map, which can also be downloaded here
  • I intended to map my route online, but infuriatingly doesn't recognize many bike-only routes, so I finally gave up on that
  • The photos here are all from my Flickr set, which has lots more photos with full descriptions and location info
Bike Rental NYC

So I started by Googling places to rent a bike and decided on Bike Rental NYC on 57th Street, largely because I like the website and the price was good with an advanced reservation ($32 for the day). On the whole, I supposed I'd recommend this place - my bike (a Giant hybrid) was in good nick, and it included a nice Wald front basket and a heavy chain lock.
The staff there weren't tremendously helpful or friendly, though, and I was a little put off at the start when the person behind the counter said that they rent bikes for a lot of different websites, so there didn't seem to be much if any connection between the site I was on and the store itself. The only significant issue was the quality of the helmets. Shockingly poor! I was thankful it was cold enough to warrant a wool stocking cap underneath because I wouldn't have wanted any of their helmets to touch my head directly. I'll bring my own next time.

Biking Down Broadway

I started my tour at Columbus Circle and stuck to Broadway all the way to Union Square (14th Street). On the whole, they've really done a nice job with it from a cyclist's point of view. The segregated path is clean and smooth. I thought they did a particularly good job with the left-turn exchanges. At crossings with east-bound streets, there's a set of lights that stops cyclists first so that cars on Broadway can turn left across the bike path, then east-bound cars can go straight across. (I'm always a sucker for bike-specific stop lights!)

Broadway is tricky because it goes diagonally across the grid system of streets and avenues, but they've also done a good job with that, with infrastructure and associated signeage.

Time Square

The biggest problem I encountered was pedestrians on the cycle path. Hard to prevent I know, and it requires the cyclist to really pay attention - but that's always going to be a prerequisite to safe cycling anyway. A bigger problem was other cyclists heading the wrong way on the path. I can completely understand why you'd want to do it, but it's still annoying - particularly with almost all the offenders I encountered riding on the left for some reason, making each passing a game of chicken.

Another strange thing was the pedestrian plazas that have popped up along the route - at several points, the it isn't clear where the bike path goes and you're left navigating between cafe tables and peds to get to the marked path on the other side.

And finally, at the end of the path in Union Square, the whole thing ends abruptly, with no warning, no instructions, no thanks. There's a bit more marked bike lane on the East side of the square, but as you head back onto Broadway, there's no mention whatsoever of bikes. There is a bus lane that prohibits cars all the way downtown, and that provides a nice space for cyclists, but it's impossible to know whether it's strictly allowed or not.

Other Highlights

Once I'd arrived at City Hall, my Broadway exploration was over. From there, I rode over the Brooklyn Bridge, which is one of my favorite things to do ever. I did a little circuit around my old neighborhood in Brooklyn Heights before meeting a friend for lunch on Henry Street.

At his suggestion, I then rode down to Brooklyn Bridge Park en route to the Manhattan Bridge. It's a completely new park since I was last in Brooklyn. It seemed a little sparce that day, but it's got huge potential. Beautiful views of course, and lots of space right at water level. Seems very accommodating to cyclists and walkers.

After exploring to the south, I turned around and headed north towards the Manhattan Bridge. When I reached the bridge, I asked a hipster DUMBO girl cyclist how to get to the bridge (not as easy as it seems when you're standing 200ft or so above the surface of the bridge!), and she pointed to a sign... That was probably the first of a dozen signs over a quarter of a mile that eventually led me to the bridge entrance. Hurrah!

Bikes only?

The cycle track over the bridge was perfectly nice, with great views of course. Interesting that peds are supposed to stick to a different path, but as usually they do not. But not a big deal.

The Manhattan Bridge pops you out in Chinatown, and I proceeded up Bowery with the rest of the traffic on a marked cycleway to a meeting with another friend until 4:30 or so. Then it was starting to get dark and I had to eek my way through the West Village over to the West Side to catch the Hudson River Greenway back up to Midtown to return the bike.

Hudson River Greenway

Next Time

On my next cycle sojourn in the city, I'd like to do Central Park, ride more around the Village (East and West), and also venture further into Brooklyn to Prospect Park. (I'm also dying to do the High Line and Governor's Island, though those will be best in warm weather and a bike is not required.)