As Mass. Ave. wraps, a personal note


Drivers get their heads around the new lane markings in Capitol Square.

It is oddly appropriate that the Mass. Ave. project is finishing up at the same moment that my ability to write about it is curtailed.

I have a new job. My previous gig was in Arlington Center, and I had the sweetest commute, walking or riding to work.

It was easy to stop to take photos or check things out. Sometimes I’d come home for lunch and catch some mid-day action. Not any more.

I like my new situation a great deal, but it’s in Lowell. I’m just not on hand during the day, and my absence is reflected in my coverage of the project over the last few month.

Experience and observation has always been at the heart of this writing project for me, beginning with my walks to the Hardy School with my daughter. We had to cross Mass. Ave. at rush hour.

The Teel Street cross walk was invariably blocked by SUVs with bumpers taller than my daughter. Then we’d walk west to school beside the eastbound traffic. It was instructive to watch what the cars did and how drivers behaved. The view from the curb told a truer story than the view from behind the wheel.

I remember one school morning in 2009, back when controversy about the Mass. Ave. project was at its peak. Walking towards us on the sidewalk was then-Selectman Annie LaCourt. She was walking the street to see things firsthand.

It’s a good way to approach a problem. I think some of my best posts here involved more showing than telling, as when I tried to take my readers curbside for the dreaded morning commute in December of 2010.

Traffic turned out to be so light westbound that the idea of taking away one of those unused traffic lanes and using the space for something else did not seem so outlandish.

My new commute has plenty of transit-blogging potential. Driving, I am now part of the unhappy bumper-to-bumper parade down Lake Street.

Does this experience temper my skepticism about the Selectmen’s plan to put a traffic signal on the Minuteman Path? (No, I still think the benefits are oversold.)

I’ve learned about taking the train from Arlington to Lowell (you can if you bike to the station, but you might have to stand with your bike in the train).

My train experience also led to a hard-knocks lesson about urban cycling. Riding to the train on Lowell I caught my wheel in trolley tracks, took a spill, and cracked a knucklebone.

My hand is still splinted and consequently I am one of the few East Arlington cyclists, probably, who has yet to give the new bike lanes a spin.

Apart from that, I’m just not out on the street as much. So it’s hard to do the kind of writing I value the most.

Too bad: there are issues with the new parking stalls, Eversource (the former Nstar aka Boston Edison) is delaying the completion of the project, and there’s still no resolution (as far as I know) to the whole unfortunate broken streetlamp thing.

Plenty to write about and maybe I’ll be able to at some point.

So I’m not calling it quits, but I am going to have to find a different mode. And of course there will be less to say about the Mass. Ave. Project as time goes by. In a year we will probably all be taking it for granted.

Thanks for traveling with me.


3 comments so far

  1. dr2chase on

    Regarding trolley tracks, that’s one of several reasons why I’ve become a devotee of the cult of the fat tire. 60mm in my case.

    Rough diagram here. It’s not perfect, and the rails are still slick, but it’s better than smaller.

    I know, no help to your hand now.

    • Adam Auster on

      Thanks, DR. I suppose my ideal commuting bike is a (1) fat tire (2) folding bicycle.

      (1) to protect me from my own inattentiveness to trolley tracks and (2) because the actual accommodations for bicycles on the Commuter Rail stink (even though bicycles are allowed).

      • dr2chase on

        (3) with snow tires and front dynamo hub.
        Except you can’t get those fat in 16″, so no Brompton for you.
        Can get 42mm in 20″, however.

        I’m always a little nervous about “you should do X for safety” because it can come out like “it’s your fault if you don’t do X”, but fat tires are a huge help on our crappy roads. I felt I had really accomplished something when I finally managed a snakebite flat.

        Daytime running lights have been studied and appear to do more (riding with cars) to enhance your safety than a bike helmet. Real experiment, 1800+ people, randomly chosen test/controls (nobody’s ever done a study that good for helmets — relative to this, helmet safety is faith-based). So I recommend DRLs, because once you get over the initial expense, they’re easy.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: