Maybe it’s my age. There’s no way I’d bike in heavy traffic without a helmet and casually meander out of my bike lane into one filled with cars. Oops, a horn on my tail, sorry mister, I’ll casually wander back. I look at those kids (and kids they are) and shake my head. Their parents would plotz if they saw them. If any of you are somewhat familiar with the Mass Ave Bridge or Beacon Street or Comm Ave you’d know what I’m talking about. Boston drivers are a mess unto themselves. Put a 20 year old on a bike cruising in from of them and that cycler is lucky he or she doesn’t go flying ass over teakettle. Maybe some do; I don’t know the injury rate – death rate – of those cyclers on city streets. I know that 35+ years ago my husband was one of those casualties, landing him in the hospital with a concussion and lots of cuts and bruises. He was lucky; except for about 5 years later when he needed a tumor removed near his brain stem which docs think may have been caused by head trauma. He doesn’t ride bikes anymore and I only ride safe greenways that are far away from speeding traffic.
It seems that everyone on Boston streets is a dare devil, even in the evenings. When I walk my dog at 9pm there are kids on bikes, also no helmets, no lights and no regard for traffic laws. Hit me if you dare. Or maybe they think they’re invincible. Even at 20 I had a healthy respect for safety and my mortality. At my university in Pittsburgh I walked everywhere, maybe because of all the hills but also because it just felt safer. This city is teeming with colleges and thousands of students, even in the summer. I can’t imagine what it’s like during the school year. Maybe they keep the hospital row ERs in business. Drive down Longwood & Brookline Avenues and you run into Mass General Hospital, Brigham & Women’s, Beth Israel, Children’s Hospital and the medical buildings associated with them. Those are big Harvard hospitals and streets are packed with people going every which way they please. Cars are incidental. And bike lanes are in the middle of the street packed with cyclists who also pass the cars! And nobody seems shocked, except for me. Am I the country bumpkin?
I walk Bella down at the Esplanade where there are long stretches of grass on either side of paved asphalt paths filled with skate boarders, cyclers, baby strollers and roller bladers – everyone weaving in and around those of us walking. On the dirt path by the river we have to move out of the way of dirt bikers racing each other. Nobody even calls out when they whiz by. Luckily she’s adjusting and doesn’t seem fazed. Maybe that’s because I pull her out of their way. We have to abide by traffic and safety rules; they don’t.
Boston is a great biker town; it’s flat and you can get anywhere. You can also rent a bike at many street corners if you don’t have one of your own. Pick it up at Beacon at Mass Ave and drop it off in Brookline for class. It’s a great system and a novel entrepreneurial venture that’s hugely popular here.
In the next day or two I’ll get on my bike too. But I’ll be riding the asphalt path next to The Charles River, safely away from traffic, with my helmet nestled on my head. I’ll likely make it to Harvard Square for a visit to the Coop for coffee and book perusing and then continue on the Cambridge side along Memorial Drive, again on the asphalt path. Call me an old fogy. And alive.