Archive for May, 2013

Small wonder I’m a grump. What is equity anyway?

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Last night I challenged all the happy back slapping at the Boston Bikes update, especially related to their efforts to bring equity to their program. I also made some pretty sarcastic Tweets in response to the glowing ones that were coming out of the event. I couldn’t even stay and I just had to get out of there the entire exercise was so disappointing in what it showed to me.

Why am I such a grump? Believe it or not I come from a really positive background. I’m a life time community activist as a result of that and my upbringing. My mother always wore a smile on her face and always looked for the silver lining. I do in many ways, but when it comes to receiving City services in Dorchester I’ve become a full out grump. Why? Because no matter what the issue or service, we typically end up with broken promises and half assed execution. Sadly, Boston Bikes plans for expanding our biking infrastructure and Hubway is following along that path.

The most irritating thing about the entire exercise is the Three E’s that Nicole Freedman introduced at her first Update 5 years ago, especially the first one Equity. When that came up this year, we got informed of the Youth Bike Training Program and the Roll it Forward program. Great! Now we have kids who know how to ride safely with nowhere to ride? Besides, having attended one of the giveaways, the ‘training’ was slack and I hope others go better than what I saw. If that’s Equity, it’s a disappointment for sure and the same old same old. We also have 600 lower income folks with Hubway cards who can only use them when they’re down town and not near their homes out in the neighborhoods. Where’s the equity in that?

Here’s what EQUITY really means to me.

Equal access and delivery of services, like a more aggressive approach to expanding Hubway in ALL of Dorchester. Just because grand standing life time City Councilor Charles Yancey held things up trying to senselessly get one put in on the outskirts of town, doesn’t mean we all think that way. But given there are two/three in Dorchester, South Bay, JFK station and UMass it’s easy to see some quick nearby choices to expand into Dot. Try Savin Hill Station? The new Purple Line Stations in Dudley and Geneva Ave. Franklin Park? All of them are contiguous to recently installed bike infrastructure and they are handy to Roxbury and JP stations that many Dot folks are familiar with through driving or taking the bus. Then do a similar layer, Fields Corner, Codman Square, Talbot Ave Purple Line, Franklin Field…

Equal access to aggressive planning. What ever happened to finishing lanes on Mass Ave to where it begins in Everett Square in Dorchester? I should have brought that up, but was so riled up it escaped. That is ripe for a cycle track in fact. Instead we got new turn lanes by the new train station there. And just an aside, who’s going to pay $6 to take a slow train into South Station? Is that equitable? I guess it’s better than when they closed them 40 years ago… We also got sharrows on streets that are WIDE enough to accomodate bike lanes on Dot Ave and Neponset Ave which is a confusing mish mash of sharrows and lanes switching in and out going in both directions. Love the sharrows on Morton Street where you NEVER see anyone riding on what is a major automobile access road across town. There’s more too, but you get the point.

Just to review: Dorchester 20% of the area of the City of Boston, 120,000 residents or about 20% of the City of Boston. Guess what 20% of the City of Boston isn’t poor. We have a hospital, some of the leading health centers,  25% of the city’s schools, a major college, a river, a major highway, and waterfront a Presidential Library. We house the most diverse population in the city in terms of ethnic and racial make up as well as financial well being. It’s where the future of America lives.

There’s so much to say I’m sorry about how unorganized this has been. To cut them some slack, Boston Bikes is just like the DPW, Boston Park Department, the state DCR and Transportation Department, the T and anyone else who provides services to our part of town. I have to add to that a community that I would bet would deliver one of the top selling Trader Joe’s or Wholefood stores in the country (ALL the original stores in South Bay mall held that distinction btw) and instead we get a Harvard School of Government initiative to market used expiring food and you can see it extends to businesses too.  Whatever we get is given reluctantly and done half assed and then we get yelled at for not being grateful.  I’m still positive minded enough that I’m still trying, unlike many of my other cynical neighbors who think it’s a waste of time to even bother. That’s why you don’t see more of us out there advocating, why bother they’ll just screw it up? Small wonder I’m a grump.

