Friday Group Ride #375

Friday Group Ride #375

20 years ago, I could ride into the city and see 2-3 other cyclists along the way. Cars honked. Drivers swore at me. Half the time, easily, I called that behavior down on myself, but equally, there weren’t a lot of us out there on bikes. Boston didn’t have bike lanes. Car-on-bike accidents didn’t get reported in the paper. It was a different time.

Fast forward to the present. I’m sitting in my car at the main light in town center. The main bike path empties into this intersection and continues on into the city. It is, even land and marked, and organized to the inch, a nearly total shit show. I’m actually cool with that. This is an intersection to be avoided no matter what means of transport you choose. Neighbors ask me what the best way to get through there on a bike is, and I answer, “Never go there. Don’t do it. Not worth it. That’s how.”

All that is beside the point though. The point is that this intersection, this neat slice of data, is packed with cyclists. All the intersections are. The sea has changed.

In some ways, this is like when the wide world discovers your favorite local band. You both wonder what took them so long, and wish, in some selfish way, that you still had them all to yourself.

Except I don’t.

A larger data set, the yearly numbers on the total number of new cyclists is less encouraging. It could be true that living in Boston, a geographically small city, dense and congested, is just a really obvious place to get around by bike.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what does the commuter traffic look like where you are? Anecdotally, do there seem to be more commuters, or fewer? Are you one of them? And what percentage of the bikes you see underneath work-goers are electric, because that’s a thing now?




  1. Steven

    Here in Seattle there are tons of commuters, and we keep adding infrastructure (although slower and more haphazardly than I’d like). It was a very pleasant change to arrive here from Indiana 5 years ago and go from being one of the few to one of the many (even slogging through the winter rain).
    It seems like we’re continuing to see more and more bike commuters, and even better the demographics are skewing towards a younger crowd (there are still lots of crusty old bearded guys out there, but I’m also seeing a fair number of young urbanites cruising around too).
    This summer we also got an influx of tourists on bike as the city approved several pay-by-the hour bike rental companies that have scattered their bikes around the city. I’m still a little curious of the long-term impact, but you can’t deny there hasn’t been a bunch more people cruising around on those bikes than there were.
    Electric bikes are also making inroads, which is great given how steep some of the hills are around here. It’s still a little weird to have someone wearing street clothes and hardly pedaling zip by me on a hill, but it definitely makes commuting more accessible.

    Something that encourages me more, though, is going back to my old town in Indiana (Fort Wayne). The number of bike lanes and multi-use paths have skyrocketed, bike racks are outside most businesses downtown, and seeing a cyclist isn’t so much a novelty anymore. Nice to see, even if it’s no longer home.

  2. Peterson

    Hi Robot Thanks for describing the situation of bicycle riding before 20 years & now in Boston. There is a lot of change now a days. There were no bike lanes in the past & also you have mentioned that anybody who is a reporter didn’t report about Car-on-bike accidents in the newspaper at all. But now at present the situation is totally changed which is the main bike path empties into the intersection and continues into the city.

  3. Chris

    The number of e bikes here in Paris really shocked me when I made the move last year. There are a lot of people of all different types who commute by bike, and I would peg 10-15% of them to be on e bikes.

    When my commuter was stolen a few weeks ago I even considered getting one, but the cost difference added to the continued risk of theft drove me to not.

    I moved here from NYC, where I also commuted by bike. I would say nearly all of Paris has the same vibe as the West Side Highway bike path.

  4. Mike Terrell

    Grand Rapids, Michigan is home for me. In the last 10 years, there have been plenty of bike lanes, bike paths and sharrows added. We even have a stretch of separated bike lane. Most of the infrastructure improvements still fall in the low-hanging fruit category. I certainly see more people roaming around by bike but nothing like what Robot is describing. Seeing another commuter along my route is still uncommon enough that I smile and wave each time. Grand Rapids is not very congested and is more suburb than city. The upside is that even with relatively few bike commuters, I seem to be treated decently by drivers. Getting yelled at is rare and I haven’t had anything thrown at me in quite a long time. I can think of one e-bike I see consistently, otherwise it isn’t a “thing” yet.

  5. Dusty Nickle

    I’m not really sure If there are more since I’m one of the newer road riders around here. But with a city of only about 50K Minot, ND is only really rideable a few months out of the year.

  6. Jeff Dieffenbach

    Here in Cambridge, it’s a lot like Boston! [smile] My commute measures almost a full mile. A substantial fraction of it takes place within my Strava privacy zone. Mr PR on the way to work is 3:19 vs. 3:15 on the way home … in both cases, I clearly timed the lights right! And even in that short distance, I see tons of cyclists … the majority of whom obey the law.

  7. Alan Marsilio

    In the northern Virginia suburbs nothing has changed in the past 20+ years. No bike lanes, no shoulders, no commuters except me and a handful of others, cars rule and new or widened roads are actually less bike friendly. I’m glad city people are enjoying their rides but out in the real world it’s not happening.

  8. TomInAlbany

    I’m a commuter in the Albany/Schenectady area of NY. I see few commuters. Maybe 2-3. The number hasn’t changed. I see zero electric bikes. I don’t see an uptick in cyclists. also, I don’t ride the ‘normal’ routes into downtown albany or Schenectady. I go from suburb of Albany to a suburb of Schenectady. Most of the city guys I see are doing the 5-8mph slow ride around town.

  9. David Feldman

    I work at home so don’t commute, but I see many new/newish cyclists in commuter and recreational mode in my city. We are an exurb that’s slowly morphing from country to city and drivers are becoming less spoiled by the ability to drive 20% above the speed limit anytime, anywhere. Our city (Vancouver, WA) sneaks bike/ped projects in under radar. The improvements are small but well implemented. Driver behavior is better, too, I think because so many newer residents here are techies and that will bring a cycling and cycling-aware population along with it.

  10. Emerson

    Hello Robot, You described bicycle riding situation in Boston very nicely. Today’s bike lane make biking a lot easier than 20 years ago. Also, nowadays if your bike is stolen you can get it back very easily. By the way thanks.

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