Archive for February, 2011

Personal bike odyssey

Friday, February 18th, 2011

As winter eases up we’re in the slow time before road projects start and there’s not a lot to talk about in the bike world. So, we’ll indulge ourselves here and recount our bike odyssey.

It began in a small South Shore town where I grew up. My dad had an odd family rule that you didn’t get a bike until you were 8. Then you got a new bike on your 8th birthday and that was it. I borrowed the neighbor kids bike and learned before I turned 7. I somehow had $12 and bought Frosty Faulkner’s green Schwinn converted Sting Ray bike the summer of my 8th birthday (in August). My first bike. I got another one, my brother’s old Schwinn 24″ frame from his 8th birthday all fixed up for me. Being the youngest I would borrow from all my older siblings bikes depending upon the need.

I lived 5 miles from school and once you were 8 you could ride to school. The bus used to pass my house and then head around the southern edge of town collecting kids. I could leave after the bus and ride the 5 miles to school (even on the sting ray, although my sister’s Raleigh 3 speed was faster and easier) before the bus got there. So a rider was born. Much of September and October I would ride as well as all of May and June. Riding home might take all afternoon as I would stop and hang with other kids.

I got my bad accident over with at 8 when I got hit by a car and broke my leg in front of my best friends house. I was waiting for him to finish Sunday dinner and took the opportunity to ride his awesome bike while he couldn’t stop me. I’ll never forget the face of Mrs Sherman and her daughter Kitt as they gasped in horror upon seeing me dart in front of them in their Chevy stationwagon. Oddly I had a football helmet on which they found 200 feet away. I suppose when they started making helmets that experience should have insured I would always wear a helmet but it didn’t.

The accident didn’t deter me as I rode farily regularly to school up through 6th grade but it wasn’t cool in Jr High…My connections to bikes remained strong though since my grandmother used to summer in Nantucket and being the closest geographcially grandchild I would spend weeks at a time ‘helping’ her get set up and ready to leave. She would rent me a nice Raleigh from Young’s with a nice wicker basket. I owned that town when I was there riding. Meeting the boat, riding out to Cisco, running errands for my Grandmother. That was it.

Then my sister and her husband opened a bike shop, Teton Cyclerly in Jackson Wyoming and I went out there and worked for them between sophmore and junior year. I returned from Jackson in shape from riding the Teton Pass (and hour up and 6 minutes down) all summer as well as all over on my Crescent with Reynolds 531 double butted frame and all Campy gear. I put a huge 54 (I think) tooth crank on it and I could fly. We tried to do some mountain biking on that but the sew ups didn’t last too well. Wish they had mountain bikes then.

From that point I rode everywhere. It was my math teacher Mr. Rice and me riding our 10 speeds (awesome innovations back then) to school. Riding to school bought me 10 more minutes of sleep each day so it was easy. Did it for most of the year too unless it snowed.

From there I took my bike to UMass and rode back to Boston and back a few times. Didn’t get my license until I was passed 18 (long story) so I always rode. There were gas lines and folks paying $1/gallon so I thought I was pretty smart.

After UMass I travelled and lived in Australia and New Zealand for almost a year. I scavenged bikes where I could and in one place I negotiated the purchase of a 3-speed Raleigh from a shop if they would buy it back from me when I was done (did the same thing too with a typewriter). I rode all around Christ Church New Zealand that winter there.

Upon my return to the States I got married and moved into the West Fenway. Brought the Crescent and tried to commute to Fort Point. YIKES! That was a challenge. We did it though. Much faster than anything else and the bike looked cool on the brick wall in my 1 bedroom.

Moved to Dorchester in 1984. Bought a Dahon Mountain Bike from Codman Cycle. My wife bought me the helmet which I still wear. Rode Dot Ave about a third of my commutes to D Street until we moved the business into my house. Then riding became the occassional short trip to the Post Office. The Dahon eventually got nicked. Sold the Crescent for twice what I paid for it. We started buying bikes at yard sales since I had a big barn. One of those is still in my collection. The others are gone, although I gave a few away over the years.

Then I fell off my house and broke my leg again. I gave up the home office and travel for my business and some consulting and took my current job in JP. When I began working there I was on crutches, gas was $1.20 a gllon, parking was free and available so I drove a lot. When the Iraq War began I went from owning 3 cars with my wife to just one. I’d sold my dad’s old car at my yard sale and the day the war began the tranmission fell out of one of the other cars, so it became an easy political decision. That led me to start riding again. I took the T a lot too I would leave a bike at Green Street station and ride it up to Centre Street instead of limping on foot.

So, all the seeds were there for a bike advocate. Then I met Maggie. Maggie and I met on Nantucket which had always been a bike haven for me. She owned a fleet of red bikes and early in our relationship she ‘lent’ me her red Bianci. We still ride it. Much of our early days were spent riding around Nantucket looking for romantic hideaways. But she got me really back onto the bike.

While I drove a lot that winter since my daughter was a senior in high school and morning drives to school became my time to interface with her I rode whenever she missed school. The day after she graduated I tried to see how many days in a row I could ride. Recently separated I didn’t own a car and became a Zip Car regular for the times when I had to drive for work. I made it from June into October before a rainy day put me back on the T. Then it grew from there. I’m now on a 4 year streak of riding to work at least once a week every week for four years. No doubt there are other more dedicated riders, but I’m proud of that streak.

Today I own 3 bikes flat out. I share three other bikes with Maggie. Maggie owns 2 others so we live in a house now that has 8 bikes living there. Whenver I go anywhere now the first thing I consider is whether to ride.

If we all did that there’d be a lot less traffic, more safe riders and our infrastructure improvements would be coming along a lot faster. They’re okay for now, but we won’t comment on that situation in this post. Instead we’ll look forward to the rest of my life as a rider. I truly hope and expect riding to help extend my life and improve my health. I lost 30 pounds the first two years as a renewed regular rider, so it could well work out. Good luck all and keep pedaling!

Winter testing resolve

Monday, February 14th, 2011

We struggled to keep our four year streak of riding at least once during a work week this past month. We’re also struggling to keep our composure as an advocate.

Riding has been tough and slow. What usually takes 20-30 minutes has been 30-45 and even closer to an hour in some cases. The narrow roads push me into the regular travel lane which increases driver resentment as well as mine of those who don’t recognize a bicycle as a vehicle with the same rights as an automobile. We’ve handed out a lot of the Massbike same road pieces. They replaced the anti-idling pieces which were suspended for the cold even though it’s more crucial than ever when it is cold outside.

As February remains fairly storm free the roads are widening, the days are lengthening and we’re enjoying riding again. If only the crap that comes up off the road would be done with. Boy is my bike yukky at times.

What is making things hard for this advocate is a hard won victory appears to have gone by the board thanks to one City Officials adhoc decision. The Glen Road segment of Franklin Park had gotten the Mayor’s promise to plow in June, 2009. It was plowed 4 times in 2009-10. The first storm of 201-011 was plowed. Since then tough toenails! The esteemed Assistant Commissioner of Parks sent out several NASTY replies to advocates telling us we are lucky anything gets plowed.

Well forgive me if organizing over 100 signatures, showing up at Mayoral public events with up to a half dozen different people THREE times, getting all the park advocay groups and showing over and over and over again how used the section is isn’t enough to find a permanant solution. Thanks to everyone who has tried to sway our friend.

Take a deep breath and think of how nice it will be riding home this evening in the lenghthening dusk through the plowed section of Franklin Park. One last thing on the plowing, ironically the adhoc configuration would be my personal preference. I guess I should just enjoy that and shut up eh?