Mike Ross’ Excellent Biking Adventure

1210771195Mayor Tom Menino isn’t the only politician in the city who’s excited for Bay State Bike Week. Our MySpace friend and Boston City Councilor Mike Ross is also participating by leaving his car in the garage and commuting by bike from Mission Hill to City Hall. He gave us his thoughts on how many hazards bikers face, the unforeseen issues that came up, and tricks to keep your suit looking nice in your backpack.

It’s my first day of bike week. This ain’t my first bike rodeo, but it’s been a while since I’ve tested our roadways. As a salute to those who ride in sleet, rain, and snow, I figured it was time to saddle up.

I am reminded that bike commuting is different from driving before I even leave the house. Automobile maintenance is not something I regularly do prior to leaving in the morning, but I have to pump the tires on my bike before taking off.

Another difference becomes evident when my phone rings while I’m riding. Normally, I would take the call while driving to work (yes, I am against legislation that prohibits that). Not so easy while I’m on a bike. I have to finish the call before continuing my commute.

One big problem is that I can’t stop at Mike’s Donuts for my morning coffee. I must first pedal five miles, then, and only then, do I get my first cup. Can you do coffee in a water bottle? Maybe, I’ll try that out tomorrow.

On my ride in to City Hall through the South End and Chinatown, and down Congress Street, I start noticing all the hazards that line my route. Double parked cars are a problem, but the double-parked loading trucks are worse.

Road conditions are also an issue. Smooth pavement is easier to navigate than streets that are riddled with potholes. I reported a few of the big ones.

One thing I didn’t consider when I started were jay-walking pedestrians. There is a certain game of chicken they play that I don’t like very much—especially before I’ve had my coffee.

I’ve noticed another strange phenomenon—friends, colleagues, and family don’t seem to recognize me on the bike. I stopped shouting and waving at the startled people who I know and have started ignoring them—even relishing the anonymity to some extent. It’s like having an alter-ego.

Once safely inside my office, I take my somewhat rumpled suit and tie out of my backpack and change. I learned a nifty little trick—turn the suit jacket inside out before folding it reduces the wrinkles.

On Tuesday, I rode down Huntington Avenue through Copley and up Beacon Hill. Along the way I notice two sewer grates whose slats are set parallel to the road—not horizontal as they should be. This could kill someone, and it infuriates me that the person in charge of placing the grate wouldn’t realize this.

Commuting by bike has reminded me we have more work to do to make our streets safer for bikes. There’s something amazing about the experience that makes all the challenges worth it. Of course I say this on a beautiful seventy degree day. Thankfully, Bike Week falls in the spring.


A Biking to Work Primer [Bostonista]