No-Bike Town

Owing to a stroke of luck, we now have a new, wonderful photography studio. It belongs to an acquaintance whose partner has just retired - and so we took over the partner's share. The place is fully equipped with a darkroom and a portrait studio, and is located in a coastal town outside Boston - convenient as we often do photoshoots in that area.

The only problem? Well, something about this town just seemed off as soon as we got there.

It was as if the shadows in the town center were extra shadowy.

And the sun-lit rooftops exuded a sinister gleam.

Even the quiet side streets were eerie. What could it be?... Oh yes. There was hardly a bicycle to be seen! Honestly, I cannot remember the last time I saw a town with so few bicycles. Over the past weeks we have been moving our things into the studio and renovating the darkroom, and I've spotted a total of maybe half a dozen bikes in the streets during that entire time period -mostly being ridden on the sidewalks.

The studio is 14 miles from our house, but around the corner from a T-station - so the idea is to commute there by T and keep a bicycle on site as a Studio Bike. Initially I was hoping that I could perhaps cycle to the studio, and distance-wise I could do it. But the route seems to be beyond my current level of skill and bravery, involving busy roads with high speed limits and no shoulders. And given the No-Bike Town situation, I am beginning to question whether I will even be able to cycle near the studio itself, if only just for a coffee.

This singular bicycle stood out in No-Bike Town like a lone cowboy. It is an interesting Burley tandem, and I wonder how its owners feel about cycling in this area. More importantly, I wonder how the drivers in this area feel about cyclists - would they even know what to do if they saw me riding down the street? I guess I will soon find out...


  1. I say get a bike to keep at the studio and go for it... who knows how many people in that town have thought of starting riding but haven't ever seen anyone else on a bike? maybe seeing you out riding around, obviously enjoying yourself and staying safe and stylish while doing it will be the tipping point? one rider starts, and then another and another...

  2. Here is a great opportunity to claim your lane. At least the tandem has blazed the trail for you! Have faith in the fact that people don't want to scratch their cars, and as such, will avoid hitting you. They don't care about you, but their cars...!

    If you are perceived as an obstacle by really getting out in the lane you will be much safer.

    I can't wait to hear the update. You could be helping to eliminate a bicycle vacuum. Bravo!

  3. It'll work. There really are not a lot of bikes around where I live, but the motorists are good all the same. For the longer trip, have you looked at Google bikes to see if there might be an alternate to the high speed roads?

  4. Hooray for the studio. that's really awesome.

    I hope you guys can turn it around. that lone stret looked so sweet and perfect for biking.

  5. That is such awesome great news about your new photo
    studio adventure. How cool is that!! I'm so envious .
    Jon C

  6. Recently I tied a bow made of entwined green & yellow ribbon round a tree located near entrance to the pte. 'housing estate'I'm living in. On a green strand of bow is written 'BICYCLISTS' , vertically in yellow. On the yellow strand on the other side is the word 'WELCOME!', also written vertically but in green. May 'annoy & irritate ' some motorists but am hopeful would soon have companionship of more resident and non-resident bikers .:D
    Would you like to try this? :D heehee.

  7. If that's the town I suspect it is, I agree that I have rarely seen bicyclists there... it's one of those places that is certainly urban, but skirts the sub-urban just enough that you have massive amounts of vehicular traffic moving through it; this, coupled with the seeming lack of cycling infrastructure, has always led me to feel it's not the safest place to ride. Even the coastal road, with all the angled parking, seems less safe for bikes than it could be.

  8. Astroluc - The town is Quincy. With so much coastline and so much history, it should be a nice place to cycle. But as you said, the lack of infrastructure and the very layout of the roads, makes it not so nice at all.

    I was at least hoping to cycle down to the water from the studio - but the roads leading to the beach look dangerous. Even on streets that seem quiet, cars go very fast and are super impatient. On the street where I took that picture with the white picket fence and cherry blossoms, a car raced past me minutes later, screeching the brakes as it turned the corner. The speed limit is 15mph on that street.

