Monday, June 19, 2017

It's already mid June and I can't do anything about it

It's almost summer. Pollen season has pretty much ended and I could open all windows at home again. Not for long. Those hot humid summer days have just arrived and I don't even feel like riding my bike anymore. Unless my destination comes with a shower.

I've been pretty busy recently with some house projects. Meanwhile, a number of things happened in the outside world.

SRAM showed their budget 1x12 drivetrain offering - GX Eagle. With its arrival, SRAM claims front derailleurs are finally dead. I wouldn't be so quick to call that. While Eagle offers a very wide range of gearing, it still suffers from the same problem (albeit less so) as the previous 1x11 system - large jumps between gears. SRAM Eagle would be interesting if it came with a few different cassettes, not just the 10-50T but also something tightly-spaced such as 10-44T. By my calculations, a 1x13 system could be a true replacement for 2x10 so Eagle still falls short of that.

Apart the pond, London has been hit twice with terror attacks recently, one of them involved running people over with a car - you know, kind of like the things we see pretty much everyday here in America. The answer was to quickly set up some protective barriers to prevent cars from entering sidewalks. Unfortunately, they were placed in the bike lane doing potentially more harm on daily basis than preventing occasional terror attacks.

It would be much better to place them between the traffic lane and the bike lane. At least that way they would provide protection for not only pedestrians but also cyclists. But I'm guessing that would be too close to comfort for many drivers. They would rather drive fast next to a soft, squishy cyclist than a rigid, concrete wall.

Bike lanes have tough life anyway. They often face strong NIMBYsm, the extreme case of which happened in Baltimore when residents were willing to remove a newly-built protected bike lane because it "made the street less scenic". As a result, the city was blocked from removing the lane by a restraining order. At least temporarily.

On the other side of the continent, Elon Musk pushes his idea of building underground tunnels as the ultimate solution to traffic problems. He had some early discussion with Mayor of LA:

I wrote earlier what I think about his idea but now I'm thinking we should let him do it. Seriously, let him build tunnels and put cars underground but under one condition - when you drive your car into the tunnel somewhere in Pomona, you won't be allowed to resurface in the downtown of LA. Your car will have to stay there in an underground parking lot and you can take an elevator to the surface. This could be revolutionary - creating more space for people, bicycles, public transport by eliminating private vehicles from city streets. Although, I doubt that's what Musk had on mind.

Local news. My town of Arlington is considering implementing Bus Rapid Transit along Massachusetts Ave. because "Arlington officials think more people would take the bus if they could speed up commute times." Duh! It doesn't take a college degree to figure out that the only public transport - buses, get completely stuck in all car traffic especially during the morning and evening rush hours. In fact, this was the reason why my wife quickly gave up the idea of commuting by bus to Harvard Square and decided to drive instead, just like many other people on the same route. Buses have to share lanes with cars on Mass Ave. but also have to stop at bus stops frequently. Hence, they are far slower than cars.

This brings me to the point - the idea of rapid transit is sound, but would only make sense if Cambridge does the same on their section of Mass Ave. The rapid transit should extend on the full route length of bus 77 and that means dedicating one lane to buses only (at least during the morning/evening rush). Something tells me hundreds of drivers would be pissed about that.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Harold Parker State Forest revisited

I can't believe it's already June. Spring is nearly gone, which I like because (quite literally) I'm sick of pollen. Unfortunately, this means that summer is coming - with humid weather and swarms of mosquitoes.

At least for now mornings are still mild and cool, which is why yesterday I rode my bike from Arlington to take another look at the Harold Parker State Forest (HPSF) in Andover.

The forest covers a hefty chunk of southern Andover and North Reading with many, many trails crossing it. It's a favorite hang out place of local mosquitoes and mountain bikers so if you don't mind meeting them on trail, head out and have fun.
I started, as usual, by entering the network of trails near the parking lot at Jenkins Road, then followed Harold Parker Road and Bradford Pond Road towards Salem Pond. Now, keep in mind that those "roads" aren't really roads but barely wide paths. As long as you stay on the wider trails you can move quickly and won't get lost.
After crossing Middleton Street, I followed Stearns Pond Road around Steve's Pond. This trail feels almost like a highway compared to the many smaller paths in the forest - it's wide and relatively even.

After crossing Turnpike Street (a very busy road), I continued on Berry Street and then found the entrance to a tiny foot path at the end of Windsor Lane. This route is called Old Farnum Street on the map but you would have to be very, very drunk to call it a street at all. It's barely accessible, heavily overgrown, narrow and blocked by many fallen tree trunks. I had to walk my bike and portage it across logs nearly the entire length of this section.

However, the end was quite rewarding because then I found this:
There is a well-hidden and completely abandoned old lumber mill right at the Boston Brook. The mill is in poor condition but once you peek inside, you will find that a lot of its original equipment is still in place.
Once I passed the mill, I followed the path towards Farnum Street, which ends at a farm. In fact, if you want to take a peek at the mill, it's much easier to access it from Farnum Street as long as you ignore the farm gate.

The next place on my list was Mary French Reservation best accessed when you ride Grey Road towards Korinthian Way.

This place is fun both for joggers and bikers. It has probably the longest and narrowest boardwalks I've ever found in Boston area, installed just a few feet over the swamp. Riding a bicycle there is fun and a bit of challenge.
The boardwalks end with a very narrow trail that runs between closely-spaced trees. In fact, some of them are so close to each other that I could barely fit my bike in-between.
The 44cm-wide drop bars on my bike were a tight fit between those trees. Now that's what you call a singletrack!

My last section of the extensive trail network in HPSF ran along Phillips Road and Walker Road. Again, these aren't your typical roads but they are wide enough to move fast. No mountain bike needed here, just bring you widest tires (over 35mm preferably).

HPSF is a great place for recreational cycling but just like any other large forested areas nearby it would be best enjoyed in the fall when mosquitoes and flies are gone and foliage season is in full swing.