This, I decided, would be the summer I rode more to work.
The shortest route between our house (Ashland) and my office (Natick) is 6 miles, almost entirely on Route 135 with less than 200 feet of elevation.
In the past, I have avoided Route 135, electing instead to take a more scenic route, which also added 5 miles and a few hills. Great for training, but not for when I need to get home quickly for kids, dog, etc. So this year, I was determined to take the short way.
Starting my first commute of the year, I was cautiously optimistic as planners in downtown Framingham, one of the most complicated parts of my ride, had recently made an effort to improve safety for cyclists with the addition of bike lanes. I figured that had to help, because a less-than-perfect bike lane is better than no bike lane at all, right?
It turns out, I may have been wrong because the bike lanes in downtown Framingham have serious issues. The biggest being that the lanes are not just unprotected, a large portion are unprotected on both sides, with parking on one side and traffic on the other. Meaning there is a very real risk that I will get “doored” by one of the parked cars and thrown into traffic.
I can, and often do, ride outside of the bike lane, but I run the risk of angering a driver who doesn’t understand why I don’t use the “perfectly nice bike lanes.”
And, of course, if I do get hurt or killed riding outside of the bike lane, there is a good chance that will be included in the reasons I was to blame. (Don’t believe me? Just read a few articles about the recent death of a cyclist in NYC. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)
It pains me to criticize anyone who is trying to improve conditions for non-drivers, and downtown Framingham has certainly done more on Route 135 than Natick, but each time I run the gauntlet I can’t help but thinking that a bad bike lane might actually be worse than no bike lane at all.