Sunday, September 2, 2012

Bicycle Bans in Parks and Cemeteries

A number of public and private parks in the Boston area do not permit bicycles on the premises. Some cyclists complain about the ban, because the green spaces make for pleasant and convenient shortcuts through congested parts of town - for instance, the Public Garden and Harvard Yard. Others find it perfectly reasonable that some parks are reserved for being enjoyed at walking pace. I am mostly in the latter camp, and so it did not bother me to learn that the historic Mt. Auburn Cemetery I planned to finally visit this weekend did not allow bikes.

A morbid paradise of Victorian design known as America's first garden cemetery, this enormous park offers visitors miles of roads and winding trails. There are ponds, botanical gardens, wild woodsy areas, birdwatching opportunities, and a number of remarkable architectural landmarks. Although the cemetery is still active, the administration promotes it as a park and encourages both local visitors and tourists. A brief list of rules asks to be respectful and refrain from activities such as picnicking, sunbathing, jogging and cycling. However, as I learned during my visit, motor vehicles are allowed. The ban on bicycles is not part of a vehicular ban, but a recreational one, which puts things in a different light. What of those who use bicycles for transportation? The reasoning behind cars being permitted, is that it can be challenging for the average person to explore the vast grounds on foot. The noise and exhaust fumes the cars produce, as well their effect on the pedestrian visitor experience (those walking must stop and move aside in order for a car to pass on the narrow roads) are all excused to accommodate their transportational function. Would bicycles really be more of a nuisance? It seems to me the logical and fair solution would be to either close the park to vehicles entirely (except for maintenance work and funeral processions, of course), or to allow both cars and bicycles.

Rules regarding bicycles in parks are a reflection of cultural perceptions. Are bicycles inherently offensive in a cemetery because the very sight of them suggests recreation? Or are they legitimate vehicles that - unlike cars - will help protect the tranquil nature of the grounds, flora and fauna?

59 comments:

  1. I've spent many, many hours walking through the Mount Auburn Cemetery. I was aware of the ban on bicycling, but your argument about the fact that motor vehicles are not banned never occurred to me. While I disagree about it being "challenging for the average person to explore the vast grounds by walking" -- after getting familiar with the place, it seems quite a bit smaller, and easy to walk around in, you make a good case for the unfairness of prohibiting some transportation vehicles but not others, particularly since bicycles are generally less disruptive than automobiles.

    That said, I would like to point out that I have never encountered a car in the cemetery driving at an uncomforably fast pace. The narrow, winding roads and peaceful environs are not conducive to driving fast. It also doesn't really offer any convenient shortcut from one side of the cemetery to another, so there isn't really "traffic". I do think there might be a danger of sport cyclists using the quiet paths inappropriately, racing around the smooth roads at fairly high speeds, if "cycling" was permitted, and that would be more disruptive to the serenity of the place than the occasional car puttering along.

    Of course, I have actually seen a few people on bicycles at the Mount Auburn Cemetery over the years, but none who were behaving in a disrespectful manner -- just like the motorists who drive there...

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    1. "I do think there might be a danger of sport cyclists using the quiet paths inappropriately, racing around the smooth roads at fairly high speeds"

      I suspect that's the administration's reasoning. But while it makes sense at first glance, I don't think it does on deeper analysis. For example, there are rules concerning both drivers and pedestrians. Cars may not exceed the speed limit or drive on unpaved paths. Pedestrians may not run, and in many areas they may not walk on the grass. The administration trusts drivers and pedestrians to both respect the rules and to have sufficient control of their vehicles/bodies to adhere to them. So the implication is that cyclists are either untrustworthy in comparison to drivers and pedestrians, or do not have sufficient control of their vehicles. A 10mph speed limit and a "no bikes on unpaved trails" rule should be sufficient to take care of any concerns over fast sporty cyclists.

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    2. By the way, I absolutely loved the grounds and cannot believe that I have not visited before. I know I will be spending a great deal of time there in the future; a magical place.

