Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cycling in the Suburbs of Boston

Outdoor activities in New England are a function of the seasons. It's challenging to cycle in ice and snow. Kayaking in 40 degree water can be deadly. Climbing frozen rock that is not yet quite thick enough for ice climbing is dicey.

Thus, my outdoor activities are timed to maximize the best of each season and safety:

Cycling - April 1 to December 1 (dry roads)
Kayaking - May 1 to October 1 (water temperature above 50F)
Rock Climbing - June 1 to October 1 (warm, dry rock)
Ice Climbing - January 1 to March 1 (cold, solid ice)
Winter Mountaineering - December 21 to March 21 (solid snow pack)
Nordic skiing - December 1 to April 1 (reasonable snow cover)

I've blogged about many of these activities, but I've not written about cycling in the Boston area.

For folks from bike friendly cities like Portland, Oregon, you should know that cycling in Boston is a death sport - bad drivers on poorly maintained narrow roads. In the past decade, none of my friends have been injured while rock climbing. Several of my friends have been injured and one has been killed while cycling in Boston.

On the scale of Morts, cycling is probably about the most dangerous activity I do.

How do I mitigate risk? I cycle in Dover, Massachusetts where the roads are great, traffic is light, and the navigation is easy.

Here's a list of my favorite rides.

I pass great places like Cochrane Falls (picture above), the Charles River along South Street, Noanet Woodlands, Lookout Farm, Broadmoor Audubon Reserve, and some of the most scenic farmland inside the 495 loop.

I ride a Trek Hybrid FX 7.5 which is a road bike with 32mm hardened tires. This means I can cycle 20 miles to a great wilderness area and then cycle a few miles on single track trails to truly spiritual places.

For example, today after the work day, I cycled trails through Noanet Woodlands past a series of old Mill ponds and played my Japanese flute in harmony with the call of the Northern Saw-Whet owl at sunset.

Cycling in Dover, South Natick, Needham, and Wellesley can be safe and provide solace for the soul. I highly recommend cycling in the more rural suburbs of Boston before the ice and snow make riding a high risk adventure.


Unknown said...

After riding for more than 15 years in suburbia, I have given it up due to its risks. Roads are too narrow, drivers can't drive and the roads stink.
At times I consider biking up and down Killington safer than west subruban Boston.

Cycling has been replaced with walking, hiking, kayaking and treadmills (to keep my cardiologist happy.)

Dave B said...

I cycle just about everywhere I can, as long as I can, and have for as long as I can remember.
As a child, I rode to school, band and sports practices and as a daily activity with my friends. At 9 years old, I rode my bike on my paper route and as I got older to my friends' houses. In High School and college I bought a mountain bike and rode every trail I could find,.
For the last 6 years I have cycled from my house to my local MBTA Train Station, then from South Station to the Longwood Medical Area (I lock a second bike at S. Station over night) as part of my commute to work. I ride all 4 seasons, foregoing days when there is snow on the ground or temperatures of less than 15 degrees Fahrenheit in the morning.
I also ride for leisure with my kids at home. I have a child seat on the back of my old mountain bike and my two children take turns with me or my wife will meet us at the playground so each can get a one-way trip.
I honestly don't find riding in the suburbs or the city as dangerous as people suggest. I always choose my route carefully and make sure reflectors and flashers are working and angled appropriately. I wear a helmet, as do my kids, and I always (always) use turn signals when riding on the road. I have been hit by a car once in this lifetime of riding various terrains, and it was partially my fault because I was riding irresponsibly. Luckily I was not hurt.
It’s a beautify day today, so let’s all go for a ride!

karinaK said...

Cochrane Falls looks beautiful - where is it?