Bike Jam

Not to long ago, there weren’t that many people riding bicycles around Boston and surrounding areas. The few who did were pretty badass. Badass and lonely.


Bike Jam


Now the lone cyclist is not alone. Roads are changing, more people are riding bicycles…


Bike Jam

…and people are learning how to ride around other people who ride bicycles.

While bicyclists are still a small minority of commuters, there is visible growth and growing pains.  I’ve started taking a new commute route through Kendall Square each day. Each day I get stuck in a bike jam.


Bike Jam


Which is really cool. Except many still operate like they’re a lone cyclist. But hopefully with time, experience, and better infrastructure we’ll find a way to smooth things out.


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  • Connie October 9, 2013   Reply →

    Yeah, the bike jam. But more and more I’m stopping at lights where bikers are lined up really nicely and single file and wait patiently. I love that. Then some dude usually swoops in front, but the other 7 of us are just nice and cued up. I think (and hope) that polite bike culture is seeping in.

  • Invisible Visible Man October 9, 2013   Reply →

    My theory? Nearly every road-user – cyclist or otherwise – is caught in a constant struggle between maintaining his or her own momentum (a selfish impulse) and braking for others (a considerate impulse). I explained it here:

    However, the great thing is that even a very selfish cyclist intent on maintaining his or her speed has a hard time doing the damage a selfish motorist will.

    I always enjoy your work, Bikeyface.


  • Frank October 9, 2013   Reply →

    Love the website bikeyface…have seen more and more bike jams but is it because there are more people riding or the bike lanes are to small…if we are supposed to act like cars, shouldn’t the lanes be at least a double lane?

    • Angela Hey October 10, 2013  

      No – bikers should try to ride single file even if the queue is long – unless racing.

  • François October 9, 2013   Reply →

    These are necessary growing pains in a changing culture. If you look at more “mature” biking cultures such as Amsterdam or Copenhagen, the civil lining up and waiting at a stop light is smooth. But they also have a better infrastructure so it all goes hand in hand. (love your site!)

  • Marge October 9, 2013   Reply →

    so good! on my commute there is a bridge that swings open (not everyday) to let marine traffic through. Bike etiquette suggests that one should queue in the order that they reached the barricade. You’d be surprised at the cyclists that don’t understand this.

  • DannyX October 9, 2013   Reply →

    Bikes will have arrived when cyclists are cussing and flipping each other off as much as drivers.

    (I’m doing my part.)

  • Daniel October 9, 2013   Reply →

    Yesterday I had a guy yell at me, “MOVE!!!”. I had slowed to a crawl so the elderly man who was pulling into traffic might notice me before he crushed me against the stopped line of cars. Yes, the elderly man shouldn’t have blocked the bike lane. No, I don’t care to expose myself to harm so the following cyclist could sprint ahead. Yes, that cyclist did swerve through the traffic at the Hampshire/Cambridge St lights, which was red at the time. No, he would not have caused great harm if he hit a car but he did harm our collective reputation.

    The newer cyclists will learn to be polite and maybe they even follow traffic regulations. Today I was chatting with a fellow rider at a light and 7 cyclists blew through the red light while we waited. At least they weren’t pulling in front of us so that we could pass them in the next hundred yards. What do you call those cyclists, the ones who force the slightly faster cyclists to pass them again and again after pulling ahead at lights?

  • Kevin Love October 9, 2013   Reply →

    For a real life bike jam, take a look at this video.

  • Barton October 10, 2013   Reply →

    Most areas I bike in, we all queue up nicely at the light – though we will line up double in the bike lane (where it exists) so we can get through on the (very short) green light. But invariably, there is that one guy (sorry to be sexist, but it is usually a man) who you passed along way back who decides he should be in the front of the queue. Leaving the long line trying to get around him yet again once we start moving. Good times!

  • Howard Abts October 12, 2013   Reply →

    When a jerk gets out of his car and climbs on a bike, he’s not very likely to stop being a jerk. Why would he suddenly become considerate? The immediate good news is that he won’t be able to do nearly as much damage with the bike as he could with the car.

    The slow, gradual good news is that, being less isolated from others than he used to be, he may begin to see other people as human beings rather than obstructions.

  • EthanF October 24, 2013   Reply →

    I actually dread on the day Boston has bicycle traffic jams.

  • Annalisa October 31, 2013   Reply →

    Ah yes, the Beacon Street Highway. I know it well. :)

  • Shawn January 5, 2015   Reply →

    I always try to find the route with low traffic (low auto and low bike traffic) and no buses. Bikes and buses bug me because they have the nerve to want to use the same lane I’m in! (And buses are giant road-hogging monsters you can’t see around). Cars stay ‘over there’ away from me, unless there’s a stoplight, then it’s all block block block my path.
    So you have to try alternate routes, but I found a few in Chicago that gets me to work with very few problems (and no bike traffic jams, thank God).

    There’s a no such thing as single file ‘bike etiquette’ at stoplights, or even road etiquette (cars follow laws because they’re dangerous and will get a ticket for violations). Bike riders, pedestrians, even cars, will fill up whatever space is available on the road. It’s human nature. Someone ‘jumping the line’ is simply biking ahead. He/she couldn’t do it if the space wasn’t available to occupy. The concept of a ‘single file line’ is all in your head. It doesn’t exist on the road. The road is not a bank ATM machine (one example someone cited). That only has one access point – hence, a line to use it. The road has multiple access points (empty spaces at a light waiting for someone to fill it). Is there a single file line to use a bike rack? Is there a single line for a six-dispenser fast food soda machine? Hell no, just reach over. Bike riders in the Netherlands line up two across at a bike light because that’s all the bikes that can fit in that small bike lane/road space. Our roads are much wider. And someone invariably bikes on the sidewalk even in the Netherlands (watch the Youtube videos). Pedestrians don’t ‘line up’ at a light – not even in queue-happy Great Britain – they fill whatever space is next to the curb (including that spot next to the newspaper box down aways), and then even spill into the street.

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