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    3. The brochure called something like Introductory Walk explains that bicycles are banned just like horses were banned before and have to be locked at the gate (racks provided) as horses had to be tied at the gate (stalls were provided?).

      Of course bicycles don't poop.

      So, what was the mode of travel permitted at the time of horses, before cars? Apparently carriages. So they allowed visitors in carriages but not on horses.

      Perhaps visitors on horses were seen as recreational, too.

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  2. In the cemetery of Pere Lachaise in Paris, they didn't let us in because of our bikes, although there was a constant traffic of cars going in. Bicycles are tranquil vehicles. I think that they should let bikes in, ban cars and buy electric vehicles like golf cars for physically challenged people.

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  3. When we moved to New England we lived way out in the suburbs, and people quite matter-of-factly treated the town cemetery as equivalent to the town greenspace. Like most of the New England cemeteries we saw, part of it was quite old, but it was also still in active use. It was where people in town walked their dogs, rode their bikes, and did their jogging. As a Southerner, I was appalled at first, but before long I saw the really beautiful logic of it. The town's sidewalks were almost impassable even in the summer and the streets were too busy for children to bike on safely. The cemetery was far and away the biggest plot of land in town, with shade and quiet roads that were plowed in the winter.

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    1. I'd much rather be below a park full of life and people than a dead stone slab.

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  4. No problem. Walk and take the lane - do NOT let a car pass. Find out how much a driver enjoys traveling at 2.5 mph.

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    1. Cars in the Mount Auburn Cemetery don't usually move much faster than that, even when the roads are empty of pedestrians. They're not "traveling", generally speaking; nobody uses the cemetery roads on the way somewhere else.

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  5. From my observation, the issue is that evidently these parks cannot conceive of bicycles as transportation (mind boggling in Cambridge), so they reflexively consider bicycles as toys for children or racers in lycra.

    Some locations (I'm thinking of Harvard Yard and the Quad at UPenn) are periodically too crowded with pedestrians. I think it makes sense that UPenn posts signs for bicyclists to walk their bikes on the 40th St pedestrian bridge, having been buzzed by local kids riding too fast. But I note bicycles are not banned; bicyclists are just requested to walk their bikes in crowds of pedestrians. (I don't recall any problems walking or parking bicycles in the Harvard Yard)

    Locally, Winterthur (DuPont estate converted to museum) wanted to ban all bicyclists from their property a few years ago. The problem was not the park itself (always pedestrian), but the long driveways to the entrance and parking lots - the staff seemed to think they were prohibiting children from playing in a parking lot and didn't understand adults might ride as far as 3-4 miles from town for to visit the park.

    The Philadelphia Amtrak station and airport are not much better. Amtrak has expanded auto parking, but complains that bicycles are parked illegally rather than install more racks, and periodically threaten to confiscate them with minimal notice. Similarly, the Philadelphia airport finally installed minimal bicycle parking after years, but prohibits overnight bicycle parking. Somehow, passengers are expected to arrive by car, but not by bicycle.

    Certainly, it would seem more sensible for the cemetery to set the policy by dress code (regarding sun bathing, lycra etc.) and behavior rather than bicycles per se. i'm curious about enforcement - if you arrived by bicycle to visit a grave, do they prohibit this?

    Angelo

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    1. They provide bike racks at the main gate.

      Let's imagine that they have language that says only transportational, not recreational cycling through the grounds is allowed. Then people in bikes would want to stop and look, just like people in cars stop, park and look. So, one possible reason why no bikes are allowed in for transportation is what happens when bikes stop--they need to be down on the grass/pavement or be leaned against something. They probably don't want to have bikes leaning against things and they don't want to provide racks everywhere, or to require kickstands.

      One compromise would be to allow tricycles. That would cut down on recreational/sport cyclists and allow visitors to cycle through for sight-seeing. It would solve the problem of parking and I think it's safe to assume tricycles wouldn't turn/go as fast.