“Right of way” panel feedback… Bike commuter challenge for 2014.

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Dotrider was one of six panelists at the WGBH studios this week for their upcoming special exploring the interaction between motor vehicles and bicycles. It was a somewhat varied group. Two of us were from Dorchester and a third worked there (note that City of Boston bike planners). They have way more tape than they could ever use as we had a wide ranging discussion directed by reporter Adam Reilly. Here’s some of my impressions.

My dismayed feelings about the immensely popular Hubway bike share program was generally shared among all regular riders with one panelist piling on by describing it as “putting the cart before the horse.” Yeah, if you’re suffering from the slow pace of improvement in to bike infrastructure outside of down town it is still plainly obvious that the time, talent and effort put into that program has detracted from the potential progress elsewhere despite’s its surface success. There was also a conclusion that it may have only helped to add to the tension between drivers and riders.

Most of us were car drivers as well with one panelist trapped in a suburban life that requires driving everwhere. The suburban riders suggested the perils of riding in the city are nothing compared to sparring with the high speed rushed drivers out there. We all agreed that there is a growing, if not grudging acceptance of bicycles on the road. Many emphasized that cars should get used to us and recognize the fact that as cyclists we take up a lot less room than if we were in a car and they should celebrate every bike they see as one less car.

We also were pretty unanimous related the approach taken by the Boston Public Health Commission when they brought out their wear a helmet campaign. If you want to encourage more folks to get active you don’t raise the bar. Besides, the more folks out riding the safer it is for all of us (at least statistically).

One of the riders was hit while riding on Seaver St and we got a chance to promote the cycle track ideas there as well as on Malcom X & around the Public Garden.

There was a lot of talk wrt riding strategy, like taking off early at a light to avoid the turning cars or taking a lane in an intersection. Certainly if drivers had an idea of cyclist thinking it might help them.

The overwhelming conclusion though was that it is hard not to be grumpy if you’re a driver in Boston. After all the streets are clogged, there are choke points where no matter how fast you drive elsewhere you just have to wait. Despite short distances it can take a painfully long time to get anywhere. Well d’uh! Wonder why I ride more and more? It’s mostly because after a half mile in my car I start honking and getting frustrated and wish I’d ridden my bike.

Anyway, I don’t envy Adam Reilly and his producer at trying to distill down over an hour of wide ranging excellent discussion into a 20 minute segment. There’s a chance that nothing I wrote here will emerge at all while they chose something else as more appropriate. Here’s hats off to the attempt and hopes that they do a good job.

Bike-car-T Commuter Challenge idea!!! We sent a fb message to Liveable Streets (as yet no reply) suggesting they take a fresh angle on their annual race across Somerville and Cambridge to a place in Boston via bike, car and T. As good as it is, it’s sort of becoming trite and the big gains in bike infrastructure only make it more so. My suggestion was that there be a race from a Boston neighborhood to downtown. Imagine the options of a ‘race’ from Mattapan Square to Down Town Crossing… T options 28 to… or Trolly to Red Line… or the new Purple Line? Car options…which way through Dot or Roxbury or JP? Bike options? Water front, through Franklin Park or straight line?? There could be a dozen racers and a myriad of results that would give us a lot to think about. We hope Liveable Streets would join us and help.

Anyway, the idea has been put through the Dotbike planning and it got a tepid response with the idea that we try to get Liveable Streets to join us next year and promote one. Other ideas included having a ‘race’ in a different angle, like from Southie to Hyde Park to accentuate a lack of options for those of us not working down town.  But hey! if anyone is interested in this idea please let me know. I’d be willing to do the work it would take to get this done.

May has begun with some super weather and we see more new riders on our route everyday. If you’re not now and have been thinking of riding now’s the time!! We’ll be looking for you. Pedal on!!