(Friday, April 25, 2008)
Boston is a tough city to commute into. Driving is a mess, unless you enjoy navigating horizontal rollercoasters at speeds ranging from 1mph up to the top speed of a yellow cab. Mass transit is available, but be prepared for a lengthy walk if you're not lucky enough to live/work near a stop.
Of course, anyone who's picked-up a tourist guide knows that Boston is a "walking city." But commuters know that Boston is also a "freezing city."
Ok, if it isn't obvious, I'm zeroing in on cycling - but I'd like to offer a variation. Last summer, I discovered the devastating efficiency and sheer thrill of crossing an hour of city in half the time, by using a bicycle in conjunction with mass transit.
The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority doesn't allow bikes on the T during peak commuter hours, but there are a few loopholes. Weekends are wide open, and folding bikes (folded-up) are permitted anytime.
Since my folder was out of commission, I took out my hybrid bike out on a couple Saturdays to try it. The point-to-point speed of a mixed-mode commute is a real eye-opener. Take the Red Line, where each stop is roughly a 20 minute walk (or 5-10 minute bike ride) apart. Starting halfway between Porter and Davis Squares, you can get to the far end of Charles Street (via the Charles/MGH stop) in about 20 minutes.
How good is that? On foot, that'd be 20 minutes just to walk to and from the stations at each end. By bike, skipping the T, it'd take about 40 minutes (it's only 6 miles, but the traffic's killer.) By car? About the same, and at rush hour even longer.
In winter, it's even more compelling. Less time outside, but all of it spent in motion, keeping you warm but never sweaty.
Boston is a tough town to cycle across, due to insane drivers, random street layouts, and inclement weather. As a result: very few bike commuters. But now that folding bikes are becoming lighter, cheaper, and more sturdy, I think we'll see more and more people take advantage of that loophole, and try a mixed-mode commute.
Especially since a gallon of gas cost more than a gallon of Gatorade.