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Thursday, July 8, 2010

One If By Bike

A lot of folks you meet can tell you a story like "A friend of mine knew a guy who got doored riding down Mass Ave - he rolled under a bus and got crushed." That does happen, and is really sobering to consider, but I decided that I just had to take advantage of summer by riding to work. It may still turn out to be a bad idea, but so far it's working out great. Funny thing is - you notice SO much more stuff about the world when you travel through it at bike speed. This one's a photo of the Fellsmere pond in Malden. Looks great, doesn't it? I'll see if I can get some photos of the baby & mama ducks that hang out in it.

It's been a long time since I was able to ride my bike to work, but BU takes their alternate transport seriously - they even have a bike locker in the basement of our building so mah ride can sit safely with its cousins while I'm at work. The thing about riding is that it's 100% engaging. I mean, if you don't pay attention, you'll end up under a bus, like my friend said could happen. These pix are typical. I'm sure that at 2 am, Medford square is beautiful, but right now, I'm just not seeing it. I mean - just how am I supposed to do about those two vehicles on the left? Ride over them?
Now, I know what you're thinking: riding down the street shooting photos from a bike is exactly how you end up under a bus. But NOPE! I realized just after that I took the photo on the right that I might also need my hands for steering. I think this discovery will improve my odds.

Also in my favor is that after Tufts, you get the Cambridge bike paths to help you out. The bike paths for me are a sort of archeological history of people's attitudes towards bike riders. I'll back this up with photo evidence just as soon as I collect it all, but just you wait: there are at least 100 interesting words to be typed on the subject of bike lane symbols. This one's a first generation symbol, near Tufts - that's all I can report for now until I get more photo material, so hang in there.

You've got to hand it to Cambridge though - they are really out there trying to do what's never been done before: to create a bike-friendly American city. One of the innovations that I truly love is the speed table. This one's on Oxford St. between Leslie College and Harvard, and it accomplishes two exciting things: it creates better odds for you at these 50/50 intersections by annoying the drivers (AKA making them slow down), and brings a little bit of mountain bike joy to commuting. Seriously, you can get a little air off the backside of one of these if you hit it right. I know that the police man who was standing directing traffic on the first one of these I hit had to have been impressed.

Once you get to Harvard, you will undoubtedly notice that Harvard Yard sits right in the middle of everything else you might like to get to. Despite the fact that Yard looks like a bike path, I am told that it's really bad form to treat it as such, and that the HUPD will jump on you if you try. Being a basically very respectful rider, I have done the next best thing - using the most direct combination of crosswalks, sidewalks and wrong-way one way streets to get to the other side. Once there though, the ride down DeWolfe lets you out to the promised land: miles of bike paths on either side of the Charles. This pic looks east to the Western Ave bridge - most mornings, I've seen dozens of folks practicing rowing their one person skull boats. I don't know why I never think of the Charles when I think of places to put a boat in, but I've been reminded that it's a beautiful river.

After a few miles of green loveliness, I downshift and ride over the Silber bridge to BU. Towering over the brownstone in the front is the Photonics Center, where our research group is housed. It's an amazing facility - the whole concept of Photonics was new to me when I first arrived here, but it's simple on the surface. The vision that exists in this field is that researchers aim to create the types of discoveries in this century using light that inventors did in the last century using electronics. That means smaller everything, and that the physics of light - both the wave side and the quantum side are being expolited to the max. I can't wait to get to work each day to learn a little bit more - happily, my ride is faster than when I drive!

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