Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Provincetown School of Vehicular Cycling

We often take daytrips to the Cape in the summer, but avoid Provincetown, because it is both too far and much too crowded. However, last week we stopped by. For those unfamiliar with the area, Provincetown is a lively and quirky town at the very tip of Cape Cod, long associated with the arts and with freedom of sexual expression. The main street is lined with galleries, coffee houses, excellent restaurants, eccentric shops, theaters, piano lounges and dance clubs. Rainbow flags are aflutter. Tourists pose to have their pictures taken with drag queens. Ocean waves rise picturesquely in the background. Everything is relaxed and easy; everyone gets along.

We arrived with our vintage 3-speeds and found the town center absolutely packed. The photos don't capture this, but many parts of the long and narrow Commercial Street were filled shoulder to shoulder with pedestrians and bumper to bumper with cars. It did not look like we could walk through the center, let alone cycle. And yet, the place was full of cyclists. They were riding in both directions through the narrow street, blithely passing the slow cars and the meandering pedestrians with dogs and strollers. We got on our bicycles, and what an educational experience it was.

Imagine: Cars pay attention to bicycles and wait for them without getting angry about it. Drivers and passengers look before opening the doors of parked cars. Cyclists are non-belligerent. Phrases such as "Please, go right ahead!" and "Oh, sorry about that!" and "Thanks!" and "Hey, nice bike!" can be heard all around instead of what is normally shouted in Boston. Can this be Vehicular Cycling Heaven? Cycling in Provincetown - both through the center and through the wider roads with higher speed limits - has made me feel considerably more comfortable about sharing the road with cars.

We did not take many bike photos, but here are a few bicycles spotted in town. A colourful Electra Amsterdam with nice wicker panniers and a sunflower on the handlebars. I believe it belongs to a local painter.

And here is a Rivendell Rambouillet by the marina, complete with fenders, Brooks saddle, rack, lights, and handlebar bag. The owner was pleased and amused that I recognised his bike.

And finally, a solution to the "control issue" in tandem cycling: The Buddy Bike! Now both riders can feel like captains - though I assume this can only be done if the riders are roughly of the same weight.

For more about cycling in P-Town, read about Vee's bike date at Suburban Bike Mama.

7 comments:

  1. hey thanks for the link! I completely agree with you. It's heaven.

    I also wanted to tell you- you know about the fast ferry to boston right? Since you guys go day trips... the ferry is currently a bit $$ ( back in my day it was 50 bucks round trip. Now it's about 80!) but you can bring your bike on ( perhaps for a small bike fee) and roll off the ferry and have fun and return home that day. the ferry takes 90 mins from Long Warf to P-town. I usually used it as a carfree way of getting to the cape for the weekend when B was working ( I'd have a friend pick me up and drop me off at the in laws... and they'd take me back on sunday) but I did make one day trip using it and it worked out fine. I have no idea what the bike ride would be like to Long Warf esp early.

    I see a romantic fall getaway. Get a room at a B&B stay overnight? Bike around. heaven.;-)

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  2. We've been wanting to take the ferry to P-Town, but somehow it hasn't happened yet. We are usually in the Falmouth area. We have it worked out, so that the trip takes just over an hour by car. The trick is to only go on weekdays, leave very early in the morning, and drive back after 8pm. There is no traffic during these times. When we stay for longer in September, our place will be 20 or so miles from P-Town and the plan is to cycle there whenever we want to go into town... well, maybe not daily, but at least give it a try.

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  3. It's so odd to cycle in heavy pedestrian traffic for the first time. My first time in real traffic was on 4th of July in Boston. The walking crowd overtook Storrow drive, bridges, overpasses and everything held still. It was at night, too, for added excitement. I'll never forget suddenly being swallowed in a crowd forming from all directions, full of baby carriages, drunks, EMS and police, and many, many patriotically minded Bostonians.

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  4. Hey Filigree keep up the travel reports!

    My son has moved to Boston (not sure of his exact area yet) So I will be heading that way with bicycles in tow via Amtrak. Firstly to visit him, he has spent the past 3 years in the UK, secondly to get him cycle situated. I have one of his bikes stored at my house (imagine that) and thirdly to go riding, inspired by the several blogs I follow from the area.

    Aaron

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  5. Just wonderful! Beautiful little town, I want to visit again. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. Looks and sounds like a wonderful little town! Every time I cycle in a sweet smaller town where drivers are so polite, I want to leave the city :)

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  7. Sounds great! I've got to take my bike to P-town sometime. BTW, supposedly, it doesn't matter how heavy either rider is on those buddy-bike tandems--the physics of how a bicycle steers naturally compensates for riders of different weights. I've been meaning to build one for myself (I like to weld and build crazy bike frames)--if I ever do, I'll send you a video!
    - Rob

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