      I am not serious about the tricycle thing, but if I had to argue against their policy, I would use that argument. :)

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    2. They could still avoid the problems you suggest by only allowing bikes to be PARKED in racks. I think most utility bikes have a kickstand but a lot of bikes does not. Parking at the gate would make a visit impossible for some of us, I would need the bike to carry my stuff if I have to walk far. Also I use my bike as a mobility aid if I have to travel (without my car) far. You should try to roll the Brompton trough ;?)

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  6. This is a huge policy oversight. Considering you likely cycled there following the rules of the road and likely swore more than once at drivers due to aggressiveness/bad driving. You could have cycled through the cemetery and if stopped explain that this is your vehicle as bikes are considered vehicles under the law. What about motorcycles and scooters? Or, if as Merlin pointed out, Mount Auburn is not that big at all, cars should also be banned except for funerals, maintenance vehicles and handicapped drivers. While most drivers are respectful along the roads, I bet many are not and drive pedestrians to leap into ditches or precarious sides of the road because they are impatient and hovering.
    There are also places where bikes are not allowed because they are environmentally sensitive. That's to be expected, and while mountain bikers do great work building and maintaining trails, I also see how ecosystems can get damaged from heavy use.
    This is much like when you went to the Giant's Causeway in northern Ireland and overheard people complain that they had to hike a bit from the parking lot. A sense of entitlement and laziness when it comes to cars, and society keeps on catering to it.
    An extreme example: In my neck of the woods is a world wonder, the Skookumchuck rapids on the BC coast. It's a fairly long hike in to see the rapids, but the trail is fairly easy and most able bodied should be able to do it. Bikes are allowed, and I have seen people with mountain bikes respectfully moving around the hikers. At the trail head it explains that it is a very long hike, be prepared, there are no services etc.. Well, one day some people thought they could just drive in. Their fancy silver SUV got stuck almost immediately and had to be rescued. I can sympathize if they were elderly and could no longer walk, but I am not even sure if that was the case. The whole point of the hike is that it is fairly wild, beautiful, away from it all. If one is handicapped and cannot walk, there are boat tours.

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    1. While most drivers are respectful along the roads, I bet many are not and drive pedestrians to leap into ditches or precarious sides of the road because they are impatient and hovering.

      You would lose that bet. Seriously, I've spent hundreds of hours in the Mount Auburn Cemetery, and I have never witnessed a motorist driving dangerously or even inconsiderately to pedestrians.

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    2. FWIW, no one was driving dangerously while I was there either.

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    3. Heather--motorcycles and scooters are also not allowed.

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  7. Cemeteries are about morbid respect, and bikes represent light-hearted fun. Of course they are out of place there.
    It is just something that will have to be shot down one day.

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    1. "and bikes represent light-hearted fun."

      i disagree. bikes represent religious self-flagellation and as such are completely appropriate in cemeteries.

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    2. And cars are all about death, thus appropriate. :-)

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  8. Whilst I have seldom had cause to cycle through a cemetery, there was a cycle route I used to use in Manchester which went past a rather large one. I often saw people driving through the cemetery, often relatively fast. As illogical as it is, it just doesn't seem respectful to drive a car through a cemetery, yet it is widely accepted. A bicycle doesn't seem nearly as bad and yet this is more likely to be frowned upon.

    I would certainly not wish for my final journey to be made in a car, perhaps I will have to make a specific stipulation in a will...

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  9. Hard to come up with a diplomatic way to say "f*cked up", so I'll leave it at that. This is the sort of policy that makes me look for ways to maliciously conform to the letter of the law, while totally subverting its spirit. Walking in the middle of the road in front of all cars (as suggested above) seems like a good start.

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    1. I feel that same initial impulse, but the motorists at the cemetery (mostly there, presumably, to visit departed loved ones) did not come up with that rule. Walking slowly to get back at motorists at the cemetery seems misdirected to me.

      I think that the motorists drive slowly and respectfully out of deference to the sanctity of the place. I would be surprised if anyone showed up in a car there to drag-race. Similarly, I'd like to believe that most cyclists wouldn't come in their power-ranger attire and do TTs. Perhaps the Cemetery would be more fair if they had a sign asking ppl not to engage in recreational activities?

