Riding to Sedona, Arizona on the Brompton folding bike

I decided to hop a bus to Central Arizona and go for a ride. Hope you enjoy this short video I made before getting started in Oak Creek Village. I rode 30 miles via Sedona to Cottonwood and took the Verde Lynx local bus back for $2. If you like this video please share it and send feedback, and I will make more like it.

P.S. I've been working in Tempe, Arizona for a bit while enjoying summer in the winter and saving up for my next trip. Also accepting 1-30 day bike tour ideas in the western US.

Podcast 52: Winter Bike Camping in Denver

I made an appearance on this week's episode of Pedalshift with Tim Mooney, which reminded me I hadn't shared this episode from my winter bike overnight in February on my Brompton folding bike. It was perhaps more successful than Tim's most recent ride on the C&O Trail, albeit shorter, a few degrees warmer and solo (sans dog). Notice how there was no snow in Denver but about four feet at my apartment just 75 miles west (and 4,000 feet higher) in Breckenridge.

Podcast 50b: Bike Touring, Part 2: Coastal Maine

This episode covers from Belfast to Blue Hill, one day before reaching Bar Harbor.

INTRO: In late August I moved out of my apartment in Boston, put about 8 boxes into storage, and took a bus to Brunswick, Maine with my bike and camping gear. By popular request for tour updates, I decided to record a series of brief, daily, mostly unedited episodes to share here. Note that at the time of upload, I have completed my tour in Burlington, Vermont, and I will be compiling and uploading the remaining episodes very soon.

Podcast 50a: Bike Touring, Part 1: Coastal Maine

In late August I moved out of my apartment in Boston, put about 8 boxes into storage, and took a bus to Brunswick, Maine with my bike and camping gear. This episode covers from Brunswick to Belfast.

By popular request for tour updates, I decided to record a series of brief, daily, mostly unedited episodes to share here. Note that at the time of upload, I have completed my tour in Burlington, Vermont, and I will be compiling and uploading the episodes very soon.

Expanding and Replicating the Cape Flyer

Last weekend I finally took my bike on the Cape Flyer train to Cape Cod as part of a camping trip, and it was fantastic.

Now in its third year, the Cape Flyer has made getting to the popular vacation peninsula possible for car-free people (it's wasn't impossible; just not usually worth the hassle) and reasonable for those who aren't interested in the 12-mile traffic backups at the bridge. As a result it is very popular yet could benefit from improvements and potentially be a model for similar services elsewhere.

Where it excels

First off, it exists. The only other car-free options are a bus that sits in the same traffic as cars and a very expensive ferry. I won't even suggest biking because those bridges are possibly the scariest place I've ever tried to bike. Many people in Boston have never been to the Cape because it's just a pain to get there.

Useful connections are available in Buzzards Bay and Hyannis to island ferries and local buses, so you can actually go beyond the station, removing a major barrier to vacationing by transit. Because it's all coordinated, it actually works out and you won't miss the train because a shuttle is stuck in traffic.

The train is reasonably convenient with stops at South Station, Braintree, Brockton and a parking lot in Middleborough. The schedule, while very limited, provides for a Friday evening train and then an 8am outbound train Sat/Sun morning and 6:40pm return train Sat/Sun, which works for a weekend getaway.

An entire coach is dedicated for bikes and there's plenty of room for whatever junk you "need" on your vacation. There's no way I would try fitting my bike and all my camping gear under a bus and risk not being able to get back.
The price is reasonable. There's a cafe car and decent wifi.

Opportunities for Improvement

Frequency: As a weekend vacation oriented service, the limited schedule necessitates careful planning and leaves no room for error (miss the return train and you may be out of luck). There's also no chance of stopping in Buzzards Bay for a few hours to walk or bike the canal path before continuing over the bridge.

The service could be expanded by offering limited weekday service (one round-trip each in the morning and evening) and adding trips on the weekends to permit flexibility in travel plans and create a new option for Cape Cod residents to visit Boston.

Additional stations would offer more options to those traveling by bike and provide more convenient bus and shuttle connections. A station is currently being built under the Bourne Bridge on the south (Cape) side of the canal, which opens up more options and keeps both bikes and shuttle buses from having to use the dangerous bridge. Sandwich and West Barnstable have old train station which could be reactivated.

Travel Time: Once the train reaches the cape it operates with speed restrictions because the track south of the canal is designed for slower freight trains. The 2-hour 20-minute trip could be significantly faster with some track upgrades.

Local Transit: The Cape Flyer ends in Hyannis and cannot easily be extended further east as no rail line exists. While there are useful bus connections at the Hyannis Transportation Center, most are slow local, hourly routes designed more for local residents' needs like work and food shopping than those of visitors. Investments in more frequent connecting local transit service and new express/shuttle service to points east and west would make traveling beyond Hyannis more feasible and give travelers more options. Either way, more information about these transit options should be more readily available on the train and in places riders are likely to be at other times (before planning their trip) like South Station or, uh, the internet.

