Bike commuting in Boston -- best route between Cambridge/East Boston?
January 18, 2008 7:28 AM   Subscribe

For a friend: commuting by bike, need to get to Cambridgeport half the week and East Boston the other half. Best bike routes? Best places to live?

A friend is just moving to Boston and is starting work at a company where he will spend half his time at an office in Cambridge (by the River St Whole Foods, about .6 miles from Central Square) and the other half in East Boston (Jeffries Point, about a mile from Maverick station).

He would like to commute by bike and only bike. He would prefer no T if possible. A car is not an option.

Question 1: if he lives in Cambridge near the Cambridge office (his first choice), what's the best route to bike to where he needs to be in Eastie without risking his life more than necessary?

Question 2: if this is pretty unfeasible, where's the best place to live to make it feasible? Charlestown/Chelsea area? IANAB(icyclist) so I have no idea how this stuff works or what is considered a reasonable biking distance.

(yes, this is similar to a previous question I asked, but with the difficulty of bike vs car/T....)
posted by olinerd to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
East Cambridge near the Longfellow Bridge seems to be a good middle ground, but biking to Maverick looks like it requires going through Charlestown, up Route 1 over the Tobin Bridge, and then south again into East Boston. I'm not sure it's possible to bike over the Tobin, so I think he might have to rely on the T to get to one or the other location.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:55 AM on January 18, 2008

Oh, and bikes are allowed on the Blue Line any time except during rush hour (7-10 am and 4-7 pm weekdays). So as long as your friend's not traveling then, he could ride his bike to the aquarium stop and take the Blue Line to Maverick - it's just one stop.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:57 AM on January 18, 2008

Response by poster: Unfortunately it will be during rush hour... can he take it on ferries?
posted by olinerd at 7:59 AM on January 18, 2008

imho, if you are adamant about no T, then there are no good routes, only routes in varying degrees of badness. Basically, your cannot take their bike on any of the tunnels or on the Tobin, which rules out the most direct routes to Eastie.

That basically leaves you with taking Rt. 99 from the rotary near the Schraft's building over the Mystic, then a right on Beacham once you're in Everett, then right on Pearl to get over the Andrew McArdle Bridge. Both of these bridge crossings suck from a cycling perspective as they are on high traffic roads with little or no shoulder. The Schraft's rotary is a little hairy to negotiate (as many rotaries are to a cyclist) but traffic tends to be fairly low speed as, I believe, there are stop signs at all major entry points to the rotary, so you're not dealing with people barrelling through like they do around, say, Fresh Pond.

Arcing up to Medford and crossing over the Mystic at Medford Center is easier, but is a major, major detour.

If your friend is really keen on doing this as bike only, the most central residency spot, I would expect is Inman Square / East Cambridge. Take Windsor or Columbia down to Central , then ride Sidney or Pearl down to Putnam and take Putnam over to River. Take Webster to Prospect to Union Square and follow Washington St. to the 99 rotary.

If, however, your friends is willing to compromise and take the T, then consider living closer to a Green Line stop, so you can switch to the Blue to get to Maverick.
posted by bl1nk at 8:01 AM on January 18, 2008

Biking from Cambridgeport to East Boston is going to be a pain in the ass, frankly, as i'm pretty sure you can't bike over the Tobin. I think the only way to do it would be to take the Memorial or Storrow Drive bikepaths to the Museum of Science, cross into Charlestown over the Gilmore bridge, head up Rutherford ave to Sullivan Square, take Rte. 99 into Everett, and then from there go, um, right. Through Chelsea. Charlestown or East Somerville might be a better place to live if he wants to bike commute and split his working time between Cambridgeport and East Boston.

There may be a water taxi option, but i think it would be kind of expensive to do for half a year.

Your friend might want to pick up a Boston Bikemap -
posted by the painkiller at 8:10 AM on January 18, 2008

oooh, ferries ... that's an option. You are allowed to take bicycles on any MBTA ferry, so it's feasible. Just take the F2 from Long Wharf to Logan then it's a straight shot up Maverick St. to the Maverick station.