      I think the best idea would be to politely petition the cemetery's management, if the ban on bikes bothers you from a transportation-cycling perspective.

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    2. The problem with "politely petition" is that it gets a little old after 40 years. Suppose they had a rule that said "women must cover their legs to the ankle" or some other such anachronism; you think this would be cause for "polite petitioning"?

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    3. Perhaps you're right; petitioning may not be effective. That still doesn't lend any logic to the notion of punishing motorists for unfair policies implemented by the cemetery's administration. Anyone who is legitimately upset about the cemetery's cycling ban would probably be best served by adopting a progressively more aggressive schedule of targeting those in charge of the ban. Start with a petition. If there's no action, put up some posters. If need be, stage a protest in front of the cemetery grounds, if it means that much to you. (Please stop short at fire-bombing the cemetery office.)

      On the other hand, the passive-aggressive harassment of motorists at the cemetery is out-of-line. Using your hypothetical example of a sexist dress code, it'd be analogous to female visitors at the cemetery finding mildly annoying ways to harass male visitors (squirting them with super-soakers, perhaps?), while leaving the actual policy-makers alone entirely.

      There are more reasonable approaches available; I'd suggest that concerned parties start with the least dramatic methods first and go from there. If you're not actually concerned, it may be best to just lock your bike up and walk the grounds.

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    4. "Walking in the middle of the road in front of all cars (as suggested above) seems like a good start."

      Or group rides to the place every sunday w all the paticipants lock theyr bikes up by the gate until rules are changed..

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  10. "I would certainly not wish for my final journey to be made in a car, perhaps I will have to make a specific stipulation in a will..."

    Cargo bike? Or strap wheels to the casket and tow it?

    I have wondered about the logistics of being buried with my Brompton.

    I understand the distinction that the cemetery is making; it is likely the case that the cars are there to visit grave sites rather than to just drive around recreationally, just as it is likely that the bikes are there recreationally. And I understand wanted to keep recreational activities more peaceful, like with the prohibition against jogging.

    Having said that, this does leave transportation cyclists out in the cold - this could be fixed simply by prohibiting bicycling except for those visiting the cemetery for cemetery purposes. (And, yeah, maybe a dress code wouldn't be inappropriate, either).

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  11. If you've ever been to Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont, you'll know that it is an exceptional place. Originally a summer home for the Webb family that covered over 2000 acres, it remains an amazing example of architecture and landscape that is more then worth the visit. It is now a 1,400-acre working farm, inn and education center.

    They do not allow bicycles on the property. However, my wife and I once stayed at the Inn (formerly the estate on the property) and there by bicycle. When we got to the front gatehouse and announced our arrival, we were allowed to pass through on our bikes without any problem. I've also had the same experience going to the Inn for a meal. There seemed to be an understanding that a bicycle is some people's vehicle.

    It was a true joy to pedal through such beauty and I recommend it to everyone.

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  12. In response to comments about the cars' speed and the pedestrian experience: The (slow) speed is actually not what bothered me, and neither was it having to yield. It was mostly the constant sound of running engines and the smell of exhaust in a place that otherwise was incredibly tranquil. Many visitors would even leave their cars running as they stepped out to take some photos or explore one of the hiking trails. The sounds of the running engines just felt so intrusive in a place that was otherwise filled with birdsong. I think on Labor Day weekend the cemetery must have had more visitors than typical.

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    1. I live near a similar park, and perhaps it's me, but the smell of exhaust or the sound of engines is far, far, from my experience. Exhausts are worst in city intersections, especially with large vehicles, but otherwise I'll never notice them. I can, however, hear the sound of tires on the road and, strangely, it's rather soothing. Of course I wouldn't mind it if bicycles were allowed either.

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  13. This is one thing that we do right... in Poland (where I come from). Polish cemeteries are much more congested and not as much spread out as American ones. We just don't have that space. This means that cars are right out - they will never fit there between the graves. Bicycles, however, are welcomed and are usually used for transportation - etc. to bring fresh flowers to the grave.

