You’ve seen them on your own commute — bicyclists on their way to work from Newton. Could biking to work be an option for you? There are a number of considerations so we emailed three Newton bike commuters to learn more about their daily rides.
Jeff Kopf works in Post Office Square in downtown Boston. “I ride straight down Beacon street, through Kenmore Square, to Boston. I ride home mostly on the bike trail along the Charles River and then cut south on Lowell Ave towards my house.” To avoid traffic, Jeff rides early in the morning, arriving at work before 7:30am.
Nathan Phillips works at Boston University. He bikes one of two routes: Washington Street from West Newton through Newton Corner and onto Nonantum St or on Beacon Street through Waban, Newton Centre and Chestnut Hill.
Ramon Bonegio commutes to Boston Medical Center in the South End. He bikes along Beacon Street through Longwood to Melnea Cass.
These bike routes are not without issues. “The most dangerous part of the commute is on Beacon Street right before Mass Ave. (a woman on a bike was killed there a few months ago),” Kopf writes. “Bikers have to move all the way across from the right side of road to the left side of the road to continue in the bike lane which crosses under Mass Ave. There is no safe way to do this. Often I just stop completely and wait until there are no cars at all.” Phillips doesn’t like all the potholes on Washington Street where cars speed along. Bonegio writes, “Newton Centre is tough because the bike lane only appears after the major intersections at Beacon and Center/Cypress and Beacon and Langley. As a result the busiest part of Newton Centre with the most parked cars and traffic have no bike lanes.”
Things are getting better in Newton, though. Kopf writes, “On the way home, the worst part used to be Lowell Ave behind the high school but it was recently paved. (Unfortunately, there is no bike lane indicated on this newly paved road. I am hoping they are going to do this.) There is still a pretty bad part on Lowell Ave between Washington St and Watertown St. There is this old concrete paving on the road and the shoulder is at a different level from the road with lots of potholes in it. I hope they keep working their way down Lowell and pave this part of it.”
Each of these commuters are adding daily exercise to their routine, maybe more time than you (or I) spend at the gym. It takes Kopf about 45 minutes to get to Post Office Square through city streets and an hour to ride along the Charles back home. Bonegio takes 40-45 minutes to get to BMC, and it takes Phillips about the same amount of time to get to BU. By car, each rider said it would only take 20 minutes to drive to work without traffic but during rush hour, the drive often takes longer than the bike ride.
But focusing on the time spent riding misses the point. Phillips writes, “It’s not really as much about the time as it is about the predictability. Studies have shown that most of the stress and anxiety of commuting is due to the unpredictable nature of the commute — delays, gridlock, trains not running on time. Biking is hands-down the most predictable commute there is (except walking).”
Kopf stops riding with the end of Daylight Savings Time, “It feels too dangerous to ride home in the dark.” Bonegio stops riding usually in December, when ice may be a problem. Phillips only stops when he knows there is ice on the road. “I have gear for every other condition.”
Is a predictable commute something you aspire to? (Plus, that daily exercise?) Any time is a good time to plan routes, and consider how you might get to your workplace — or regular errands — by bicycle.