Sunday, July 19, 2009

Motorcycle vs. MBTA

We rode out to Lexington today on the little Ninja 250. Nice weather made this a nice project to undertake. Always irksome traffic lights made it unpleasant on the more citified parts of Massachusetts Avenue.

Mass Ave runs from Edward Everett Square in Dorchester to the entrance of the Minute Man National Park in Lexington. We left the house, close by Everett Square, around 11:00. The only pleasant part of driving the first leg of Mass Ave is the bridge over the Charles River connecting Boston and Cambridge. The view is nice, the air is bracing, and there's nothing stopping a motorcycle from just going from one end to the other. It took about twenty minutes to travel the, I don't know...three the bridge.

Cambridge was no better. One light turns green so that cars can reach the next light just as it turns red. Who thought of this traffic pattern? I know that "Traffic Engineer" is a profession. Can't Cambridge (or Boston for that matter) hire one? We started and stopped our way over the face of Cambridge until we reached Porter Square and after that the trip was a bit speedier, but it wasn't until we got out of downtown Arlington that we could really make good, needlessly unimpeded time.

In Arlington Heights, my passenger said, "This is a really long ride." I checked the odometer. We had travelled exactly eleven miles in an hour. Long in time and frustration but a pittance in distance. After that there were few lights and we got to Lexington Green, four miles away, in under ten minutes. The picturesque, suburban/colonial landscape zipped by like frames in a nostalgic movie dream.

We walked around the Green and then headed to Concord for lunch. Nice town and we enjoyed the tour after we left Arlington, but we live in Dorchester so we had to head home. I had an idea in my head. I said, "Why don't I drop you off at Porter Square and race you, motorcycle vs. T? I'm sure you'll win but we should prove it." My companion agreed though she was dubious that she would win.

I pulled up next to Porter and my companion disembarked. I didn't seem to be able to make a left turn back onto Mass Ave from where I was, so I headed down the street and crossed the train tracks intending to get back on Mass Ave. The temptation was too much though. There didn't seem to be any lights or traffic on the road I was on. Taking advantage of this, I headed down Beacon Street (Cambridge) through Inman Square, and then down Hampshire Street, which did have lights, but far fewer and less cars than Mass Ave.

I felt guilty. Whereas before I was sure to lose, I now felt sure to win and I had subjected my companion to a long, needless T ride. I hooked back onto Mass Ave just before MIT and headed back to Boston over the Charles River. The traffic gods were kind. I didn't get stuck as often as I expected and actually made good time, Boston-wise. I even just made it from the light in front of South Bay Center across Columbia Road to Dot Ave without needing to idle. Of course I was forced to stop where Dot Ave intersects with East Cottage Street and Crescent Avenue. It is a fact of life I've come to accept.

I pulled up to my unoccupied house victorious. I went inside to grab my wristwatch which read 14:30. I wanted to accurately measure the margin of victory. I then headed down to JFK/UMASS the wrong way down a one-way street but there weren't any cars and, as a motorcycle I can easily get out of anyone's way when I'm in the wrong. Before I could kill the engine, who was walking up to me? My fellow racer. The time on my watch: 14:32.

She said she had waited seven minutes for the train at Porter and her whole trip took 35 minutes as clocked by her cell phone. If I had taken Mass Ave I would have lost hands-down. As it is, taking less travelled streets, I feel the MBTA beat me fairly and squarely. Well done, Red Line, well done. I have met my match. Next time we'll take it on the open road.

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