    Steve - I've been looking at google, other maps, and consulting hardened commuters. To get to this town via quieter streets would take twice as long, and a 2.5 hour one-way commute is out of the question. The worst thing about the route is a highway-like bridge- crossing which is inevitable because of the jagged coastline - that has no shoulder or sidewalk.

  9. It's been decades since I've been there...can one take a bicycle on the T?

    Congrats on the new studio space! A "Room Of One's Own" is vital. I am nearing the end stages of rebuilding my own workshop, and getting antsy.

    I am sorry to hear that one of the most historically significant towns in the US has a bicycle problem. Perhaps meeting a few other cyclists at the local cafes etc. can give enough information to help point at some solutions.

    On the plus side, that third shot from the top is breathtaking. Is that from the new view camera?

    Corey K

  10. Thought so... Quincy Shore Drive is lovely... to walk down :/

  11. Oops-I actually meant the *fourth* shot, but the third has such nice light...


  12. Thanks Corey. The pictures are all digital, so it's not with my new large format camera. I am working on hating digital less and caring enough to actually make the images nice : )

    Astroluc - I now *think* that I may have found a route to the beach from the studio via side streets. The Shore Drive has a strip for walking/jogging that can also be used for cycling I hope - will see!

  13. I love that first photo! Must be exciting to have a new studio. The no-bike town sounds eerie. Reminds of something I heard about bicycles being an indicator of a happy/healthy/safe city. Then again, there aren't many bikes in Nashville, but it can be a lovely place to ride.

  14. Strange since it looks like a lovely community. Maybe all that needs to happen is for the residents and other business owners to see your stylish self tooling around on your bicycle. But yes, I'd say the train/bike combo might be a solution.

  15. nice post. i followed it up from the photo you had posted. some nights it even feels like that here in SF, but that is becasue I dont live in a "trendy" part of town if that means anything, Im still within 3mi. from anything and everything.
    Kepp riding friend, more will join you soon.
    I really like that studio-window picture ;-)


  16. Congratulations on the new studio. I live in bike friendly California and all the times I've gone to visit my brother and his wife in Brookline, I very much wanted to take my bike. New England is the perfect place to ride a bicycle but I do agree about the "lack of infrastructure" point.

    There is a lovely little hamlet about 12 miles from my house with an amazing Mexican restaurant. The main problem is that the only way to get to it is to traverse roads that have no shoulder, normally plied by big-rig trucks and the little town itself (Richgrove) has no sidewalks so EVERYBODY (cars, cyclists and pedestrians) has to share the street.

    Be careful and good luck.

  17. Thanks for the encouraging comments. And to those suggesting a folding bike - shame on you for egging me on to crave yet more bikes : )

  18. Belated congratulations on your move to the Granite City, from a long time resident, and faithfull reader of your elegent blog. I was going to send you directions for taking your bike to the beach when it occurred to me that I wasn't certain to which of the four Quincy subway stations was nearest to your studio. So, best wishes for the business. Hopefully you'll see more fellow bicyclists as the weather turns warmer, particularly on Wollaston Beach, although I can't promise any as lovely as your Pashley.

  19. Anon. - Thanks! My studio is a 5-minute walk from the Quincy Center T, around the corner from the "Hancock Tabacco" picture. One route to the beach that seems doable would be to go North on Hancock, then right on Merymount Rd, continue onto Samoset Ave, and from there onto Quincy Shore Drive. That seems like all nice side-streets, with the exception of Hancock.

  20. I used to commute three miles within Quincy before (a mile along the coastline); generally drivers are accommodating and cautious, but there are a few motorists driving early 90s American model cars who yell out of their windows. I'm still trying to solve the problem of biking into and beyond downtown Boston as well. Sadly, as far as bike infrastructure goes, all Quincy has is some signage that says "share the road." I agree that biking down Merrymount Road is fairly nice; or you could try biking down Fenno.


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