To Ride in a Real City!

Any true CarFreeBrad fan can tell you that I’ve spent the last year in Worcester and the most recent 6 weeks in Sweden/Denmark but the newest chapter in my life has inspired a whole new feeling in me.  I’ve been commuting back to Boston for the past week which has been an experience in itself but so far rather pleasant.

Each day I’m in Boston I’m reminded of what it’s like to bike in a “real” city.  I’m not trying to knock Worcester but it just kind of happens that way sometimes.  Worcester a great little city but no one can deny the grand canyon size gap between Boston and Worcester.  After so many years of living and working all over Boston, I feel like I missed a golden opportunity.

I could have been biking all over this city for years.  The funny part is that during triathlon  and other training sessions I would go out of my way to avoid the city.  When you are looking for a place with well maintained roads and 4 hours of continuous riding Boston is not ideal.  Now that I have discovered this CarFree lifestyle and acquired a taste for urban bike riding, I can’t help but think back to all the time I wasted and frustration I caused myself driving around the city.  Between visiting clients and trying to find parking I probably missed 8 months of productive time (I just picked this number arbitrarily but it feels right).

Watching everyone navigate Boston each day on foot, segway, razor scooter, bike, car and truck is intriguing to me in a  number of ways.  First is the contrast to watching Europeans  around Sweden and Denmark navigate by bike where you are just as likely to see a 70-year-old grandmother as you are to see a 20 something cruising down the street just getting from “A” to “B”.  There are all walks of life represented on the bike ways not to mention the flocks of tourists who rent bikes to swerve and wobble their way throughout the city.  Second, is the air of angry competition that is thick on the streets of Boston.  I’m not talking about the financiers or power-brokers marching the sidewalks but the sense that you are stepping into the ring each time you step off the curb.  As soon as you enter the commuting octagon that is the street, it’s every man for himself.  Much like watching an MMA fight, if you don’t know the rules (written and unwritten) and techniques involved, all you see is a vicious street fight.

Surprisingly enough, it is this energy and sense of competition that continues to draw me to biking the streets of Boston.  In Worcester a skilled bike rider can relax after a while and enjoy the ride but Boston doesn’t allow for that.  There is a level of venom and visceral anger that demands 100% attention at all times.

I must point out that there are plenty of ways and areas to leisurely ride your bike around Boston and enjoy the city as long as you stick to the paths, side streets and know to walk your bike when necessary.  I’m addressing those that choose to commute at peak hours, downtown on the streets in the trenches.  Down there it’s a whole different ball game.

2 responses to “To Ride in a Real City!”

  1. What I noticed in Sweden and Denmark is that there were different “roads” designated for cars and separate ones reserved for bikes. I think this was the reason that there is less issues between drivers and riders. However some places like Christiania (in Denmark) don’t allow cars, bikes, or running; its a walking only city.


  2. Hey Brad, You should come visit DC and observe the biking culture here. Biking is extremely popular to say the least. They have a rapidly growing bike share program and many roads have bike lanes. It is a cultural thing, if you bike you’re in some sort of unofficial club, and if you don’t, well, you’re not. I’m having my own car-free summer, but have instead adopted a pedestrian/public transit lifestyle, and I learned quickly that when crossing the street you need to look both ways for not only cars and buses, but also bikes!


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