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  14. They have to allow cars in Mt. Auburn Cemetery. Most cars I see there are either part of a funeral procession, or are there transporting gardening supplies so that families and loved ones of people buried there can tend to their graves-- weeding and planting flowers (plus many people who visit and tend to graves are elderly). I've walked through the cemetery quite a bit, and I don't think I've encountered too many cars there just sight-seeing. The administration's reasoning behind banning bikes is probably rooted in the notion that it's impractical to use bikes in the same utilitarian sense as one would use a car, transporting gardening supplies and 50 lb bags of potting soil. Therefore any cyclists in the cemetery would be there for sport. I think they also ban running and in-line skating, no? So the idea is they're banning sporting activities. Sure, cycling can be utilitarian just as driving or walking, but they don't think a significant number of cyclists fall into that category. I'm not saying I agree with this, but that's probably the reasoning behind the current policy.

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    1. yes, in the three distinct parts of the country i've lived the one thing they had in common was those who use cars do so for utilitarian reasons and those who pedal do so for recreational reasons. i wish it were different....

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  15. Mt. Auburn doesn't allow jogging, either, though -- it's really a recreational-use ban.

    Which still doesn't address transportation cycling, but at least they're not banning bikes but allowing runners in.

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  16. I have a suspicion that in 20 years or so the bicycle will have shouldered it's way back into mainstream life to the degree that most of these situations will just sort themselves out on the basis of what people see as practical common-sense.

    For now it might be too far ahead of the curve to expect a cemetery to be that open minded...

    Spindizzy

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  17. I live near a cemetery that is used frequently by both transportation and recreational cyclists as an important connection between my neighborhood and other areas of town. The road through the grounds switchbacks up a very steep hill, and cyclists like to ride down very fast. This is understandably disruptive and sometimes dangerous to people who are there to visit graves or walk through the park-like grounds. Cycling hasn't been banned, but the relationship has been troubled. A few years ago, speed bumps were installed to slow cyclists down, causing a couple of accidents. A little over a year ago, the cemetery apparently made peace with cyclists by installing wayfinding signs and posting rules. We are restricted to a particular route through the maze of paved paths. The route minimizes disruptions to funerals, hopefully, while also acknowledging the importance of this safe cycling route in our community. Automobiles are allowed, but only if they are visiting the cemetery, of course, and there are very few.

    The hill is extremely steep, and I do enjoy the surprised looks from road cyclists when they see me cycling up the hill on my mixte.

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  18. I'm pretty sure that all of the cemeteries here in NYC ban bikes. In fact, most of them don't even allow you to bring a bike onto the grounds: You have to park it outside the entrance.

    One caretaker actually gave the "recreation" rationale. I pointed out that some of us ride for transportation, but he was not swayed.

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  19. I believe the administration's fear is that if bikes are allowed, it's only a matter of time until grieving Portland transplants try to organise a funeral-by-bike.

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  20. I'm reminded of a story I read in a cycling magazine when I first got back into cycling in the early 90's. A cyclist went to visit as many of the highest peaks in the U.S. as he could (can't remember his name or the qualifiers he applied ton the peaks such as minimum elevation or accessibility). Because there were so many parks which had a blanket ban on cycling he ended up carrying his dismantled mountain bike on his back, trudging up a paved road while being passed by dozens of full sized tour buses in several of the parks.

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    1. In New England, the road up Mt Washington is open to cars year round but to bicycles only twice a year during a designated race (Mt Washington or Newton's Revenge). There is no way to get up there by bike other than to take part in one of those races.

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  21. Definitely outmoded thought process. The last car I owned (going on 9 years now) was a bright blue Mazda Miata. In my department there is a guy who drives to work in a shiney yellow Porsche Boxter.

    There is nothing somber or practical about either one of those cars. A good utility bike could port more than either.

    From what V is saying, no problem with the sports car though. Pure rot. Too bad, given it sounds to be a nice place.

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  22. Oh, ans as my FWIW post, the early cemetaries in Illinois have proven a treasure trove of prairie seeds and native insects for the prairie retoration movemnt. Somewhat fitting the finally resting place of the people who literally plowed the original landscape under save remants of it for posterity.

