After nearly five years rolling around the streets of Boston, testing different commutes, and learning the habits of my fellow motorists, I am no longer a frightened, angry driver. I am now a refined angry Boston driver. And my instincts are hardened with the knowledge that anything can happen.
My initial education as a Boston driver focused on the behavioral patterns of other drivers. Cabbies, who may not actually have licenses, will always do the unexpected. The BMW jerk-fessional has traded his car for an Audi. Motorcyclists and scooterists use the white dash between cars as their own lane. When it rains, the IQ of every driver in Boston, including myself, drops by ten points. Moving into graduate-level driving, I’ve tried to learn how drivers, pedestrians, and streets blend together. If you can take a few deep breaths, reduce speed, and keep an eye on traffic, you can learn to survive with only a reasonable amount of stress.
Albany Street. Somebody sprinkled condo beans around Kneeland, Herald, and Albany streets and fertilized the place with cash. In what were once parking lots, like the one used by Medieval Manor, apartment towers are sprouting in their place. Some changes in the area are more profound, like the demolition of the Herald building and a new residential-Whole Foods-commercial superplex rising from the ashes. The latter project, cutely titled the Ink Block, and the big suckers on Albany Street need to own the sidewalks, and often an entire lane, to accommodate cranes and trucks. This is a real-life Lego set full of hard hats and orange cones. Trip tip: In rush hour, drivers have to squeeze into single or double lanes and dart around trucks. Keep an eye out for Boston Police details or hard hats waving at you to move in a certain direction.
Post Office Square. Anyone who has lived in the suburbs is familiar with the suicidal tendencies of squirrels. The little guys run back and forth across the road, giving you an excellent chance to test your brakes. Post Office Square is jam-packed with offices, so rush hour is a moving sea of pedestrians. Jaywalking, a national past-time, is going to keep you on guard. The crosswalks are very busy. Trip tip: If you’re unlucky enough to get caught between a crosswalk and intersection, sit calmly in your vehicle while entire crowds move around you. (An excellent chance if you’re peddling religious pamphlets. “Excuse me, sir! Would you like to learn more about your lord and savior?”)
Congress Street. Apparently the City of Boston has experienced a rise in team championships and critically-acclaimed films about mobsters. That explains all the tourists. Long before you reach Post Office Square, you have to deal with Congress Street. It’s actually a decent street to take in any part of the day, but you do have to be mindful of pedestrians at three big sections: working-types are busy from Haymarket Square to Hanover Street, tourists are everywhere from Government Center to Faneuil Hall, and pretty much everyone is on the move at State Street. Trip tip: Congress Street gets wicked narrow after State Street. Watch for this bottleneck. Occasionally you drive up behind the Prince of Morons parked with hazards at the curb. Honk repeatedly and offer a variety of profanity to show his folly.
Bike Lanes. Fifty years from now, the driver and the bicyclist will coexist. To ensure this, the City of Boston painted miles of bike lanes in major areas to accommodate our pedaling friends. Has it worked? That depends on your point of view. Some bikes come out of nowhere. Others take their time. Should you watch for them? Absolutely! Trip tip: Some riders respect intersections and halt at the stop light, rather than dart through to grab an open road. Give them the courtesy of a little space. More importantly, check your mirrors when crossing a bike lane as you turn down another street. Nobody wants to fly head over heels!
Got any advice for Boston drivers? Leave your comments below!
Photo: Google Street View