How would you describe cycling in Boston?
I'm constantly amazed and inspired by how beautiful my home city is. In some ways it's a quiet beauty. Boston is not a city of grand boulevards. It's more like a very big village where every street and alley is meaningful in some way. That makes the slower pace of bicycling perfect for exploring Boston -- its harbor, distinct neighborhoods, and deep history. That being said, Boston is also a place where cars and bicycles compete for space on winding streets that aren’t much wider than the cows that carved them out 300 years ago. That used to make cycling in Boston pretty harrowing. But starting about five years ago, Mayor Thomas Menino led an incredible turnaround. We now have an extensive network of bike lanes, which for me are like magical ribbons coursing through the city. Mayor Menino passed away in 2014, but he left behind a great cycling legacy that continues to grow to this day.
How do you use your Brompton bike?
I like to think of my Brompton as my adventure bike, perfectly suited to my corner of New England. From Boston it's possible to travel to the tip of Cape Cod in the eastern part of the state or into the high Berkshire mountains in the west without ever getting behind the wheel of a car thanks to our network of trains and ferries. I like to joke that a bicycle is a graceful thing, but not when trying to carry it on a train or in a car! Not so with the Brompton. I've weaved together routes combining trains, ferries, zipcars, and cycling all across New England. Plus, owning a Brompton is a great way to always have a bike in the trunk and at-the-ready when renting a car for small day trips.
How did you get into cycling?
I started out like any other kid, with my father pushing me down the driveway and eventually letting go. I can still remember that moment like it was yesterday. On my 9th birthday my grandmother bought me a brand new Schwinn bike as a surprise. It was a beautiful, red, one-speed, steel roadster with coaster brakes, and it was love at first sight. I couldn't believe something so beautiful could be mine. This was the in 1980's, when most kids my age were riding dirt bikes. A few bullies tried to make fun of my stately road bike, but I couldn’t care less and simply rode happily along, which totally confounded the bullies! I stopped bicycling when I went off to college (what was I thinking?!), but then in my mid-twenties a colleague of mine told me about how he would wake up every morning at 5 a.m. to ride his bike for exercise before work. His words were like a light switching on in my mind. The thing I loved doing as a kid could continue into adulthood! I bought a bike and have been riding ever since.
What advice would you give to anyone considering cycling in Boston?
Have fun planning your route, especially if you are just beginning to ride in greater Boston. The beauty of living in an urban area is that you have more roads to choose from than people who live in the suburbs or in the country. Take some time on Google Maps to string together a network of less traveled streets, bike lanes, and paths. If you're worried that a street may be too narrow or traffic-filled for your level of bicycling experience, then Google Maps Streetview is a good way to check it out ahead of time and seek out an alternate route if needed. Once you establish your "home" streets on which you feel comfortable bicycling, then spontaneously branching out from there is so much easier.
When you’re not commuting, where are your favorite places to visit by bike?
I love rail trails! The best rail trails have their own quaint signs, mile-markers, and even granite posts that used to direct the train to blow its whistle. I like to imagine the passengers on those now long-gone trains, reading the morning newspaper or heading out on a vacation to the end of the line in Maine. The Minuteman Bikeway and the Nashua River Rail Trail are two great examples in the Boston area.
My two favorite Massachusetts places to ride outside of Boston are the Berkshire Hills and Nantucket. Riding in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts is a constant challenge of steep climbs up to hilltop villages and thrilling descents into valley mill towns. It's New England scenery at its best, with lovely town commons and church steeples tucked in amidst the rolling green mountains. Nantucket sits thirty miles off Cape Cod and is a cycling paradise, with paved paths extending from one end of the island to the other. I love Nantucket's wild moors, its lighthouses, ocean vistas, and its history. And best of all, there's no better way to get to Nantucket and explore than by carrying your Brompton on the Hyannis-Nantucket ferry. My little folding bike is a fun conversation starter!
If you could go on one cycling adventure, where would you go and why?
I would head to France in July, during the Tour de France. I love the Tour de France and watch it religiously every year. I can't decide between Brittany, Provence, the gorges of the Central Massif, or the Alps! But wherever I may go, I imagine myself staying in a village inn that has stone walls and old lanterns framing the front door. Early in the morning I'll sit at my little desk with my Brompton folded up beside me as I write in my travel journal about yesterday's ride past chateaux, quaint village streets, and tree-lined boulevards. In the afternoon, I'll take my place in the streets with the local townspeople to cheer on the passing Tour, and then I'll carry my Brompton on the train to the next village. Of course my journey would end in Paris!