Opportunities for similar services

The Cape Flyer has been a profitable venture so far, aside from one-time capital expenses (new stations, track upgrades, etc.) and could be a model for other experiments in regional rail service. The Berkshires and White Mountains come to mind. It's also a good time to rethinking our "commuter" rail system and how the schedules could better serve all types of regional travel (increased frequency, better stations, shuttles, coordination with local transit, and more).

Transit Tip 14: Beware of useless bike lanes

There's a tendency among bike advocates to champion the delineation of a "bike space" even without any actual space being created. You know, "if there's room for a bike lane" without changing anything else on the street. At best you get no benefit, and at worst you're given a "safe space" that isn't safe at all. This bike lane is almost entirely in the door zone, which is why these users are staying to the far left. But cars will pass too closely (up against the line) so they really should be riding outside the bike lane for safety, but then motorists become arrogant and hostile as they think you're being a jerk.


That's when cars are parked flush against the curb. Even in the summer they often intrude into the bike lane. But in the winter the lane is completely taken away for car parking. Bike lanes in Boston are only open 1/3 of the year. And it's always the bikers and pedestrians who lose out; car drivers get plowed streets and the same ability to park their personal property: who cares if anyone else has trouble getting around?

You can see the city's priorities. They claim to be a "world-class bicycling city" where "the car is no longer king" but what this street design really does is appease some bicycle advocates while maintaining a car dominant streetscape. Fail.

This major business district is also a major transportation corridor. The 39 bus seen here is one of the highest ridership MBTA lines, yet all winter it struggles to pass arrogantly parked cars, often waiting for opposing traffic before it can cross the centerline. Buses often can't pass each other.

In a fairer city, cars that park outside the designated space would be ticketed and towed immediately. Better yet, restrict parking in certain spaces that can be used to store the snow that the city should be removing from sidewalks.

Transit Tip 12: Keep pedestrian and bike paths free of obstructions.

There's usually a buffer space between the sidewalk and the street where signs, utility poles, mail boxes and other things can go. Bus stop signs, for example, must be placed 1-2 feet back from the curb so the bus mirrors don't hit them.  But if you get rid of the buffer area to add parking or maximize the driving lane width, don't encroach on the already narrow path for parking meters, construction signs or anything else that doesn't belong there. IMAG4720

Also, to all the highway engineers out there, if you put any objects on the sidewalk, remember that the sidewalk has been narrowed. It's not a 5-foot (1.5m) sidewalk if 2 feet are taken up by poles and signs.

This is a 2-foot (0.6m) clear width, less than the minimum required, even while the driving width is at least 30 feet (9m).

Check out Perils for Pedestrians has a wealth great info on walking paths.

Bike sharing pioneer Bixi seeks bankruptcy

Bixi, which runs the bike sharing system in Montreal and sells the bikes, stations and software to other cities, has filed for bankruptcy.  The city has taken over the operation of the local network at an estimated $1.5 million cost. Like most bike share hosts, Montreal has thus far refused to contribute to operating costs. But if we consider the usage, about 2 million trips per year, I agree with the new mayor that $0.75 per trip is a great investment for a healthier, more accessible city. Let's hope support remains high among residents for continued operation.

Every city that has implemented a bike sharing system (as far as I know) has done it the same way: rely on a private company to run it, refuse to spend any public money on it, then complain about the over-reliance on advertising, station placement and failure to reach low-income and minority communities.

Perhaps it's a small issue: if you can make it run well without city funds, well, more money for schools and libraries. Except what happens when we use a federal grant for a new library building but then expect managers to solicit sponsors to help pay for books and computers? Same with bike sharing: at some point ad revenues decline and things fall apart. Like bus routes, many stations will be critically important but never profitable. But social equity and environmental justice goals don't easily mesh with running a business.

If we are serious about encouraging bicycling as healthy and effective transportation, cities should start funding and operating bike share as a public service, integrated with other modes of transportation. The Montreal mayor's comments are encouraging, as Bixi certainly is a fantastic public service worth paying for, and Montreal's transit agency STM has put together a plan for running it. After all, bike sharing only supplements the trains and buses that form a comprehensive, useful transportation network for maximum mobility.

Transit Tip 10. Clearing snow from sidewalks: how to do it well.

A few days ago I challenged cities and counties to accepting responsibility for actually clearing snow from sidewalks by just doing it. No more excuses. Then I came across an institution (hospital) doing it well. [gallery ids="1103,1104,1105"]

Thanks to Allina Health for showing how to clear snow efficiently and effectively. No excuses, just a safe, clear sidewalk.

Transit Tip 8. Sidewalk maintenance & snow clearing should be a public service.

Every year, despite lots of rhetoric, the same problem illustrates just how cities really feel about walking, biking and public transportation. There has been snow every year for centuries and it will continue to fall, yet somehow we still haven't accepted that the current system for getting around in the winter doesn't work. Cities clear the roadways for cars only, ignore everyone else, and then blame property owners for not all coming out with a tiny plastic shovel and scraping their piece of sidewalk clean.


It is time for cities and counties to take responsibility for maintaining safe, clear sidewalks everywhere. This spring we should survey every sidewalk and pedestrian path and make repairs where necessary, so that next winter we can simply drive a bunch of snow blower around the city and get the job done.  UPDATE: like this.