Biking the Streets of Newton; All of the Streets

Early in 2015 I decided to get back in the saddle and ride my bike more often. Since then, I have managed to tuck a few feats into my jersey pocket. One of those was biking the streets of Newton. ALL of the streets of Newton.

strava heatmap

This feat began with two things.

1. Strava. A fellow member of my PMC bike team showed me the Strava app to track my rides. One of Strava’s features was a heat map that tracked the routes I biked.

2. Bike Commuting. To keep my bike commute more interesting I began riding different routes. I thought it was a good idea to see the conditions: traffic, road surface, lighting, distance, ease of crossing, etc.

With those two combined, I was painting pictures of my bike routes through Newton, Brookline, Boston, Watertown, and Cambridge.

I don’t remember when it happened, but at some point I noticed that I could not only fill in streets, but could fill in street grids.

Then my habit of making the insignificant into the significant kicked in. I really wanted to cover all of the streets of Newton with my bike trails. I made it significant. At least for me

This past weekend I finished the task. (See below)

strava heatmap

One of the things I discovered was that Newton has lots of stubby dead end streets. Land is very valuable in the city, so carving out a few lots can be very lucrative. That has clearly happened over the years. Trying to get my bike on to all of those stubby streets was time consuming.

A surprising thing I discovered was how many dirt roads there are in Newton. I didn’t expect so much poor infrastructure in an affluent suburb like Newton. However, all, or at least nearly all, of those dirt roads were private ways and/or dead ends. I would guess carving out those few lucrative lots did not extend to building city-worthy roads.

I saw lots of redevelopment in Newton. Buildable land in the city is expensive. The quickly and cheaply built post-war houses are an endangered species. In many neighborhoods, it’s easy to spot which houses are being targeted by developers for whenever the current owner decides to sell. Large houses loom over the smaller post-war ranches.

It was great to see the diversity of Newton. There is a wide range of housing, neighborhoods and settings.

It’s easy to get lost in Waban. That was one of the last sections for me to complete. I kept missing unridden streets, as the curvy roads twisted and turned unexpectedly.

Was it worth it?

Yes. The reward was merely self-satisfaction from completing a task. Of course, it was not a particularly meaningful task. But life is complicated. I like to have tasks that have clear endpoints for success. It was a clear goal and it would be clear when the goal was reached.

At least I think I finished. There are lots of roads on the map, but some are paper roads, and some are private roads and some are gated private roads. I did not get to all of those because. I’ve poured over the Strava map and Google streetview and I deem the task complete.

Now it’s on to the next feat, whatever it may be.