Thursday, June 11, 2009

Biking in Boston

On Wednesday, I discovered that people in East Boston can't take the Blue Line one stop (across the harbor) with a bicycle, which threw a wrench in my plans to commute by bicycle on Wednesdays. So, I wrote letters to Dan Grabauskas, General Manager of the MBTA, and Mayor Menino, bike enthusiast. Here's my letter (I mention the Trek bike specifically since Menino rides one too):

Dear Mayor Menino,

I have been a resident of Boston for six years, and have been very impressed with your dedication to making Boston a better city for bicycle commuting. I recently acquired a small Trek women's bike, and this morning set about commuting to work near Government Center. I live at (address redacted) in East Boston, and in order to get to Government Center, I have to get across the harbor. Bikes are not allowed over the Tobin Bridge or in the Sumner or Williams Tunnels. Therefore, in order to get my bike over the harbor, I went to Maverick T stop this morning to take the T one stop to Aquarium.

I left my house a little later that I usually do, because I know that the trains running to Bowdoin have fewer passengers after 8:30 am, and there would be more room for my bike (which is not that large to begin with). I paid my fare and went through the gates at Maverick, and was stopped by a T inspector, who informed me that I can't bring a bike on to the T until 10 am. I understand that he was enforcing policy, but I have never before had a restriction on my taking a bike on the T during peak hours. To his credit, the Inspector didn't let me get on, but I snuck on while he was distracted, in the last car of a six-car 8:50 train. There was penty of room on it for me and my bicycle. (In fact, there was plenty of room on the four trains that went by prior, while the Inspector was holding me on the platform.)

I don't like not following the rules, but this is a discriminatory rule. If someone who lives in Allston wants to ride a bike to downtown for work, she can just go ahead and do it. If someone in East Boston wants to, she's stuck. I can't ride my bike in the tunnels, and I can't take it over the Tobin Bridge. This is seriously unfair that I am unable to commute by bike for one T stop (Maverick to Aquarium). I would like to request permission to move my bike by T from Maverick to Aquarium on Wednesdays at 8:30 am. I am completely amenable to riding in the last car of six car train to minimize space issues, and I am willing to wait for a train carrying fewer passengers that would have room for me. My bike takes up roughly the same space as a motorized wheelchair. If I were on one of those, you couldn't deny me access to the T, even though I would be taking up a lot of space. I take up less space than two-child baby strollers, which are also allowed on the T during peak hours.

I know that you don't control the T, but is there some way that you could coordinate with them to allow East Boston residents to take bikes on the Blue Line from Maverick to Aquarium on weekday mornings? I want to use my bike more, and appreciate that on my weekends I can ride for all of my errands and trips, and would really like to add my weekday commute to that list. Maybe you could help the T make an exception for me?

Yours truly,
Kate Hutchinson

I haven't heard back from Dan Grabauskas, but here's the Mayor's office reply:

Thank you for emailing Mayor Menino. This email is to confirm we received your message. Your request has been forwarded to the appropriate personnel. This is an issue that the MBTA NEEDS to address.

Mayor's Office
One City Hall Plaza
Boston, Ma 02201

It will be interesting to see if this issue could actually be raised. Considering it's an election year, here's a little issue that Menino can use to boost his image: helping East Bostonions become green commuters. AND taking on the T. That must be worth a lot of votes.

11 responses:

John said...

Good luck. Menino hasn't used his voice or the votes that the City has on the MBTA panel in years. I like Menino a lot but I think it might be time for some fresh blood. Email Flaherty.

KEHutchinson said...

That's a good idea. Maybe I'll write to Sam Yoon too?

Anonymous said...

I saw this go down on my way to work in Eastie and was wondering if the inspector was actually denying you entry because of the bike. Turns out yes. I've wanted to bike to work as well, but have worried about the T's policy and the lack of other options (not paying $10 to cross in the water taxi, sorry), so I haven't. All the points you made, agreed.

Unknown said...

very nice well thought out and written email. this is totally unfair, and the T needs to address this. when a person can't get on the train with a bike, but some woman with a double wide stroller can take up the entire back section of a red line car, there needs to be some issues addressed.

Unknown said...

I've always thought it would be neat to turn one lane in either the Sumner or Callahan tunnels into a multi-use path (perhaps with some jersey barriers). Either that or create a multi-use path on or attached to the Tobin bridge. (Not only can you not bike to/from East Boston, you can't really walk there either.)

