A couple of local cyclists, Ari Goldberger and Shadron Davis, recognized a problem in our community and rounded up a group of friends to fix it.
The path few people know
Our story starts on the Wellington Greenway. It follows the banks of the Malden and Mystic Rivers and is an important route for people who travel by bike or foot between the Wellington MBTA Station and Rt. 28 near Station Landing. During the week, Goldberger, who rides it to get to and from his job in Boston, was stopped dead in his tracks by a massive pile of snow that had been bulldozed from the station parking lot.
There was no way around it. At 15’ high, it completely blocked his path.
This presented a serious problem. His alternatives were to go by way of Sullivan Square, where another bicyclist was run over and killed by a garbage truck last year, or through the tangle of major roads and state highways at Wellington Circle. Both navigable for experienced cyclists under favorable riding conditions, but in this winter’s extreme conditions the Greenway was clearly the best way to go—and something had to be done to make it accessible.
After making inquiries at the station and not getting a clear answer, Goldberger consulted with Davis and they devised a solution: round up some bike riding friends that they knew from attending Boston Bike Parties and dig a 40’ long tunnel through the man-made glacier.
The group diligently mined away the snow, and in a couple of days achieved a breakthrough. The road was open!
Bikes were ridden through, videos were shot and tales of the legendary feat began to spread. But like a swimming pool, it was good fun when enjoyed under proper adult supervision, but it wouldn’t have been a good idea to leave it unattended. At the direction of parking lot management, it was knocked down with heavy equipment a few days later.
The tunnel itself may not have lasted long, but as Davis said, “it was a weapons-grade crazy idea”, and when the story broke on Universal Hub and BDC Wire it captured the imaginations of winter-weary Bostonians. By the weekend the story had gone national, making NBC’s Today Show, Mashable and Buzzfeed. It even got picked up by European media outlets—you can read about it in German at Hotbites.
Clearly this story tapped into something that resonated with people world-wide, and we’ve got a few ideas why:
People just want to get to work!
Offices, stores and business throughout the region had been severely disrupted for weeks. Employees couldn’t get to work, people were putting off purchases and restaurant-goers weren’t going out. That hit hard. Especially for those who relied on a fully-functioning local economy to earn their paychecks.
The T was broken down, and for those who had cars parking was pretty much out of the question anyway, but this group of winter bikers had found a transportation solution that worked. The Greenway was a safe place to ride, it was reliable—and then it was taken away.
Injustice, betrayal and frustration—emotions that survivors of this winter know all too well.
Triumph over adversity
When this group faced a challenge they tried the usual channels first, and when that didn’t resolve the problem, they got creative. They tried a different approach—and then took it up a notch by making it off-the-wall fun.
That really speaks to the spirit of our local bicycle culture and the do-it-yourself attitude that is so much a part of it. People who ride bikes can’t help but learn how they work, fix them and tinker with ways to improve them. They like to share what they learn, and they apply it to other areas of their lives too. To things like bio-technology, higher education, art and design—all fields that are cornerstones of our regional economy.
These bike riders weren’t afraid of doing a little hard work either. Sure, there was some self interest involved, but they viewed it more of a service to the community, and nothing was asked for in return.
That’s just a natural part of riding a bike for transportation. You take on the costs of purchasing and maintaining your own vehicle, and ask only for a safe and equitable place to ride. That benefits everyone—whether they bike, walk or drive.
Something to see
On Sunday afternoon, the sun was out and the temperature broke the freezing mark for the first time since we don’t know when. Goldberger and fellow excavator Léonard Minh A. Langlois were at the site clearing the snow left from the tunnel’s demolition. Families, dog walkers and curious people from all over Metro Boston started coming up the Greenway and down from Wellington Station.
“Look, tourists!”, Goldberger exclaimed, when a group came walking across the parking lot. They had come all the way out to Medford on the Orange Line to see our greatest attraction.
Were they disappointed it wasn’t there? Maybe a little, but they got to hear about the legend from those who built it, and they discovered one of Medford’s hidden gems in the Greenway. It’s one that can be enjoyed not just in the winter, but in spring, summer and fall as well.
You know what else the tourists did? They went to Station Landing and had lunch at Not Your Average Joe’s. The restaurant was open, the employees had made it to work and it was full of paying customers. Now that’s something for which we can all be thankful!