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Metro Boston - Should I commute/is it safe for me?

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Metro Boston - Should I commute/is it safe for me?

Old 03-01-10, 10:50 AM
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Metro Boston - Should I commute/is it safe for me?

Question regarding commuting via bike in Boston.

I moved to the area about 4 months ago. Due to logistical issues (my wife moved here - along with my bike - a year before I did) I haven't done any regular riding in almost a year and a half. Before that, I used to use my bike to commute to work (about 6 miles or so) back in a university town in Michigan. The first 5 miles of my commute were off campus where there were no bike lanes but were mainly country roads with low traffic (or quiet town streets) where the main hazards were the occasional (possibly drunk) frat boys buzzing me and yelling at how I needed to get on the sidewalk and the poorly paved shoulders.

I've been thinking about starting up biking to work again when the weather warms up a bit (getting tired of the green line), but was wondering about safety (something my wife is seriously concerned about) and also soliciting route advice.

I've been trying to get back in shape for commuting (if I can't keep up with traffic a little, I know I won't be safe) by hitting the stationary bike a couple of times a week in the gym, but I need to kick that up a notch as I know the traffic is much busier and faster than what I'm used to.

I live in Brookline (near Jamaica Pond) and will be going downtown (near Mass General) if anyone has other advice about how best to do it (or just needs to know how trafficked the areas are that I'll be heading through).

Thanks for all your help.
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Old 03-02-10, 08:27 AM
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So should I just try it once? I have to admit boston drivers scare me. I wish there was a version of mapquest for plotting out the best bike routes.
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Old 03-02-10, 01:17 PM
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While I live a couple hours away from Boston, I've been there enough times to tell you that it's one of the most bicycle friendly cities I've ever been to. Your safest route would be to head straight for Back Bay via the bike paths along River/Jamaica Way and take the bike paths along the Charles straight to your destination near MA General. Just stay visible, use hand signals, and use care when crossing intersections. Boston drivers are generally more aware of cyclists than most suburbanites. You'll find that avoiding joggers and inexperienced cyclists can be a bigger challenge than avoiding traffic!
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Old 03-02-10, 06:26 PM
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Hi himespau,

I'm a year round commuter from Kenmore Square to Norwood (14 miles) and I take a train back to Boston with my bike. Since I am a reverse commuter, my ride on the city streets is pleasant, especially early in the morning. I can vouch that live311 describes a pretty good route.

BTW, Iím from Michigan and picked up the cycling lifestyle in Ann Arbor. IMO, the most active commuters posting to Bike Forums are from Boston, Minneapolis and Toronto. Feel free to send me a PM if you have specific questions about cycling around here. Iíve even written a little compendium of road riding in the metro area.
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Old 03-03-10, 11:55 AM
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Go for it! I love to complain about Boston drivers -- who doesn't? (Quick story: My wife and I once climbed into a cab at Logan Airport. Traffic at the terminal was gridlocked. As we were waiting, a grizzled old guy walked up to the driver's door and said, without a trace of irony, "Just honk ya horn. That'll get'm movin." And there you have the Boston driver's mentality. )

Still, I do think that drivers do a pretty good job of sharing the road. The point is that although they may be aggressive, they are not clueless. And I think it helps to ride in a way that displays confidence and consideration for others.
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Old 03-03-10, 12:16 PM
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I cannot help you with a route, as I don't ride regularly in Boston.
But otherwise, I would say go for it. Like a poster above mentioned, I find Boston and greater Boston to be pretty bike friendly. While I try to avoid the congested areas, I do on occasion ride through the city and surrounding urban areas. While the roads aren't always in the best of conditions, I have less issues with drivers than I do in some more rural areas.

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Old 03-03-10, 08:54 PM
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Yes, do it. The more cyclists on the road, the better. Forget the Green Line! Biking is faster, and probably safer than the T.

Like Ortcutt wrote, Boston drivers are crazy but for the most part tolerable. Its joggers and pedestrians who are the most unpredictable.

You can probably ride the Jamaicaway to near Kenmore Sq, and pick up the Charles River path from there to get close to Mass General; or from Kenmore take Comm Ave, to Arlington, to Charles, to Beacon (all to go around the Public Garden), to Bowdion, to Cambridge St. Sounds more complicated than it is.
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Old 03-04-10, 07:27 PM
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LOL. I got tired of the Green Line Two years ago this April and have been bike commuting year round ever since. I used to do 6 miles each way from near Cleveland Circle/Reservoir to Lechemere but then our company moved to North Waltham, so now I do 20 miles round trip. I missed 2 days due to weather last Winter and none so far this year and I'll be turning 50 on Monday. So, yes, it's very, very doable. If you let me know your start and end points I can probably give you the best/safest route and the problem areas along the way.

Edit: I just saw that you did give your endpoints. I'll work you out a route.