Alison said...

I love living in East Boston, but yes, it can be a pain. I would love to take my bike to work, but can't because of where we live. It would be amazing if, as someone else mentioned, we were able to use the tunnel. There have been many times when I would have liked to just walk home from downtown but can't. I know it's my choice to live in Eastie, but I agree that it's completely unfair not to be able to use the T for taking your bike. I have been stuck on trains during rush hour with multiple strollers and a bike would take up a lot less room than that.

Fousty said...

If you would like to make east boston a more bike friendly place please visit this site.


Unknown said...

Nice job Kate, well done. I am in the process of moving to Chelsea (from NYC and ride everywhere here) and was wondering about how to bike to Downtown from there. Have you heard any new news about the issue, as I'd be using the blue line also. I love the idea of a multi-use lane on the tobin, like the brooklyn bridge...
we need to get on that.


Unknown said...

Hello Kate, I just read your blog and then it led me to the site that had the article posted about biking in East Boston, which had a bazillion comments posted afterward, which I read... all of them.

First and foremost I want to follow up John when he said "good luck." Because that is about how much apathy there is with regard to this. As a little helpful information the person you want to contact, albeit useless, is: His name is Darrin McAuliffe. I contacted him previously as well as the MBTA police chief regarding the same issues.

As an ancillary point to my story, I have had two bikes stolen from the Orient Heights T stop on the blue line. About a month ago I arrived there at 4:07 PM and tried to get on the T, like yourself I was intercepted and forbidden to ride. I explained that I "had" to get to Boston ASAP and could not leave my bike there ($2,000.00) TREK. Long story short, I had to leave it, and when I returned, bike, u-lock and cable lock all - gone!

I have been in the middle of this battle for years, no way to get to Boston lest you go an hour and a half out of your way, or take the T to cross the watter. Then, there is the issue that more weekends out of the year than I can count they are working on the Blue line from Maverick to Gov. center, meaning you can't get there at all.

I have wrote and called everyone but Santa Clause and it's useless, nobody cares. Their rules, combined with the lack of effort to make a pathway to downtown from the ocean side is inexcusable, especially as many point out, in a town that call's themselves "bike-friendly."

In the article : Discrimination against East Boston Bike Riders - 3/4 of the responses had to be from people whom are really bored, never ride bikes, or their parents are attorneys. I was almost laughing at some of the suggestions and comments that "you should have thought of that before you moved here" or "that's the way it's always been" or "it is what it is." These are the kinds of remarks you normally hear from someone in Middle School or a gangster.

Those belief systems, vis-a-vis the bike riding problem from East Boston to Boston are inane to say the least. Yes, it is the T's responsibility to accommodate bike riders getting from here to there, and saying you can't ride for 6 of the most important hours of the day is insidious.

More and more bike paths go up all over the city every day, but the "MBTA" the oldest subway in the country can't even think of a way to get bikes across a tiny piece of water. An alternative path would be completely fine with me if the MBTA really is this incompetent. Either way, your dealing with a city, a government, and for them to be so apathetic and/or remiss is inexplicable to me.

I would love to follow your blog and the comments of any new events on this subject, as it effects my life daily. I ride all year round, regardless of weather, but having to go 1.5 hours north, west, then south to get somewhere that would be a 10 minute "direct" ride, is the most senseless thing there is.

I've always believed that you can either lead, follow or get out of the way - if you don't you're just part of the problem, not the solution. The people that respond to these types of situations/blog posts with "it is what it is," and "you should have known...," "get a bike that folds into your wallet..." - etc., well, they're definitely part of the problem.

Good luck Kate!

Richard S.
Winthrop, MA

Jenn said...

FYI, if you are desperate and have more time there is a way to ride to Boston from Eastie, though it's ridiculous for a typical commute. I agree a more direct route or option is needed. But, you can ride through Chelsea and Charlestown to cross the necessary bodies of water. It's about 6 miles till you're on the right side of the water somewhere in Boston. I have done it many a time!

If it helps, here is a map we made of it a couple of years ago, meant to be helpful for Eastie residents like us:

(Actually, it looks like it just gets you to the edge of Cambridge - close enough... you can ride across a bridge from there.)

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