Guest blogger and musician Ben Sollee is contributing a series of articles from the road about his Ditch the Van tour. He's traveling by bike, unsupported, throughout New England.
Where do I belong? Where do I think I belong? Where do the drivers think I belong? Those three questions swirled around in my head today as we improvised our route out of Boston through the sprawl. There was very little in the way a dedicated bicycle infrastructure and the cars were not as generous with the road as we had hoped. Our best option was to stay hyper alert and try to represent our road rights.
Day 4: Boston, MA to Newburyport, MA: 44 miles
One of the positives of the ride out was all the trafﬁc circles. These dynamic intersections can be intimidating to newer urban cyclists, but they are actually pretty rider friendly. In a typical intersection we have to cut across trafﬁc and there’s a always a danger of someone not seeing us or trying to sneak around us as we wait for a safe opportunity. With the round-abouts, we enter in a ﬂuid motion and are very visible to the drivers coming around the circle as well as those behind us. And, most importantly, we never have to cross over them because all the turns are to the right.
Now, to Boston’s credit, they did have bicycle-triggered lights at almost every major intersection. It was a little spot on the pavement right in front, middle of the lane that could sense the weight and size of our machines. These were pretty helpful at times.
The trickiest infrastructure transitions for us were the spots where dedicated bicycle paths met back up with the roads. Motorists always seemed surprised when we would come from what looked like the sidewalk to the road. In those places some type of bright signage could go along way to letting trafﬁc know that we belong there.
Lastly, I want to take a sec to chat about blind turns. We love our country roads but damn those sharp curves in tree-lined areas are SO dangerous. While I’d love to see a pedestrian way or bike lanes in those speciﬁc spots, that’s not likely to happen for a while. The issue is that motorists want so badly to get around us that they are willing to take a chance passing in the opposing lane. When the oncoming car inevitably comes barreling around the corner the driver corrects by heading straight for us. It was so bad today that we had to make ourselves impossible to pass by taking the entire lane all the way to the center lane. This is also dangerous but it helps to avoid the kind of high speed, head-on collision that we’d all like to avoid.
Great infrastructure is good for business I say. Not just for us commercial cyclists but also for the businesses along the road way.
Follow the whole series here.