fb-pixel Skip to main content
Starts & Stops

Bumpy ride? Give cyclists a warning

The scene of a bicycle accident in Back Bay that resulted in a broken leg for Anthony Beckwith.Anthony Beckwith photo

Anthony Beckwith, a Cambridge native and a high school math teacher, has been biking around the Boston area for 40 years without ever having any kind of accident — until now.

A couple of weeks ago, he sent an e-mail with a few photos — one was a seemingly innocuous block of the Back Bay.

“The first attached picture shows an expansion joint in the road right where Stuart Street breaks off from Huntington Avenue heading into Copley Square,” he wrote.

Then came a photo of a right leg, propped up on some cushions, immobilized by a thick layer of bandages that stretched from toes to mid-thigh.


“The second picture,” Beckwith wrote, “is what happens if you try to ride a bike straight on this road.”

It’s a common accident that happens to cyclists: At train tracks or cracks in the road, a bicycle wheel traveling nearly parallel to the fissure can get caught in the groove, throwing the rider off the bike. That’s exactly what happened to Beckwith, he said — and now, after being hospitalized for a day, he’s stuck at home for the rest of the summer as his leg heals.

But there’s more, he said.

“Within minutes of me crashing, another biker came along and did the exact same thing,” Beckwith said. (The other rider, who was not wearing a helmet, scraped up his face.) “As the EMTs were getting me ready for the hospital, a bike-messenger type sped by and yelled, ‘That’s a terrible place to bike!’ ”

Beckwith said he’s not trying to blame anyone else for his fall, but he does think officials in charge of that stretch of road should find a way to fix the problem and prevent other cyclists from experiencing terrible spills.

He contacted the city of Boston, which said the Massachusetts Department of Transportation manages that block. Beckwith has seen similar joints in the road, but they seldom cause problems: “Often these expansion joints are in the shape of a sine wave and they interlock,” Beckwith wrote, in true math teacher fashion. “Since there isn’t a straight run of a gap in those, they are not dangerous.


“I’ve biked through Arlington, Medford, Somerville, Cambridge, Watertown, Belmont, JP, Dorchester, South Boston, Allston, Brookline, Brighton . . . the list goes on,” Beckwith said. “This is the one spot that finally got me and I don’t want it to get anyone else.”

In Tucson, where tram lines are being built around that city, I encountered signs around the city that made it abundantly clear to cyclists what would happen if they crossed the tracks at too-parallel an angle.

The signs show a bicycle wheel caught in a rut — and a stick-figure cyclist tumbling dramatically over the handlebars.

Perhaps Boston would do well to adopt a similar warning for bike riders.

A long way to the top at South Station

If you’ve taken the T to the airport recently, you may have noticed — just as Elizabeth Potter, who works in the Seaport District, did — that the South Station escalator going up from the Red Line has been out of order. For a while.

Broken escalators are always a pain. But, as Potter points out, this is a particularly cumbersome spot to be without a moving staircase.

(So, I’m evidently not the only person who quietly curses liberal packing while dragging a too-heavy suitcase around.)


Kelly Smith, spokeswoman for the MBTA, said the escalator is not simply on the fritz — it sustained major water damage and requires a total overhaul.

Kone, the company that runs the escalator, has ordered new parts for the escalator, which are arriving soon, she said, and it will start working on the unit Monday.

Still, it will take a few weeks before the escalator is back in working order.

In the meantime, Potter suggested that the T post a sign directing passengers with heavy luggage to use the elevators.

The T will take that idea under advisement, Smith said.

How long is it until . . . Braintree?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about new signs that have cropped up on highways this year.

Some commuters were skeptical that the signs, which estimate the time it would take to travel to points further along the road, were accurate. But there’s another concern: Why do the signs show estimated travel times to cities other than Boston?

“If I am traveling on 24 north near Randolph I’m being told that it’s 4 minutes to Braintree,” wrote Mike Silvia of Reading. “But who cares about Braintree?”

Which is, like, kind of mean. But also kind of true.

“Likewise on 93 south,” he continued. “Telling us how long it will take to get to Exit 28 in Somerville tells us little about what we really want to know . . . How long to Boston?”

Sara Lavoie, spokeswoman for MassDOT, said the choice of destination cities on the real-time traffic monitoring system is designed to provide information not just about how long it will take to reach your destination, but also how long until strategic decision points — to help you determine if it will be better to continue on your same route or try a back road.


Still, she said, future iterations of the signs — which currently spread along I-93, the Massachusetts Turnpike, Route 3, and Route 6 — will be traditional fixed signs with LED insets, which will accommodate up to three destinations on the same sign.

And frustrated commuters with iPhones can also use MassDOT’s Ride Wise app to garner more exact information about their estimated time of arrival.

Martine Powers can be reached at mpowers@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.