Friday, October 19, 2012

Bike Jax Visits Boston

Hello, it's Koula here.  I love the Northeast, and my guy and I have friends and family scattered around Boston, so we visit every chance we get.  This time, we flew in and spent 7 days with friends near Brighton. We mostly took the bus and train to wherever we needed to go, aside from one short bike ride and couple of car rides. In this post, I'll share my thoughts on traveling around Boston, and how I think some of their transportation solutions would benefit Jacksonville.
The T.
During this visit to Boston, taking the bus and train were by far the easiest ways to get from the 'burbs into the city. The freedom I feel in riding my bike for transportation is similar to the freedom I felt in Boston upon using a well thought-out public transit system. In a nutshell, it felt- dare I say- luxurious to be able to hop on a bus or the train, and not have to worry about where to park a car, or how much said parking was going to cost. I'm also a chronic worrier when parking a bike, as I've been a victim of bike theft much like everyone else who rides. I didn't really want to mess with taking my friend's bike into the city and risk losing it to theft, so riding the bus and train ended up being great. We were able to hop onto a bus a few houses away from our friends' place into the city, and could walk or transfer to the train to get to our destination.

I absolutely had to visit two places while in Boston. The ICA is by far one of my favorite art museums. It was refreshing to see a giant installation by Swoon and some smaller pieces in the gallery and out on the town by twin street artists, Os Gemeos. Love seeing street art being appreciated!
Os Gemeos
Harris Cyclery was also a must-visit place; I'd learned about Harris five or so years ago while researching bicycle maintenance articles published by the one and only Sheldon Brown. I had no idea what exactly to expect, but I knew I'd see some interesting bikes and bike accessories. The bike ride to the shop was a quick three miles from my friend's house, and the headwind definitely gave Chi-town a run for its money. The sales people and bike techs were super friendly and not even a hair condescending, an attitude that I've come to accept as being fairly typical at bike shops. This shop stocks so many quality bikes and accessories, and I definitely felt like a kid in a toy store! Harris sells a ton of Rivendell bikes- more than anyone except for Rivendell themselves- and it was really cool to see so many of their frames in person for the first time. I'd been eyeballing an Atlantis bike for quite awhile, and they had one in stock that was small enough for me, so I took it on a test ride. A friend asked if Riv. bikes were worth the hype-- they definitely are all that!
Two Pashleys with curved twin tubes
Rivendell frames, and the Atlantis' headbadge
What intrigues me about Boston is the fact that they went from being a pretty terrible city for bicycling, to being one of the best in the nation in the past five years. Knowing this, I also observed that a majority of cyclists appeared to be obeying traffic rules, and I'd love to see the same thing happen here in Jacksonville.
Green bike lanes, and well-used bike parking

One of the many well-used bike corrals around town
One thing I really wanted to do on this trip was to rent a Hubway bike to get around at least a couple of times, but I didn't get to do this. Bike Jax has been in discussions regarding implementing a bikeshare system in Jacksonville, and I mainly wanted to try out bikeshare in another city first. Hubway has been around since July 2011, and immediately after launch, use of the Hubway bicycles exceeded expectations. More stations are built each year, and membership and usage continues to increase, as Hubway is wedging its way into being a viable transportation option in the city.  I noticed alot of people out and about on them; if I stood at a street corner in Back Bay for five minutes, I might see a dozen or more whiz by.  My unfamiliarity of the Metro Boston area and my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants travel planning made it difficult to make plans around the Hubway stations in such a way as to make the Hubway bike a more convenient mode of transportation over the bus or T. Next time I'm in Boston, I will definitely use a Hubway bike.

I'm hoping Jacksonville can integrate painted bike lanes, bike boxes, bike corrals, and bike share into our public transportation plans in the future. The key with Jacksonville right now is to make our public transit connected, and I think these bicycling-related solutions can help make that happen.


Hayley Zeller said...

Nice feature, thanks for sharing, Koula!

Anonymous said...

These traveling blog posts of yours, I believe, could be so incredibly useful when presenting arguments to the Jacksonville City Council. An excellent and thorough show-and-tell like way to say, "Hey, if they can do it, so can we." This is fantastic! - Jenny K.