Cyclists Take Over Boston’s Streets, if Only For the Weekend

Filed in Health & Fitness, Local Events, Things To Do by on September 26, 2009 0 Comments

This weekend, bikers are no longer an anomaly on Boston’s roads as the Boston Cycling Celebration takes over the streets with races, rides, and even some mayoral pedal pushing.

The events officially kick off today, though with September’s Critical Mass fortuitously happening yesterday—the purposely street clogging ride to promote city cycling takes place on the last Friday of every month, at the height of rush hour for maximum exposure and nuisance—the weekend-long takeover really began last night. For that ride, several hundred cyclists took to their bikes, weaving from Copley Square to the harbor, through Faneuil Hall and Harvard Square, occasionally shouting the favored two part chant of, “Whose streets?” followed by the arrogant response, “Our streets!”

Bells, whoops, drums, and a concertina drowned out the honks and curses of infuriated motorists. Pedestrians’ responses were mixed, with some people cheering and waving from the sidewalk while others ducked their heads, scurried along crosswalks, and made displeased grunts and snide asides.Hub on Wheels

Beginning today, however, roads will be closed per city orders rather than by a few bikes lined in an intersection to cork traffic. Around City Hall Plaza, a series of races for different classes will be held throughout the day, culminating with the Mayor’s Cup at 5pm in which professional racers and Olympians will sprint around a short, 0.7 mile track for an hour and a half.

The race, though it may sound like a NASCAR event (Zoom, left turn, zoom, left turn, and so on) is more complicated than that. Called a criterium race, it consists of the 90 minute race, as well as mini races within that contest. When a bell is rung mid-lap, riders have the chance to sprint for the finish line, with the first rider across winning a cash prize. Yet these sprints are an immense drain on stamina, and opting to go for one can greatly impact a rider’s chance of winning the overall contest.

Then tomorrow, Mayor Menino’s signature bike event, Hub on Wheels, will roll through the city to raise money for Technology Goes Home, a training program that seeks to provide underprivileged children with the skills to succeed in the today’s world. Registration for the event is $45, with the proceeds going to the organization.

Founded in 2005, HOW also aims to advocate for a more bike-friendly Boston, a tough sell given the city’s uncountable one-ways and dangerous drivers. It’s hard to gauge how effective the ride really is given that traffic is diverted from the route, part of which includes Storrow Drive, a road on which bicycles are otherwise prohibited.

The ride really serves more as a showcase for the city’s efforts toward making Boston more bike friendly, a podium of sorts for the mayor’s policies, albeit a podium with wheels. The addition of bike lanes to Boston’s roads, in particular the goal of linking various greenways like the Esplanade to each other, do much more to encourage residents to ride rather than drive.

I do not intend to disparage HOW in the least; it is a great event for a good cause, and if even one person is convinced to ride to work, and even then for only one day out of the week, it will still be a success.

Come Monday, though, bikers beware: cars and trucks and busses will again dominate the streets, their reign complete with sudden right turns and, as always, the heedless opening of doors into bike lanes. Enjoy the bike festivities while you can, because despite what is said at Critical Mass, it’s really only once a year that Boston’s streets really do belong to cyclists. Any other time we are just borrowing, much to the ire of those so used to dominating the asphalt.

Photo courtesy Todd Van Hoosear

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