If your friend is going to go this route, it's still preferable to live in East Cambridge, in their case, they can take the Hancock Bridge out of Kendall over the Charles into downtown, than tack east through Post Office Square by getting to Milk St.
posted by bl1nk at 8:10 AM on January 18, 2008

Good call, bl1nk. If i'm reading this correctly, though, the ferry schedule is somewhat limited for going between Long Wharf and Logan - during rush hours there are 3 in the morning, and 3 in the evening. Just something to keep in mind.

(There also seems to be one ferry that goes nowhere, weird...)
posted by the painkiller at 8:25 AM on January 18, 2008

Somewhere in the Union Square, Somerville area might be a good compromise. It's an easy bike ride from Union to Cambridgeport (straight down Prospect, more or less, or any number of good side streets). Getting to Eastie is still going to be a bitch, there's no way around that. I would take Washington/Cambridge St. to Sullivan, up Rt. 99, make a right just after the bridge (an easy bridge to cross on bike, BTW) and cut through the "back way" - Beacham St./Williams St., which goes under the Tobin. Not the easiest commute by bike, but the only way into Eastie without taking the Tobin/tunnels.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 8:28 AM on January 18, 2008

BTW, your friend really needs to check out a Boston map, and come to grips with the fact that East Boston is totally cut off from the city by water. Commuting there via bike is going to be a real nightmare, particularly in the winter or in bad weather. Eastie in particular has very narrow streets that are constantly packed with cars. The non-tunnel/bridge routes are heavily used by trucks, which completely tears up the pavement. There is no route that will not bring a serious chance of death or dismemberment. I can totally respect his desire for a pure-bicycle commute, but please make sure he knows what he'll be getting into. Boston is not particularly bike-friendly, and East Boston is the worst of the worst.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 8:55 AM on January 18, 2008

To add on what Banky has written -- personally, I think Prospect is a terrible option for any cyclist, congested as it is with trucks and cars shuttling on the Union/Inman/Central/Storrow Drive axis and with little to no appreciable shoulder. This is why my preference is for East Cambridge over Union ... though, certainly Union sometimes provides better value for apartments and lodging. Just from a bike commuting perspective, I'd rather minimize my time on Prospect St. if it can be helped.
posted by bl1nk at 9:14 AM on January 18, 2008

Also consider the weather - we had over a foot of snow on Monday which would make biking nigh impossible unless your friend is some sort of monstrous abominable snow cyclist or something. If that's the case, I look forward to discovering his giant biketracks and arguing with wild-eyed bearded men about his existence.

If not, he should look for a location that provides for an easy T commute to Eastie and a worthwhile bikeride to East Cambridge. Allston may be a good bet - cheap (for Boston), near the Green Line (which gets you to the blue) and buses, and not that far of a ride to East Cambridge/River Street. Somerville can work too - Davis or Porter - for Red Line access. Alewife may work too as there's a bikepath that will get you down into Somerville. The bike ride from Somerville to Cambridge is not bad at all.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:22 AM on January 18, 2008

Response by poster: Robocop is bleeding -- good point about the weather, although when I was stuck in the December blizzard on Mass Ave, I watched bicyclists blowing by me in the many inches of snow we had then. As a driver, I harbor much anger toward bicyclists, but I do have to admire their resilience and bravery.

Thanks for the input, y'all... this should be really helpful for him.
posted by olinerd at 10:23 AM on January 18, 2008

olinerd -- this is a tangent, but assuming properly warm riding kit, cycling through a blizzard isn't that hard or dangerous.

keep in mind that the difference between riding in a blizzard and riding on weeks old hard-packed snow is that there's a lot more fresh fallen snow that can be used for traction and in most blizzards cars are either stopped or crawling by and most bikes are puttering as well since it's much less efficient to plow through powder than it is to glide on bare tarmac. Therefore losing control of one's bike will result, at worst, at very low speed collisions.

Four days later, all of that plowed snow has been packed into a treacherous melange of ice and sand that's now taking up 80% of the shoulder while the rest of the road is taken up by cars flying by at full speed.
posted by bl1nk at 10:34 AM on January 18, 2008

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