A blog for better streets and public spaces in Portland, Maine.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Commenters' Questions

A few questions have cropped up recently in the comments section, and I'll do my best to answer them here:

[From Anonymous] A woman who lives near my house routinely parks her car in a driveway, but the car completely blocks the sidewalk. As a pedestrian, today, I literally had to walk through a snowbank to continue on my way around her car (SUV). I have asked her to keep her car off the sidewalk, but she basically flipped me off. Who is legally correct here? Who owns the sidewalk?

While the property owner technically "owns" the land under the sidewalk, it's a public right of way that must be kept clear. If you would like to report an uncleared sidewalk, call Portland's Inspections Department at 874-8793, or citysidewalks@portlandmaine.gov. Use the same number for neighbors who don't shovel.

You could also encourage her to take a long drive tomorrow in the snow - with an SUV, she'll be more likely than others to get it stuck in a snowbank along the side of the freeway, opening up your sidewalk for a while.

[From Turbo]: "I'd been wondering whether you were biking to work on these days when the Rt. 1 shoulder is under multiple inches of grimy snow. I've been taking the bus myself most days-- probably passing you en route. I have to say, though, I find the bus depressing. I spend most of the ride trying to think of ways to make it a more appealing experience."

In general, I'll take the bus too if there's slush on the roads - getting damp salt on my bike and clothing is not much fun. I'll admit it's been making me a little stir crazy, though.

I have ridden in the last couple of days, since the roads are generally dry. I rode in to work this morning as well, but with the snow flying outside, I'll probably make use of METRO's bike racks on my way home.

When the shoulders are icy, I take the middle of the lane, which is perfectly legal and arguably makes a cyclist even safer by virtue of improved visibility (I'm in motorists' direct line of sight, instead of in their peripheral vision). If cars want to pass me, they switch lanes - just as they would do with any other slower vehicle. Winter tends to make people slow down on the roads anyhow, so it's not much of a problem to keep up.

As far as making the bus ride less depressing, I'd say it's a damned shame that METRO plasters its buses with advertisements that keep us from looking out the windows. The part of Route 7 that I ride might be one of the most scenic bus routes anywhere, with abundant views of Back Cove, the Presumpscot River, and Casco Bay's islands - often with sunrises and sunsets at this time of year to boot. Of course, I get off before the same bus enters the cluster of strip malls around Route One, also known as Falmouth's Lower Intestinal District.

I usually bring a book or a magazine, or just rest my eyes for a few minutes. In the past few years I've seen a lot more people sending emails or web browsing with smartphones. Reading or writing are things you just can't do in a driver's seat. I'll take a dingy bus and a good magazine article over the cushiest Lexus any day.


Corey Templeton said...

I like the idea of a post to respond to some reader comments, I might borrow that idea.

As a daily (Monday-Friday) Metro rider, I recommend bringing something to read. Riding the bus has greatly increased the amount of recreational reading that I do. I have a smartphone which I use to enjoy the free wifi on the commuter rail in Boston when I visit my dad several times a year. I wonder if the Metro could partner with a service provider someday to provide wifi or if there would ever be enough demand for such a service here.

Scott H said...

"I have asked her to keep her car off the sidewalk, but she basically flipped me off."

1. Gather six or eight strong friends.
2. Relocate car to on-street parking spot.
3. Unimpeded sidewalk!
4. Repeat as necessary.