As Colin blogged about a few entries ago, May 17 — 21 was Bay State Bike Week here in Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Commuter Challenge ran that same week, as well.  The Challenge is a competition among Massachusetts-based organizations that pledge to bike all or part of their regular trips during the week and log their mileage.  Being fans of a friendly competition, the Digital Lumens staff plunged in.

This meant that in addition to our team members who regularly commute by bike, a few of us exchanged our car keys for bike helmets, and two of us made the 15-mile trek to and from the Digital Lumens office in downtown Boston.  It was a great experience!  Gorgeous weather and better-than-expected accommodations for cyclists made the experience a real treat.  Here are a few of the top-of-mind reflections:

  1. Motorists are really not attuned to cyclists on the roads – bike lanes or not.  This isn’t a revelation for regular road warriors, but a good reminder to cyclists and drivers.  Here’s a nice piece in Bicycling Magazine about how drivers should act around bicycles. One day’s bicycle commute has made us much more bike-aware drivers!
  2. As a cyclist, it’s probably best to suppress any Boston-driver tendencies.  Poor judgment on two wheels has the potential to be much more dangerous than that same behavior behind a steering wheel.  I almost learned this one the hard way.
  3. Brookline and Boston get high marks for bike lanes.  Despite driving through both areas regularly, we hadn’t noticed the bike lanes.  We still had to watch out for the drivers opening car doors, parallel parking, etc. on the edge of the bike lane, but those dedicated lanes do make a difference.  Newton — through Newton Center — had some rather hairy patches where driving was pretty hostile and biking was an exercise in extreme caution.
  4. Commuting with a laptop on your back isn’t fun.  Better planning required.

How’d we do?  Team Digital Lumens tallied 488 miles and placed 4th among organizations of our size.  We were out-pedaled by Metro Pedal Power (a bike messenger service that logged 1152 miles), Urban AdvenTours, and Community Rowing. But a bunch of our team lives in Boston, and we’re not delivering packages all day, so no shame in the finish.  (For all the results or to check on a particular company, click here.)

Can I say that I will now be commuting by bike regularly? Probably not.  I count myself among the fair-weather sorts who live in awe of my intrepid colleagues who bike through rain, snow, sleet and anything else New England weather dishes out.  But, as a result of the Mass Commuter Challenge and Bike Week, I am looking more closely at my commuting alternatives and how I can make more carbon-friendly choices.  And when it’s 70 and sunny, you may find me in the bike lane again.