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  23. Seems there is a simple answer to me; cycles could be allowed on vehicular access roads leading to the funeral centre/chapel, with adequate parking provision being supplied. That way people could visit the cemetery by cycle to pay their respects.

    If there is a concern about cyclists using the cemetery as a safe/quiet/recreational route to cut through the surrounding area, presenting a health and safety risk to pedestrians and they have enough space for it then maybe they could do the same as a local nature reserve near where I live and allocate a specific cycle route through the grounds with automatic right of way given to pedestrians? It's worked out ok there, cyclists are happy to slow down or stop as and when necessary and there are plenty of signs up reminding you that the route is not a bridleway (UK off road cycle route), that cycling is permitted only by permission of the landowner and this will be rescinded if problems are caused by inconsiderate cycling.

    Personally I have no issue either way, I can appreciate why they would think unrestricted cycling would be inappropriate.

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  24. In the UK it's not uncommon for the grand Victorian cemeteries to still be 'working' cemeteries, so it's quite reasonable to expect people there to be visiting a relative's grave. That said, many of London's cemeteries don't restrict bikes and can be very peaceful and pleasant routes - Brompton cemetery in early Autumn is one of my favourite places to cycle. They tend not to be effective through routes for cars, so you get a natural sort of filtered permeability, and provided you ride considerately, it works well. You just need to be considerate of people who are mourning, and try to preserve the peaceful atmosphere.

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  25. I don't recall seeing bike bans in European cemeteries and parks (at least not the ones I visited in the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain and the Czech Republic). In fact, I wheeled the bike I was renting right up to the gravesites of Franz Kafka and Jan Palach when I was in Prague last summer. No one seemed to have a problem with me riding the bike in the Olsanske Cemetery, right up to the section where Palach is buried. And nobody stopped me from bringing the bike into the Jewish Cemetery, where Kafka was buried. However, the layout of the cemetery made it impossible to cycle to his gravesite without riding over others, so I didn't.

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  26. I just biked through Skogskyrkogården here in Stockholm, bikes are allowed, on the big roads, there is even a bus going inside the church yard.
    I agree with Somervillain the reason for allowing cars is that there are often very old people visiting the graves, walking too far may exhaust them and be dangerous in the winter. Anyone healthy enough to bike, would manage to walk.

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    1. "Anyone healthy enough to bike, would manage to walk".

      Absolutely not! Bikes are used as mobility aids by a lot of peopel and also for carrying loads that the same peopel could not manage to carry. You are young and fit yourself? Wait and see..

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  27. Several times I have ridden my bike through Forest Lawn Cemetary in the west side of Buffalo NY, a Victorian Age beauty, 270 acres, directly adjacent to Delaware Park. The Park and its chain of green parkways is also about 300 acres and was designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead during Edwardian time period. They go together nicely. The cemetary is still open to bicycles, as it should be. Its gorgeous, and a fun and interesting place to ride. The mid 1800s cemetary design was inspired by Mount Auburn (in Boston) and Père-Lachais (Paris). Back around 1900 or so people used to go on sleigh rides through the cemetary on winter weekends, and in the summer they had picnics. People have ridden their bikes in Forest Lawn for a hundred years. I'm not aware of any complaints.

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  28. Next time you're in Providence, check out Swan Point Cemetery on Black Stone Blvd. It's also a garden cemetery and dates to the mid 19th cen. It's very beautiful with magnificent statuary and a whose who of RI history (H.P. Lovecraft, for one). They too ban bicycles but I cycled through once with out incident.

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    1. Oh I have been there, beautiful indeed. It was pre- my cycling days.

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  29. I've ridden a bike in a cemetery, but it was a sedate, dark English bike and I was wearing a suit. As I look back on it, I think I forgot to turn my lights on, which all the other vehicles in the procession had done.

    Seriously, I share a cultural dislike of seeing people actively recreating in a cemetery - jogging, exercise walking, dog walking. It seems inattentive to and disrespectful of the dead. In most instances biking will fall into this category and it's not realistic to expect a cemetery to make distinctions based on the bicyclist's motive, which cannot be policed anyway.

