Sunday, April 28, 2013

Burlington Landlocked Forest

It is getting warmer and it's time to start riding my other bike more frequently. This weekend, I decided to visit a new place, which is close to my workplace but so far remained unexplored - the Landlocked Forest in Burlington.
This piece of land is bordered by two highways, Rt 3 form the east and I-95 form the south, which makes it a bit difficult to access. The only good entrance to the forest is available from  the west at Turning Mill Rd. I have heard a few things about the Landlocked Forest previously and one of them was that it was mountain bikers' favorite place in the area. And once I entered the forest, I quickly found out why. (You will not see it in the pictures, though, as somehow I forgot to photograph those most difficult sections of the trial.)
First, we arrive at the small parking lot at Turning Mill Rd where we can get the mountain bike off the roof of our car. Well, that was at least what most people I saw there were doing. I, on the other hand, decided to consult the map first. The yellow trial takes us around the entire area and seemed like the best way to ride. Unfortunately for me, the entry blue route consisted of a very loose gravel that my skinny (-ish) tires struggled with.
Once I got off that route and entered the forested area, the situation improved and the trail turned into a narrow, sandy path.
But not for long. Most of the trial is clearly much more suitable for mountain bikes than vehicles like my Poprad. Roots, large rocks, sharp turns, steep inclines - all these made my life very hard over there. My bike lacked wide, knobby tires, very low gears and the seating position was way too high making descents risky. On the top of that, I am not comfortable riding a bike in such a heavy terrain using clipless pedals. I used to do some mountain biking many years ago in Polish and Austrian mountains, but I always used large, knobby platform pedals for that. This let me react faster in some dangerous situations and while riding Poprad, I was close to falling down twice because I nearly failed to unclip in time.
Nevertheless, the Landlocked  Forest trial is beautiful and leads us through many interesting areas: ponds, streams, narrow boardwalks, etc. Originally, I thought I could explore the entire forest but after completing the southern loop I made a decision to turn back home. My bike became more of a mountain bike there, than anywhere before (maybe except of the Middlesex Fells Reservation I visited earlier). And since I was struggling with the trial, it didn't make much sense to continue. At least not on this bike. I rode a bit further north and connected with the blue trial called The Gas Line on the map. This was a much smoother path and looked much more familiar.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Across Lexington

Spring is here. Snow is gone but trees and bushes are not completely green yet. With no leaves, the forest looks empty and you can easily spot things you were missing before. This all means that now it is the best time to explore the neighborhood and look for those well-hidden tiny, narrow paths that take you through the forest to previously-undiscovered areas.

This week during my work commute, I started taking a bit longer but scenic route home - The Lower Vine Brook path and then the Minuteman Trial towards Arlington. And I noticed something new that wasn't there before:
These little blue markings seemed to be scattered all the over Lexington area. A quick look at the above shown web address and the mystery is revealed - Lexington wants to emphasize the importance of "sustainable transportation" and is introducing a system of greenways as a way to move around the town on foot or by bike. Very commendable!

The blue signs that I noticed are markings for the 5.5 mi long pilot route. The map is available here. It is a pleasant ride, although some sections are narrow, steep paths in thickly forested areas and are probably suitable for bicycles with more gears than I have on my Schwinn.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

2, 3 or 4 - The Mass. Ave. Corridor Project

The heated debate is still going on. Once you start reading the news, you may have a feeling there is a war out there...

The Massachusetts Ave Corridor Project is a plan to rebuild the main artery connecting Arlington with Cambridge - The Massachusetts Ave. I wrote about the planned transformation of the Arlington's main intersection before. The town called it the Center Safe Travel Project. Now, The Corridor Project seems like a logical extension of this idea and it is something I wished for many months ago. Let me quote myself here:
[Massachusetts Ave] is wide enough to accommodate bike lanes. This design is, in my opinion, the best option. Not only it merges both loose ends of the Bikeway but it promises bike lanes on Mass Ave. (...) hopefully those lanes would be eventually extended also to the east, in Cambridge's direction.
Therefore, The Corridor Project is supposed to place two 5' wide bike lanes in each direction on Mass Ave, on its 1 mile long section
between Pond Lane and the Rt 16. The detailed summary is available here.
The part of Mass Ave targeted by The Corridor Project.

In my opinion, the Mass Ave in this area is currently a bit of a mess. It is very wide with technically 4 lanes (2 in each direction) and parking places on both sides. I wrote "technically", since those lanes are not marked at all, so it's only up to the drivers to choose where those lanes are and how wide they should be. I really wish the town would at least paint the centerlines.

Once you read the project's summary, you will see that the town plans on removing one lane in westbound direction (toward Arlington center), while maintaining two lanes in eastbound direction (towards Cambridge). Also, the single westbound lane would be wider and the parking places on both sides of the street will be widened as well. This is to prevent dooring cyclists by parked cars. As I mentioned above, those cyclists will enjoy new 5' wide lanes in both directions.
It all sounds pretty sane and smart to me and overall looks like a well-thought solution. However, as you may expect, there will always be a group of people unsatisfied with any changes. The planned reduction from virtual 4 lanes down to 3 started an outcry of upset motorists even though the plan is to reduce number of lanes only in the less-traveled westbound direction. So as you can see, the motorists want all 4 lanes, the town plans for 3 and I would be perfectly happy with... 2, but only if we could fit bike lanes on both sides and streetcar's tracks (the "T") in the center.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Sidewalk! (Comic from

This is what I heard yesterday - "Sidewalk!". I was on my way home when a passing driver yelled something through his car's window. I only understood one word - "sidewalk" and I am not sure what he meant by this since there are no sidewalks on good portion of Middlesex Turnpike in Burligton. And there wasn't one in the place where he was passing my bike. Even if there was a sidewalk available, I wouldn't use it. I am not a pedestrian while I ride my bike after all. I am a "vehicle".

I noticed this long time ago. People feel being in rush when they drive their cars. I feel the same. Cars make us feel like we are losing time when we have to drive slowly behind a much slower vehicle and when we have to pass a bicycle by changing lanes. Even though it takes only a few seconds. Bicycles on the other hand, relax us. I never feel like I am being late when riding my bike, I never feel rushed. I simply know that it takes a certain amount of time to get to my destination and even if I arrive 15 minutes later, it doesn't matter. But somehow, losing 15 minutes when driving a car feels unacceptable. Why?

P.S. I didn't have a chance to follow Yehuda's example and throw away driver's car key. Not sure I would be happy doing it anyway.