An Amusement & Diversion for The Genteel Cyclist. Daily.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Beantown! Only for the most sadistic, helmetless, fixie-riding, traffic-surfing maniacs


It's a tiresome business trying to decide which American cities are the most bike friendly. It's the part of our job that's like separating the recycling. Much more interesting to discuss which are the most intractably dangerous and depressing. Los Angeles certainly has a high suck rating, as does just about any major city in Texas. But you expect that from Western towns which were pretty much built for the automobile. A city that is stitched together by 8-lane freeways isn't bike unfriendly. It's a bike-free zone, sort of like the Sahara desert.

We've nominated Chicago in the past, but Chicago does have its finer points -- like Lake Shore Drive's extensive bike paths, and a mayor who is an avid cyclist. There are a couple towns in Kansas-- Wichita and Topeka -- that rank lowest in bike commuting, though oddly there is a sleeper cell of pro cyclists down there. Perhaps it's not considered commuting if your job is actually to ride a bike. And New York is a perennial favorite, not so much because it sucks to ride a bike there (it does, kinda, though it's getting better), but because there is a bizarre notion afoot that it is somehow a cycling mecca, which it emphatically is not. It's a people mecca, which is not precisely the same thing.

Unless you like intense urban riding, the constant threat of being sandwiched between cabby bumpers, getting harrassed at every sidewalk bodega, running pedestrians like pylons on a test course, and arriving at work feeling like you took a bath in coal ashes. (We actually do like all of the above: we call it car-surfing, which our more timid friends don't understand or sympathize with.)

And in THAT case, we would definitely nominate Boston -- a great town to see by bike, and a great place to get killed on two wheels. This article in today's Boston Globe is a terrific primer to anyone who appreciates what a suckygreat bike town Boston really is, and what changes are afoot to make it even moreless suckygreat. (Extra credit: Indie Fab and its countless predecessors and spin-offs still make a home in greater Boston. Hooray!)

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