Go buy a bike
Oct 24, 2007

Treehugger just posted a quote about the relative efficiencies of various modes of transportation. Basically, biking is the most efficient way for you to get around. Walking comes in 2nd, then trains, then cars. This is hardly news for anyone who pays attention to such things, but I think it's still worth pointing out. Boston is America's walking city, and it's true that this city is very friendly to walking. Sure it may be a bit of a hike from the North End to Kenmore Square, but it's certainly within the realm of possibility, and the more you do it the easier it will be. Really, unless you're making a delivery there's very little reason not to walk everywhere in Boston. Even when I was living in Central Square I'd often make the walk across the river into Boston to go to the Boston Public Library. But really, what we should be is America's biking city (currently Sparta, Wisconsin is the Bicycle Capital of America; I say we should take that title). Not only is biking more efficient than walking, but it's much faster as well. The walk from here in Somerville to Boston is a little more than I'd want to undertake on a regular basis (though I've done it once or twice). With a bike, however, Boston suddenly become mere minutes away. It takes me about 30 minutes to bike at a fairly leasurely pace from Porter Square to the Broadway Red Line stop in Southie. According to the MBTA it takes the Red Line 20 minutes to make the same trip, and that's if the T's being friendly that day. On average, I'd say biking that route is as fast or faster than taking the T. To drive that same route, according to Google maps, would also take 20 minutes, though that doesn't account for traffic (and Google says it could take up to 30 minutes with traffic, though on some days it would certainly take even longer). It also doesn't take into account the amount of time it takes to find parking. Some days it could take just as long to find parking as to drive there. So not only is biking more efficient, it is easily just as fast and often faster than taking the T or even driving. When you're talking about the shorter distances actually within Boston (say from the South End to the Financial District or Fenway to Copley Square) the advantages of biking will just be magnified. With those shorter distances the small amount of time it takes for you to walk to the T station and wait for the train, or to walk to your car and then deal with traffic, become even more significant. With a bike, you just get on and go and can, for the most part, ignore traffic. Biking is cheaper too. I got my bike for $10 off of Craigslist. It was in good enough condition when I bought it, though not perfect. For $20 I probably could have gotten a bike that was in perfect condition. But even if I had gone and bought a brand new, top of the line bike, I could have gotten one for as little as $1500, and most people would be more than happy with a $300 or less bike. Once you make that initial investment for the bike, helmet, bike lock, and maybe saddle bags to carry your stuff and some lights for biking at night you've still spent very little money. And when biking you don't have to worry about paying for parking or paying for T fare. Even at longer distances, biking can make sense. When Jessi was working in Lexington she could still bike to work. The Minuteman Bikeway goes from right here in Somerville straight to Lexington and beyond. It's about an 8 mile ride from here to Lexington, which takes 30-45 minutes depending on your speed. Public transportation requires you to take the T and then transfer to a bus which actually takes longer than biking. So she could leave later and still get to work on time all while getting some exercise. Really, if you ask me, biking is the ideal form of transportation for Boston, or most cities for that matter. Obviously it won't work so well for everyone, but it does for a whole lot of people who probably never even considered it. The only drawback to biking is the weather. Biking isn't so much fun in the winter. But even if you take the T or drive in the winter and bike the rest of the year you're still going to be saving a ton of money and getting a lot more exercise all at the same time. For me, my bike is my favored form of transport. Weather permitting, I'll use it over any other method. Of course I do have a bit of an advantage in that I do all my own work on it which means I can keep it in tip top condition for no cost other than the occasional replacement parts. But if you want to keep your bike in good condition without getting your hands dirty and without spending a fortune on over-priced maintenance, I highly recommend you take it to Quad Bikes. They're a non-profit bike shop that services the Harvard Community and does all the work on the Harvard Police Departments bike fleet. I also happen to volunteer there in my free time, which is something else I'd recommend to people interested in bikes. Their volunteer program is great, basically they just teach how to work on bikes by having you work on bikes. After a few weeks there you'll be competent and confident enough to do all the basic work on your own bike, and you'll have a great resource in the people who work there to help you with the more complex stuff. Plus, they have all the tools so you don't need to buy your own. And they rescue and refurbish old bikes so you can get a great deal on a perfectly serviceable bike. Or even, if you wanted, get a bike custom built for you. As an additional benefit, I find that getting my hands dirty and actually producing tangible results (unlike web development, which offers it's own rewards to be sure) is extremely satisfying. It's a great way to relax, unwind, and still get something productive done.
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