2nd Edit: Ok, I just looked at the map, and I would do most of my old commute if I were you. I'm assuming you have to cross Route 9? Warren Street is a good, safe crossing with low traffic. I think starting out you would want safety over shortest mile-wise. To that end you should plan your best route to Coolidge Corner, which is Beacon & Harvard Streets. Beacon itself is pretty good with two lanes in each direction, some bike lanes, and lots of other cyclists. Don't be afraid to take the whole lane, the cars can move over pass you in the other lane, make sure you take at least 3 feet to avoid any opening doors from parallel-parked cars. When you get to Coolidge Corner there are some nice little back streets that get you safely over to the BU bridge. You'll see lots of other cyclists on these back streets. I would often do the last couple blocks right on Commonwealth Ave. When you get to the BU bridge you'll see how other cyclists cross (it's kind of an illegal left turn for cyclists, but we all do it by just stopping on the right with the light, rotate your bike 90 degrees and cross with the car traffic that has come around the "Kind-of" cloverleaf. You essentially get across the bridge and take a right and now it's 3 miles of trail with no cars to contend with, but you do have to watch out for other cyclists and pedestrians, but there are singletrack dirt tracks paralleling the paved path, so you have a lot of "lanes". When you get to Mass Ave *BE CAREFUL!* It looks like a simple wait for the "Walk" sign and cross onto the trail continuation, but what you will see is *LOTS* of un-helmetted college kids on bicycles running the red light for the first 3-5 seconds of red. It's kind of like, wait 1 second, look left, look right, look left again, go. There is no such thing as pedestrian right-of-way at this intersection. You can then just continue all the way on the path, around the fountain at Cambridgeside Galleria and ride the sidewalk in front of the Museum back across the River and you'll be right by MGH. This might be slightly longer than other routes but I think you'll find it very relaxing in that you have 3 full miles with no cars to contend with. You can experiment with the Boston side of Charles River, but on an every day basis, I always found the Cambridge side more convenient, more wide, and you get a great view of the Boston Skyline from that side.

Last edited by RaleighComp; 03-04-10 at 08:07 PM.
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Old 03-07-10, 04:57 AM
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Boston is a great city to bike in. There has been a lot of emphasis on bicycle friendly routs with the city reconstruction. Boston drivers are no different than any other city, don't let the hype on M******* drivers sway you away from biking the city. Its all bull anyway
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Old 03-08-10, 08:40 AM
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Hey folks. Thanks for all the advice. I kind of spaced after posting and forgot to check back until today. Wish I would have seen the replies sooner so I could have tried some out this lovely weekend rather than spending it all inside on housework like I did. I'll definitely have to check those routes out soon and hopefully save some time from the tedious green line. Thanks again.
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Old 03-09-10, 11:38 AM
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Boston has published a bicycle map with various routes indicated on it You can pick one up for free at the Mass. Visitor Center on the Common, or perhaps call the bicycle coordinator at city hall and ask for a copy, orwhere to find a copy. The Mass bicycle coalition has also published a map that should be available at bicycle shops, try the Ferris Wheel or Bikes Not Bombs in JP. There is also a path parallel to the Rail from Forest Hills to Ruggles. Another hint for Boston cycling - put the biggest toughest tire you can fit with fenders. The streets are broken up and dirty.
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Old 03-09-10, 12:48 PM
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green line?
comm ave?
straight line?
no hills?
everyone else you know bike commuting?

try a quiet Sunday morning to start
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Old 03-10-10, 11:55 AM
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@ironwood - Thanks. I didn't know about the map, but will have to look for one. Right now I'm riding a bike I got off Craigslist that was a mountain bike that someone modified by throwing drop-in bars on it, fenders, and 26x1.25 road tires. Hopefully that'll last through the bumps. It made it through a year of michigan roads which have a lot more potholes than what I see out here, but it's getting to be about time to think about replacing the tires.

@rumrunn6 - unfortunately, I don't know anyone else bike commuting, which is why I asked here, but yeah, weekend mornings are definitely the place to start trying out routes.

Last edited by himespau; 03-10-10 at 12:18 PM. Reason: had more thoughts to add
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Old 03-10-10, 12:22 PM
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@all - I've also tried playing with the new bike directions feature in google maps, so I'll have to see what looks the best. The route they suggest so far has me going up to the south side of the river and following that in (though it lists heading up to commonwealth as an alternative). Anybody have experience either of those routes to say that riding on the south side of the river or commonwealth is easy/not fun?

@RaleighComp - I can modify the google directions to sort of do your way. I specifically live at the corner of Pond and 9/Washington in Brookline, and I see a lot of people crossing right there to head up brookline ave, so I might just do what they do.
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Old 03-10-10, 12:37 PM
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MTB w/ slicks; fenders & drops ... sounds sweet! post yer pics!
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Old 03-10-10, 01:06 PM
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Well here's a side view from back when I still had a mirror on it.

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Old 03-10-10, 02:15 PM
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well alrighty then. ROCK ON!
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Old 03-10-10, 06:00 PM
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my usual route is here: https://www.mapmyride.com/ride/united...26214711632776.

Just pick it up at Jamaica Pond and continue on from there. I work at MIT, just across the river from Mass General and so you could just head east on Comm Ave instead of taking the Mass Ave bridge across the Charles River. Or, you could ride to the river and get on a very nice bike path that will take you to the Longfellow Bridge, from which you can see Mass General nicely.

good luck! you can do it!!
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Old 03-10-10, 06:09 PM
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Looks like you have a nice commuter bike there... if you don't have a mirror you will probably want one. I always prefer to have a mirror when riding on the road.
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Old 03-10-10, 06:40 PM
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bike map

you can see the map on the following site https://www.cityofboston.gov/bikes/ .
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Old 03-10-10, 08:12 PM
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Originally Posted by ironwood
you can see the map on the following site https://www.cityofboston.gov/bikes/ .
and here's the Google Maps version of the same. not as detailed/accurate as the city of boston version, but more usable imho: https://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&hq=&...&z=12&lci=bike
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