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.

bnb_ride_2008

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.

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Fixed Gear and Fixed Rate

bikeandcondo

In the space of two hours on Friday afternoon, I closed on a condo in Jamaica Plain and picked up a fixed gear bike at Ace Wheelworks in Somerville. Sorry to drop this news on you without any run-up, but that’s just the way it has to be. I can’t really explain why I haven’t written about any of this all summer, but it was apparently too much to both blog about major life decisions and make them at the same time.

Buying this condo happened rather quickly–I got my real estate agent on June 21 and I closed on August 24th–so I haven’t had time for much else besides work, dissertation, and a bit of summer fun here and there. I realized during this process that I’ve been unconciously cultivating an image of myself as a rootless nomad, about to pick up and move at any moment, when in fact there’s little evidence for this–after all, I lived in my place in Allston for 7 years. But it was a frame of mind that I think grew from the kind of transient neighborhood Allston was and from my ongoing ambivalence about being in Boston.

But now I’m settling in, at least for the time being, and it feels good. I’m excited about my little corner of JP with it’s Minton Stables community garden and Franklin Franklin just a short walk in either direction. I’m excited about the chance to learn from being in a vibrant urban neighborhood, and trying a new relationship to place.

I closed on Friday and moved in on Saturday, which happened to be the hottest day of summer. In a true test of friendship, Cathy, Nirmal, Cheryl, Andy, Alan all showed up to give me a hand, and we managed to sweat our way through the move in an efficient three and half hours. Thanks everyone–it was a great way to start things off.

I’m also beginning a new relationship with my bike–a fixed gear Redline 9-2-5 –which has been a joy to ride so far. I’m still getting used to the new connection we have, in particular the obligation to keep peddling–all the time–but it’s clearly the best way to commute every day in all weather without the hassles of unnecessary maintenance.

I’m finding that a bit of fixity can be a good thing, whether it be in mortgages or gears, and I’m glad to have the chance to experience both.

Views from the New Bike Route: Chestnut Hill Reservoir

The Chestnut Hill Reservoir is the final body of water that I reach just before arriving at BC, about 20-25 minutes after I leave home. After I cross a footbridge spanning the D Line tracks and ride down a small hill, the street opens up to a expansive view of the Reservoir just before I left onto Beacon. This photo offers a glimpse of downtown Boston at dusk.

Memorial for a Downed Cyclist

While riding over the I-90 footbridge this weekend, I came across a memorial for Kirsten Malone, a young woman killed on Saturday when she was struck by a car, apparently in the area where the down ramp meets the frontage road–not the safest interchange for bikers. I assume the bike painted white and chained to nearby telephone pole was installed in her honor.

Kirsten Malone, 29; artist, ‘The Faux’ singer, keyboardist (Boston Globe)