The Language of Biking

Thanks to everyone who donate to my Bikes Not Bombs ride. We raised much more than last year–over $100,000 dollars after pledges come in. It was a hot day–97 degrees–by the time I rolled back into the city via Blue Hills Ave in Dorchester, but it was a fun ride nonetheless.


At the beginning of each leg, we formed a fairly cohesive group, and I was reminded how important communication is when riding like this. Being primarily a commuter cyclist, I don’t often bike with others on longer rides and I had forgotten the many hand signals and rules of etiquette that groups of riders use in order to function as a safe and efficient units.

While biking in the city, I’m usually just looking out for myself and I don’t communicate as much as I probably should with those with whom I share the road. Occasionally I manage a half-hearted hand signal to indicate a turn or to acknowledge someone who has stopped let me pass; more often I just dole out dirty looks to drivers who cut me off or edge too close.

But riding in a group of 20 or more cyclists required more deliberate communication, and I enjoyed picking up the finer points of the language as we went along. Often hand signals were passed back to make others aware of potholes to avoid or upcoming stop lights. At other times, we created a verbal form of vision, a collaborative seeing that kept us aware what was happening behind use without having to look.  Those at end of pack (which was usually me) would tell the rest of the group a car was coming from behind by yelling “Car back,” which then would be repeated by those ahead until it was passed up to the front of the group.

As the ride went on, the group would attenuate and break into smaller units, but good communication remained important even when riding with just one other person.

Now that I’ve brushed up on this biking lingo, I’m trying to be better about communicating as I ride, whether I’m riding in a group or just trying to make my way to work. I figure the more I can stay on the same page with others around me on the rode, the safer we’ll all be.


Bikes Not Bombs Fundraising Ride

I'm excited to be participating in the 21st Annual Bikes Not Bombs (BNB) Bike-A-Thon on June 8th, riding 62 miles to raise money for this fine organization that promotes biking for transportation and community development.

BNB is doing many things right: recycling donated bikes, training city kids to repair bikes, sending bikes to developing countries and fighting to make the city more bike-friendly. What's more, BNB has become the local bike shop that go to when I need repairs.

Biking may not be the answer to all the worlds problems, but it is an increasingly important lifestyle choice that allows many of us to get where we need to go and to contribute to the health of our communities and the environment.

I'm looking for people to contributing to BNB's work by supporting my ride. If you're able to contribute something, I would really appreciate it.

You can donate securely online at:

Or, if you are local and want to drop it off at my house, or don't mind mailing it, your gift will go farther as a check or cash (BNB pays a 7.35% processing fee for each online donation). Please make the check out to "Bikes Not Bombs", put "Tim Lindgren BAT08" in the memo line, and mail it to me at the address below (or put in my mailbox). Please send me an email to let me know if you are making a donation this way so I can record it properly.

Please make your donations before June 1st.

If you are interested in joining me on the ride (the more the merrier!), there are several distances to choose from: 15, 25, and 62 miles. You can also come by and enjoy the Green Roots Festival! See the Bikes Not Bombs website for more info about the organization and the events on June 8th:

Please forward this email to others whom you think would be interested in supporting Bikes Not Bombs.

Thanks for your support!


My Life with Squirrels

Today Cathy sent me alink to this amazing photo of an albino squirrel near Jamaica pond taken by cottenmanifesto and posted at Loving Nature While Living in the City. Apparently its existence dominated the lunch conversation at her work today.

The life of a squirrel can be a precarious one, as I witnessed earlier this evening when I walked out of my office and was met by a red-tailed hawk standing on the sidewalk, talons firmly around a squirrel it had just killed. After a few moments, it flew away, leaving a small pool of blood on the concrete where it has been standing.

I didn't realize until reading Kevin's blog this week that bikes can also present a fatal hazard to squirrels, as this photo demonstrates:

These incidents reminded me of the rather conflicted relationship I've had with squirrels over the years. I got to know them quite intimately when I llved in Allston, or more precisely, when we lived together in Allson, since they occupied the walls and attic space around my room most of the time I was there. It wasn't an amicable relationship, I'm afraid; they kept me up at night, gnawned on wires, and chewed through my belongings stored in the attic, so finally I had to begin trapping them so that pest control could pick them up. Ultimately, it was the landlord's fault since he wouldn't fix all the holes in the house, and I resented being forced into this antagonistic relationship with animals that under normal circumstances I'm confident I could get along with quite well.

But these are the lessons we learn, living together in the city, and I hope to have more pleasant encounters with my neighbor squirrels in the future.

JP Neighborhood Summit

Yesterday I attend a JP community summit at English High (the oldest public high school in the US) sponsored by the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood development corporation, an event which helped give me a better sense of what's going in the larger JP community. I've been getting to know my immediate Stonybrook neighborhood during the last year by attending neighborhood association meetings and getting to know my next-door neighbors. But I was amazed to learn of the opportunities to get involved in JP at almost any scale, from street to neighborhood to city and beyond.

There is a long history of grass-roots activism here that has helped revitalize the JP into a healthy urban neighborhood, but this success has also brought some of the problems typical of gentrification–many of the people who worked hard to improve JP now can't afford to live here and the diversity that many people value is changing as new people move in. This summit was meant to help community members share ideas about how to make JP an equitable place even as it continues to develop and change.