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    1. So to expand on my post above, yellow Porsche Boxter guy driving in the cemetery is cool, because, you know, people driving cars are for the most part a somber,reflective, responsible sort while cyclists are self-centered hedonists?

      Why not ban pedestrians while we are at? V and probably most of the others were not there so much because of the dead but rather to derive the pleasure of a serene oasis in an otherwise busy urban surrounding.

      Likewise on a three day weekend tour last Fall, I stopped (and was forced to park my bike and walk through) at the Oak Riidge Cemetery to see Anne Rutledge's grave and marker erected intentionally by local town folk because of the reference in the Spoon River Anthology. Is making a literary connection more respectful than exercising? (as it happens, very few in the U.S. are familiar with Masters any longer and the only other people at the cemetery were an older couple who had actually made a trip of it from Japan).

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  30. There's a cemetery in Alice Texas called the Collins Cemetery. It's acre upon acre of graves, monuments and shrines spread out under thick, tangled Mesquite and Live Oak. Some of the graves must be a hundred and twenty years old(which is pretty close to pre-history for that part of the world)though at the back end of the place the sites are new and the Pear cactus and Bastard Oak haven't taken over.

    It's the resting place of thousands of the Mexican and Mexican-Americans that spent their lives in Jim Wells County(home of the Worlds Tallest Cement Watertower, Utility Pole Jesus and the Infamous Ballot Box 13 that got LBJ his first big win. (The LBJ thing probably doesn't matter much anymore but the other two are still legit )). If I ever need reminding how much Mexican/Catholic culture I have NO understanding of, I'll just slip into Collins Cemetery.

    Untold candles, crosses, flower arrangements real, artificial and fantastically otherworldly. Thousands of pictures of Jesus, a member of MY family and known to me(but here comfortably wearing unfamiliar clothes and making curious gestures),sharing and blessing things that I can't even make out for the shadows. Jugs of water left with handmade tortillas as whispered wishes of peace and comfort. Memorials that plainly say "I miss you and haven't forgotten", and other tokens and totems that just mystify, make me look away in case my curiosity profanes something tender or lest something dark, meant to ward away something darker, cling to my thoughts. The porcelain hands in the trees especially stay in my mind.

    As kid of 10 or 11 there were graves of people I had known. Elderly women from the neighborhood that had always seemed to be in the wrong century, so much more in context here with their Parents and Grandparents than walking to Mass in black dresses and Mantillas while pickup trucks idled past with Pink Floyd drifting out. Also graves of a couple of kids, near my age, that managed to get their tickets punched too soon.
    I'd slowly pedal along the narrow dirt paths between the wandering, mingled rows and see a familiar name or a suddenly remembered face, framed in the ornate metal frames I've never seen anywhere else.

    Our own emotions, anxiety and medicinal beliefs are difficult enough to keep ordered in just the right way to keep us from panicking when we remember whats coming, but to wander around in the garden of another peoples faith(even a people you love and feel most comfortable when they're near)is a cure for something I hope I don't catch.

    I never attended a service there(if I'd stayed I suspect I'd have been to a dozen by now)so was never there in a car till I returned this summer after 20 years. I would never have WALKED it for any amount of ANYTHING we used for currency as kids(I once threw ten stones, one after another, at Raydell Gunn's bell at about 2 am. for a Chick-O-Stick. Roughly equivalent to a decent mortgage payment now). But on a bike it was reasonable enough to consider. Granted, one would certainly keep moving, dabbing a toe here and there but never actually stopping, but also not peeling out, skidding, or anything else that might make anyone observing from any perspective, high or low, think that one was there with anything but quiet reflection in mind. When I was there this summer I felt like a voyeur in my car but when I got out and walked I felt more like a trespasser.

    I really needed my old 20" Stingray.

    Spindizzy

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  31. Timely posting. Arlington National Cemetery has just this week freshened its bicycle use policy. Bicycles are permitted, with restriction, mainly equipment and permitted open access roads. Tour groups may get permission for unfettered road use as well family members who can be granted permits to operate their bicycles on roads other than the designated roads.

