Saturday, March 7, 2009

An Open Letter To The Town of Arlington

I have known it for a long time. But I couldn't accept it. I couldn't figure out why Arlington drivers are consistently hostile to cyclists. Is it road rage? Do the drivers resent the cyclists' freedom? Do you begrudge us city folk passage through your town? Are the drivers upset with congestion and mistakenly blame the cyclists for their poorly working transportation artery (Mass Ave.)

I have given up. I always believed that we could coexist. I thought that if I patiently explained the cycling traffic laws to drivers, that if I calmly withstood their physical threats, if I diligently reported traffic and safety infractions, I believed that we could help change Arlington into a cyclist friendly place.

I was wrong. In response to greater numbers of cyclists, your drivers have become even more aggressive and hostile. When an verbal exchange occurs, more often than not, your drivers turn it into an altercation and often offer the cyclist physical harm (fists or fenders). In the face of mounting accidents, your police have chosen to ignore the problem and even side with the negligent and sometimes vindictive motorists when a collision occurs.

And don't even mention that the Minuteman Bikeway. The citizens of Arlington beleive that since they "built the ****ing bikepath," that cyclists should not be using any other throughway. Furthermore, traveling on by bicycle on that "bike path" in the summer is like trying to drive an semi through Downtown Crossing during lunch hour.

I have cycled in some pretty unenlightened cities in this state: Lowell, Lawrence, Lynn, Revere, Everett, Somerville (ungentrified sections included), Dorchester, Mattapan, Roxbury, Downtown Boston. Of them all, Arlington is the most unsafe, the most hostile and the most unfriendly. While a driver in a decaying mill town may almost sideswipe you and then apologize because he has is driving under the influence, the average Arlington driver on Mass Ave will do the same, only they are dead sober and the sideswipe is deliberate. No apology

I know when I am unwanted; I accept the situation.

As of today, I will actively avoid the town of Arlington. I have found and will use an alternative route to the outer suburbs when on a bicycle.

My boycott will extend beyond just cycling, I will no longer frequent any businesses in Arlington. I send my regrets to Quebrada Bakery, Capitol Theater, Flora, Tryst, both Starbucks on Mass Ave and The Knitting Room. If you relocate to any other town, I will gladly frequent your fine establishments.

It pains me to give up when I know that I am right. My only request was fair use of your streets, to allow me a foot or two of the gutter. If you were planning on cutting me off, I was asking for a simple turn signal before you did it. I was simply asking for minimum compliance with the law from your drivers and minimum enforcement from your police. No success.

Since I have done you the favor of not cycling in your town, I ask that you keep your drivers out of Cambridge. As a property owner and a taxpayer in the people's republic, I am confident that I speak for the whole city when I say that your rage rage filled, SUV driving, cellphone clutching, text messaging, traffic law ignoring, hostile cigarette smoking ignorants are no longer welcome in our fine city.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.


Jordan said...

It's sad but true, RMM. This should be sent along to massbike.

So what are your alternate routes out?

kevin said...

ps. Thank you for plowing your portion of the bike path. please annex lexington.

RMM said...

The bike path is half of the problem. The citizens of Arlington seem to think that since they have a bike bath, cyclists have no place on any other through way in the whole town.

RMM said...

JRW: Route = Winchester

Colin R said...

I've ridden Mass Ave through Arlington roughly a million times in the last two years and never had a single incident.

Seriously, zero, zip, nada.

As I've never ridden with you I cannot directly blame your "riding style," but I would be interested to know how often you "take the lane" or ride in groups that go two (or more) abreast on Mass Ave, or do anything else that forces passing cars into the oncoming lane. Because this really, really, REALLY pisses drivers off when the road is busy, regardless of your legal right to do so.

So yeah, I'm assuming your riding style is part of the problem, as my method of cowering deferentially as far to the right as possible seems to work fine.

Perhaps your dignity doesn't allow for such actions, which I can fully understand, or perhaps I'm entirely barking up the wrong tree, but I thought I should mention that you might be part of the problem before the comment echo chamber grew too strong.

rosey said...

i've definitely noticed Arlington has a higher percentage of oblivious drivers and confrontation seeking drivers compared to any other area around Boston. It's not to say their frustration isn't sometimes warranted but I support RMM's annoyance about poor driver etiquette in Arlington. That's why I do my best to always avoid Mass Ave in Arlington (and Cambridge). I choose the rough and tumble streets of Belmont, Watertown, and Brighton over Arlington and the west edge of Cambridge.

Good thing I don't live in Central Square area though.

RMM said...

I have noticed this pattern even when I have been alone and taking it easy. In fact, before making this declaration, I had been riding super courteously and slowly through Arlington. No difference in the perceived number of near misses and aggressive drivers.
Since cowering is somewhat beneath me (excepting those few occasions where I have been shot at), I have chosen to take the shreds of my dignity elsewhere.

B-Bike-G said...

.. as an adjunct to this conversation, the only open aggression the CB 4/5 team experienced yesterday was on a stretch of road in winchester. . . . . yer not safe anywhere.

lauren said...

i got doored for the first time in arlington the other week on the way back from a ride. literally right in front of quad bikes, with them all standing there open-mouthed and not one of them coming out to see if i was ok. i whole-heartedly second your displeasure with that stretch of road/town.

the guy who doored me was apologetic until i was standing up, moving around, and requesting his information. started making comments like, "oh, were you going really fast? you just came out of nowhere" and, "you know, i was just looking for cars. they have headlights..." even though it wasn't yet dusk. he also overemphasized the fact that he was an elementary school teacher, as if that would make me feel bad for him while my knee was bleeding, my elbow couldn't bend and my hip and sitbone were throbbing.

so in this situation, "cowering differentially to the right" and giving the road to the heavier 5pm traffic did NOT work in my favor. i had a car on my left and a rider on my wheel and nothing to do except let my hip get cracked by the opening door.

Team Embrocation said...

I've experienced this when riding solo in Arlington as well.

In the last year I've been cut off, right hooked, passed too close and honked at aggressively for no reason.

I suppose this stuff happens anywhere, but for whatever reason it seems more acute in Arlington. Maybe there are just more questionable roads/intersections.

This too pisses me off although I'm not sure I'm embargo status yet.

Jordan said...


new laws were just passed that make dooring a cyclist a ticketable offense. While the ticket is nominal, something like 100 bucks, it gives the cyclist precedence to fall back on should you or your bicycle have sustained damage that you want to recoup from the doorer. hope you're well.

Yash Katsumi said...

As a lifetime Winch resident, I have always hated Arlington and do everything I can to avoid it.

nixie the mighty said...

hahah i empathize with your hatred towards arlington. folks do see a little bit more edgy around there. i however hate watertown more. when i worked there i was riding get my lunch, a ride that would take 3 minutes each way and i almost got hit hmmm 3 times. people are just in to much of a rush.

Matt Roy said...

I think the problem you have with Arlington is really a problem with Mass Ave. It's a very busy, retail-ridden thoroughfare, with turns every 50m to the 'burbs that make up Arlington. Cars are constantly opening doors, changing lanes and turning... probably with a greater incidence per mile than anywhere else you ride. It doesn't give drivers in Arlington license to drive irresponsibly, but you can quite easily avoid the Arlington problem by avoiding Mass Ave (at least from Trader Joe's to Arlington Center). Even more so during heavy commuting hours and midday on the weekend. I live in Arlington (7+ years now) and start and end nearly all of my rides by avoiding Mass Ave... and thus avoid the problems you tend to encounter.

RMM said...

Are there parts of Arlington that do not abut Mass Ave?

Josh said...

Fuck Arlington.