Friday, September 20, 2013

Taquerias Tofu Huts Toy Stores and Tattoo Parlors

A business trip provides a chance to experience a new city's bike culture. Prior to printing my boarding pass for a quick visit to Boston, I went online to check out the opportunity to do some bike riding. I was delighted to see that Boston was celebrating the two-year anniversary of its bike share system: Hubway. Even more delightful was the discovery that a docking station was located across the street from my Brookline hotel at Coolidge Corner.

I had hoped I'd be able to bike from my hotel to my meeting at Boston College, but alas, I was near the western edge of the Hubway system and there would be no place to return the bike. So my plan was to get up early and just go for a little neighborhood jaunt.

Although DC has the nation's premier bike share program, I  confess I have yet to use a Capitol Bikeshare, or CaBi. After all, I have a bike...why pay to use a heavy tank, I figured. So my navigation of the Hubway bike share system was a first...and proved to be simple.

It was a perfect, cool, sunny morning for a ride. The station was fully stocked with bikes at 7 a.m. and I eyeballed the bikes, successfully selecting one that had the seat adjusted just right for my short legs. Yes, the 3-speed bike was heavy as a tank, but I was pleasantly surprised at how easily it rode, even going up hills. For the most part, I stayed in 3rd gear, downshifting only to 2nd on modest hills. That said, I managed to avoid some of the very steep up hills in the neighborhood. I did, however, go down one enormous hill - a bit nervous about how well the bike's brakes would function. Needless to say, I'm still alive, though the brakes could have been a bit tighter.

The bungee-corded basket held my backpack securely. The easy step-through design, seat, and handlebar placement were all quite comfy. All in all - I quickly became a bike share booster.

I didn't plan a route, preferring to just meander around the area, feeling like a kid out exploring. Side streets had little traffic in the early morning, and major streets all had bike lanes or sharrows. The Boston bike lanes are printed with regular exhortations for riders to wear helmets, "no excuses." Of course, I didn't bring a helmet with me, so I just had to be careful.

I found myself in the diverse Allston neighborhood, taking note of the businesses I rode by: taquerias, tofu huts, toy stores, and tattoo parlors. There were kosher delis, a Brazilian bakery, check cashing ripoff joints, and the usual excess of coffee choices.

I made note of other Hubway docking stations, because I wanted to plan ahead in the event that the one closest to my hotel was full when I returned. As evidence of the robust use of the system, when I brought my bike back (within the half hour's use that came with my $6 rental fee) "my" slot was filled, but two other slots were open. I thought it was pretty good that between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m. at least four people had used this one station.

After returning the bike, I walked to Peet's for my morning caffeine boost. A long line of people snaked around the corner and I thought, Peet's can't be that popular. Indeed, they were waiting for Verizon wireless to open, as the new iPhones were going on sale. I adore my iPhone, but it astonishes me that people would wait in line for hours just to get a new one. Clearly, as the photo below shows...everyone already has a smartphone!

I left Boston with a new interest in using bike share at home...if only they would expand Arlington's coverage a little farther west, as the closest station is over 2 miles from where I live. But I anticipate using the CaBi bikes for short trips around DC...or the closer-in sections of Arlington.

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