    Just last week Keith Eggener was on the radio speaking about his book 'Cemeteries' and it would seem that Mt Auburn was the first of the cemeteries of that era that were in fact recreational gardens, where people are buried.

    Perhaps our ideas of recreation have changed, a hundred and fifty years ago it meant dressing up in seersucker for a stroll through the cemetery and a moment of filial piety, and now it means dressing up in spandex corporate banner ads and running the puppies and prams of the bike trail.

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    1. Well, spandex and corporate banner ad cycle apparel is a whole 'nother story all to itself!

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  32. http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=coffin+on+bike

    Not a problem where I live, no space for cars in the graveyards and no signs banning bikes. personally I feel bad bringing a bike into such a place but I do. I always dismount and roll the bike. I guess in a big open graveyard I could maybe ride, but slow. I think for me the distance from the path I would ride to the graves is what would decide how I feel about riding.

    Solution if you need to transport "stuff" to a graveyard or similar place by bike but are not allowed, i decided this is part of my strategy for living without a car when (if ) i have to: You need a Brompton- or at least a folder w 20" or smaller wheels for small fold. You need a (used is fine) child biketrailer/stroller w the extra wheel + a handlebar for rolling it as a stroller. Ride to the site. Fold and put bike innside, on top of soil or what ever is in there (not on top of flowers) and off you go. This way bike is cowered and out of reach for thives, no need to carry your stuff and you can leave troug a different entrance than the one you arrived at.
    badmother

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  33. The issue I have with the bike ban at Mt Auburn cemetery is that it is promoted as lovely park for leaf peeping each autumn. There is a big article in the Globe that tells people to go drive around the cemetery to see the leaves! Sorry that is recreational!

    I can offer this tidbit: no one can use the roads THRU Mt Auburn to get anywhere. The road does not go through. There is only one gate/entrance. When we first moved to the area, we saw what appeared to be a thru road on the map, and decided to check it out. We were intercepted as we passed the gate - they are quite serious about the ban! We were informed that our map was inaccurate, and indeed it was. There is no gate on the far side.

    I can say that the Mt. Feake Cemetery nearby in Waltham does allow bikes. This is a lovely and tranquil place to cycle in and thru. The colors in the fall are lovely.

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    1. To me it seems that visiting a cemetery as one would a park is in itself inherently recreational. I don't see how birdwatching, for instance, is less offensive than cycling - especially as the binoculars allow one to observe private moments of grieving visitors. All this stuff is subjective.

      Some years ago we used to live near Portsmouth, NH and they have a cemetery there where the residents cross country ski in the winter!

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    2. Perhaps they can allow cyclists that have purchased a plot? :)

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  34. Mount Auburn is one of my favorite places, and I can't say how many hours I've spent there relaxing under the trees or beside the vernal pools, or looking for warblers in spring, or writing and reviewing articles. It is a genuine treasure for Cambridge and Watertown. I don't find it morbid actually, just an oasis of peace and quiet.

    I found out about the bicycling prohibition the hard way - by actually riding one in around the Mary Baker Eddy Lake and then being told politely by a cemetery official in a van that cycles were not allowed. Somehow, I hadn't noticed the conspicuous maroon signboard which said no to bikes.

    That said, I echo one of the earlier comments: I've never seen a car drive too fast or too noisily in the cemetery. The people who visit the place tend to become respectful of its peace and quiet. So, I wouldn't go for equality by banning cars: The cemetery is rather large and some parts of it are difficult to get to, especially for older folk.

    I would totally support allowing bicycles along with the cars. I don't believe individual cyclists can be more of a nuisance than cars, but I would be wary of "group cycling" in the cemetery - that has the potential for disturbing the peace. Thinking of your post, yes, it is hard to classify, i.e., to say yes to people who cycle for transportation while saying no to people who bike there for recreation. With cars, somehow this question does not arise here in the US; cars are regarded as necessities, and bikes happen to be ... optional. Strange world.



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