Warmer and Slush; Take the Lane

January 23rd, 2012

Although we got a few inches of snow this weekend, the conditions this morning were pure winter slush. Mediocre plowing (the bike lanes are to guide plows to drop their snow, right?) was the word of the day, however warmer temperatures (mid 30s) also made for a very comfortable ride. It’s supposed to be in the 40s mid day today! Still no love for my studded tires.

Clothing: Sweater, rain pants, rain shell, waterproof shoes. I can’t find my normal gloves, so I picked up some nice cushy ski gloves. My hands have never felt so loved.

Today I chose to ride the Craigie Bridge, also known as the Science Bridge, into work. This is the more trafficked route of my two (Longfellow being the more local), and less protected. Cambridge Street in Cambridge is lovely until you reach McGrath Highway. Then the road goes from one lane each way with bike lanes into four lanes in in my direction, with turns, and no bike markings. In the bridge section, there are three lanes with one marked with Sharrows (those “bike lanes in the middle of the road”). This leg on McGrath is mercifully short, but quite intimidating, even as an experienced rider.

The light timings are such that once I make the turn onto McGrath, I always get stopped at the light where the road crosses Land Boulevard (which then turns into Memorial Drive, and also goes into Charlestown over the canal and train tracks, and under I-93). At this light, there’s always a drag race with a driver who is waiting in the rightmost lane – which narrows to 9 feet after the light. Normally I either hug the edge through the intersection and then edge in (ill advised, but it reduces the incentive to squeeze past me), or simply take the lane at the light (safer, but nerve wracking). Today, I had the pleasure of a driver trying to essentially squeeze past me in the 9-foot lane, which meant very close passing distance.

The moral of the story is that you have to be an assertive rider. The comedy of this particular stretch of road is that a biker taking the entire right lane has no impact on car speeds or volumes; by the time I reach the end of the bridge, I am at the back of the pack, and everyone is sitting waiting at the light (I then filter to the front and get to laugh). The upshot is that as a defensive rider taking the lane, you are not inconveniencing anyone, whatsoever. You are also riding much more safely by doing so.

3 Responses to “Warmer and Slush; Take the Lane”

  1. cycler Says:

    Ah yes, winter cycling brings out the vehicular cyclist in all of us. Doesn’t make the drivers any better about dealing with it. Riding in the middle of the right lane up Cambridge st (boston, beacon hill one) had a guy pass me screaming and gesticulating wildly, only to have to stop dead at the light right ahead of me.

  2. Jeremy Says:

    I like to give the evil stare as I pass all the stopped cars. Then the process repeats itself at least three more times on the way down to Congress St and on to South Station.

  3. Weather Guy Says:

    Instead of leering (the driver rarely looks), I like to just filter to the front of the line and plant my butt right in front of the offending vehicle to make my intention to take the lane clear. That’s definitely a thing to do on Cambridge Street (the Beacon Hill one, again).

    It’s all fun, though, until a lunatic jumps out of his car, tackles you to the ground, and punches you in the face.


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