As one of these newcomers, it's easy for me to feel like I'm part of the problem–just another bearded white guy buying a condo in a newly converted building–but the summit helped me see that I can also be part of the solution if I'm willing to understand how JP got to be the way it is and then get involved to do my part in keeping it healthy. I still have a lot to learn, but I feel lucky to be in a place that seems to be a good teacher.

Missing the Pura Vida


This morning I’m back at JP Licks trying to get back into the dissertation groove, but since I have just a few minutes left before my battery goes dead, I’m going to take moment to post on my trip to Costa Rica. In typical fashion, I’ve been waiting to write a longer description of the week, to capture the essence of the experience in vivid description and poinant reflection, but all this does is prevent me from posting anything until it all has lost it’s sense of timeliness.

So I’ll just throw up a quick note here saying that it was a great week, and now it all seems a long ways away after several days of biking in cold rain. For most of the week the eight of us traveling together were in the small town of Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast, tucked away near the border of Panama. We spent our time surfing, swimming, taking hikes the rain forest, and eating great food. Here’s a photo gallery to give you a sampler of the week until I have time to write more.

Condo Cameo

At the Stoneybrook Neighborhood Association meeting in December, I met someone who used to live in the building next door to me and through our conversation discovered a bit more about the history of both buildings. Fifteen years ago when he bought the place, it had reputation as a drug house and had been condemned by the city. Just as Frank began to rehab it, a local film-maker asked if he could use it to shoot a scene film he was making. Frank had already begin cleaning up the place when they asked if they could add some the graffiti to portray the blight of the main character’s neighborhood of Dorchester.

In 1997, the file Squeeze came out and in one of the first scenes, the three friends walk past my place and onto the porch of the building next door, where they stand talking with my porch in the background. The porch was remodeled recently, so looks a bit different, but the tan shingles are very recognizable.

For a low-budget film, it’s quite well done, though difficult to watch with it’s gritty portrayal of gang violence and urban social decay. Finding out how my place became the backdrop to the film also helps me appreciate how much work my neighbors put into the street before I arrived.

In Memoriam: Kurt Hanson

This morning Andrew sent me an email with no subject line or content except a link to following Chicago Sun Times report:

Man fatally struck by Metra train identified

April 11, 2008

WHEATON — A male pedestrian who was fatally struck by a Metra train in west suburban Wheaton Thursday afternoon has been identified.

Killed was Kurt Hanson, an adult of an unidentified address, according to a spokesman for the DuPage County Coroner’s office. Hanson was pronounced dead on the scene at 1:01 p.m. Thursday at the Union Pacific railroad tracks near Chase Avenue in Wheaton, according to the spokesman.

The man identified by the coroner’s office as Hanson was struck by a train about 12:30 p.m. at Chase Street on the Union Pacific Railroad, according to Wheaton Police Deputy Chief Tom Meloni.

“At this point, it remains under investigation whether or not his death was accidental,” Meloni said Thursday.

A westbound Metra train struck the man, according to a Wheaton police release.

Two westbound Metra trains were delayed after a body was found on the tracks near west suburban Wheaton, according to Metra spokesman Tom Miller.

The Metra is the commuter train that we used to ride into Chicago from Wheaton College when we were students there, and Kurt was Andrew’s high school friend who hang out with us fairly often because he lived in the area. He became a fixture in our group, the guys who lived together our senior year, even after we went our separate ways and only gathered for the occasional reunion.

kurtKurt had a way of floating in and out of our lives, showing up unexpectedly to just hang out, whether in our dorm rooms, in my apartment in Chicago after graduating, at Andrew’s 30th birthday in New Haven. Last time I hung out was in Chicago about a year and a half ago when we went to Moody’s for dinner and Heartland Cafe, near where I used to live in Roger’s park.

Though I didn’t know Kurt well, it seemed that his life often was difficult, burdened as he was with mental illness. We feared we  might hear news like this someday, but he had a remarkable resliency that gave us hope that he would always reappear. I’m haunted by seeing his name and his cause of death stated in such a distanced, impersonal tone, and I now realize that I’ve gotten used to wondering, however subconsiously, when Kurt would drift in to my life again. Tragically, this time he floated too far from us, and now that he won’t be able to show up again, I am diminished,

Sweet Finnish Closed

Yesterday I was rode to my regular dissertation coffee shop, Sweet Finnish, on Centre St., only to see that it wasn't opened yet. In the interest of time, I decided to continue down to JP Licks, my other writing spot. Just I was leaving, one of the Sweet Finnish regulars came in and informed me that it had suddenly gone out of business.

It's always sad to see a good coffee shop go down, especially when it had become part of my writing routine. I liked the quiet, Scandinavian feel to it, with the smells of the bakery in background. JP LIcks is a great place as well, but I'll miss having the chance to enjoy both.

DIY Slow Down Sign


The other day this sign appeared just a few houses down the street in response to the cars that regularly barrel down Rossmore as they cut through to Washington. This has been a source of concern and complaint for several neighbors, and someone apparently was driven to take matters into his or her own hands. It’s not uncommon to see the “Slow Down Boston” signs provided by the city in yards, but I like the defiance and righteous indignation in this hand-made sign. Hard to say if it wil have any effect, but I’d like to think that it will cause a few drivers to pause a least a few moments before hitting the accelerator.