The dozens of people reunited around Forest Hills station Sunday morning weren’t waiting for a train – with the orange line shut down there were none – instead they were fixing their bikes and getting ready to ride downtown- city by bike.
Despite the concern and consternation caused by the closure of the Orange Line, Bostonians are coming together to help each other through the challenges presented by the unprecedented closure. And the city’s cycling community sees the situation as the perfect opportunity to introduce or reintroduce people to cycling and bike commuting.
That’s why members of the Boston Cyclists’ Union were at the Forest Hill station on Sunday morning. The group offered free tune-ups before leading a group on a practice ride along the Southwest Corridor and Columbus Avenue to downtown.
Under a pop-up tent, a mechanic from a cycling union showed a cyclist how to adjust his brakes and check for bent spokes. On the other side of the tent, another volunteer from the cyclists union helped determine what parts were needed to attach a front wheel. Thirty people were present in total.
The cyclists’ union has had daily conversations with city hall and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation about the closure, said Eliza Parad, the group’s organizing director.
The extra traffic, shuttles and the ubiquitous potholes could still be dangerous, especially on Columbus Avenue where cyclists must share the road with cars, Parad said.
“Stay really clear if a bus is turning,” she said. “Back it up and get out of their way.
The closure prompted Jester Reddick, 64, to pull his bike out of the basement where he had sat for 12 years.
“He needs some attention,” he said as he waited his turn for one of the mechanics from the cyclists’ union.
Reddick, who lives in Hyde Park and drives for the MBTA’s The Ride shuttle service, said he often rides the Orange Line downtown before it closes. Reddick worries about coronavirus transmission in crowded commuters and expects buses to make traffic worse, so he tries the bike.
“Don’t forget, this is great exercise,” he said with a smile.
The closure also prompted Councilwoman Kendra Lara to give the bike a try. It was her first time cycling on a city street on Sunday when she took a blue bike from Forest Hills station to Roslindale.
“I was scared, but it turned out really well,” she said in an interview at the event. “I was on an adrenaline rush for a few hours afterwards.”
Lara said the ride reinforces the importance of building more infrastructure for cyclists especially when she found herself spinning between parked cars and traffic on Washington Street.
Advocacy groups and everyday cyclists hope the closure and increased focus on cycling will prompt city and state leaders to invest more in safety measures, like protected bike lanes.
Mayor Michelle Wu, a frequent user of the orange line, has publicly promoted cycling trips in recent days. She led two group bike rides from her neighborhood of Roslindale to City Hall last week.
Patrick Snyder, 23, hopes the closure will lead to more bike safety infrastructure. He was injured in a bicycle accident in April 2021 in the Boston area and only started cycling again after a stint in the cycling-friendly Netherlands. Now, he will be one of several Boston Cyclists Union members who will lead weekday morning group rides from various locations along the Orange Line.
“Hopefully this will inspire more people to cycle,” Snyder said, and provide the infrastructure needed to keep them safe.
Alexander Thompson can be contacted at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @AlMThompson