Archive for the ‘ Projects ’ Category

Happy New Year

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Greetings, dear readers. Sorry I left you stranded for so long. It is once again September, which means another summer is over, I am a year older, and the Burning Man cycle has drawn to a close. It’s been alternately a very fun and exciting year and a slow, stressful, painful one. I’m happy to say that I learned a few things, though I won’t bore you with the details. What I will do is show you some pictures from the Burn. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up this blog a little more consistently this year. I’m still working on the same activism issues I was last time around, but at this point bureaucracy has ultimately failed me. You may be seeing fewer interviews or email correspondence and an increased number of mug shots. I’m sure there won’t be any complaints. Anyhoo, let’s roll this pumpkin!


This was my favorite Mutant Vehicle - a giant scorpion with flame-throwing claws and stinger.

This one isn't bigger on the inside, but it was big enough for our purposes.

Reunited with the kids of Camp Here. You can't find a better group of people on the playa.

Reunited with the beloved hammock where Crash and I fell in love. <3

Squirt gun: check. Boffer sword: check. Bring it.

Gutternaught the chopper returns to the desert in all her creaky, badly lubed glory.

This year I camped with some of my old friends from SCUL. This edifice is the brainchild of MegaSeth, second from the left.

I’m on the committee.

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

I’m not really on any committee. I don’t go to meetings, for a few reasons, including inability to remember when/where they are, and crippling social anxiety. I’m not part of any official bike club or movement. I’m mostly a loner (Dotty), a rebel. But when I’m on the phone with people, I do make a lot of lofty claims about the level of contact I have in the community – I have a squeaky girl voice, so to be taken seriously on the phone is a bit of a challenge.

Today I spoke to a nice gentleman at the MASSDot about the state of the Mass Pike pedestrian bridge in Allston. He informed me that it is the Mass Pike Authority’s responsibility to maintain it, and not the city’s. He also admitted that he did not have the direct number to the Mass Pike authority. No wonder nothing really gets done around here.

I don’t want to jump the gun and get hopes up, but I have ordered a small, battery powered spy cam. I’m hoping to mount it on my helmet in such a way that all the idiocy I witness during my daily commute is captured and useful as evidence in the event that I am struck (again) or otherwise menaced. Not sure about the quality of the cam yet (it was cheap) or the method of mounting, so this plan is tentative, but I’m pretty excited. I have the feeling that attitudes will be completely different if people know they are being filmed. Better, or worse… we’ll just have to wait and see.

Rollin’ with the Homies

Monday, April 26th, 2010

There’s a whole lot going on in the Bikeosphere lately, what with DOT secretary Ray LaHood’s announcements, and Mayor Menino’s declaration of intent concerning bicycle advocacy in Boston. I almost feel as if all our hard work making noise for the bike community has actually been fruitful. Maybe this small bit of complacency is why I haven’t been keeping up with this ranty blog, but it’s also the fact that this April is treating us so very very well in terms of weather. Do you remember last April in the Boston area? Yeah, we had nine whole days without rain all month. That’s right, 21 days of rain in one month. I think that’s about the time I started planning to move the hell out of New England, preferably to somewhere VERY DRY, like Arizona, New Mexico, or Hell. This year we’ve gotten a couple serious rain days, but it’s been mostly blush and flowers, and breezy days of sun. Fucking spectacular. To the point, I’ve been more preoccupied with riding than with blogging about riding.

But of course, the war isn’t even close to won, despite our victory in battles here and there. I’m still seeing the same negligence on the part of the MBTA drivers, and I’m still seeing dangerous riding practices (though I have noticed an uptick in the number of helmets being worn by casual cyclists).

In personal bikey notes: my roommate Sadiya is learning to ride a bike. She had started learning last year, on a tiny but heavy as hell 10 speed. It was… not very successful. Recently however, the Goondocks has become home to a delightful little coaster-brake Schwinn stingray. I urged her to try this as a training bike – her feet can easily touch the ground, and the coaster brake is intuitive and dependable to a noob biker. My logic is essentially grounded in the idea that this is the type of bike we learned to ride on as kids. She’s doing really well with it. I am so proud!

Spring is Sprung

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

I took the optimistic plunge and gave Krankenberry a bath and a tune up. Amazingly, aside from her chain being disgusting and busted (I bought a fresh one), she suffered very little lasting wear and tear this winter, and looks good as new! I’m so proud.

In other optimistic news, I planted my stunted tobacco plants in our vegetable garden, in the hopes that they were only stunted due to lack of space and depression from cabin fever.

I also cleaned the house just in time for all my roommates to come home and cook ALL DAY LONG in my nice clean kitchen. Typical. An evil overlord’s work is never done.

My children of the gutter..

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

…what beautiful music they make! This morning I passed a road bike that was making a noise like a jackhammer. I suddenly realized, now that my ears had perked up, that I was not being followed by a flock of Starlings, but that my chain was making the most horrific squeaking noises I’d ever heard NOT coming from a bird. Luckily I’ve already got a neon green replacement chain for poor, salty Krankenberry to wear once the winter is over. We’re not that lucky yet – apparently two storms are on the way for this week, with a mixture of snow and rain… my favorite! Hopefully these fronts flop like that last ‘Noreaster’, and I won’t have to pull out my Gore-tex.

In other news:  All this PR work is making a dent in the MBTA!

I had an interview last night with Kathy Curran and Elsie Nolan, from WBZ-TV & TV38 about the rash of reckless driving by employees of the MBTA, and specifically buses along Route 66. It was a short interview, so I didn’t have time to cover much more than I’ve already delved into with Zero Combustion, but I did demand accountability, transparency and visible action by the MBTA. In interesting news, apparently Kathy and Elsie were privy to information that I was not – namely that the driver of one of the buses involved in my complaints was suspended for three days – this is the information John Houghton of Cabot Garage gave WBZ-TV anyway. It’s a far more satisfying reaction than ‘will be disciplined for his actions’, or ‘will seek retraining’, which is what I was repeatedly told.

No matter what, this means we are making headway! Keep calling the MBTA! Keep dialing 911 and reporting the Speedy Parasite! Ride tall and damn it, ride safely!

A reply from Cabot Garage

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Good Morning Gabrielle Collins,

I am sorry that you had to write again. I sincerely apologize for the actions of the bus operator of bus 2294. The Instruction Department as well as the Cabot Area mobile inspector have been monitoring the Harvard Ave/Cambridge St intersection since your tip. Additionally, the operator of bus 2294 has been identified and will be disciplined for his actions. We will continue to pay extra attention to this intersection and change the behavior of those operators who are violating traffic laws and putting our customers in danger.


John J. Houghton


Cabot Garage

This is a nice development, but we shall see if my observations of this intersection show a difference in activity. Meanwhile I will continue to take steps to affect change on the attitude of apathy toward hazardous driving by the MBTA operators.

The Saga Continues…

Monday, February 8th, 2010

On Friday of last week, I sent this email to Cara Seiderman (, Nicole Freedman ( and the nameless entity at It has yet to be acknowledged at all, but I do have hope, since I have had contact with Cara and Nicole in the past.

The email:

Hello Nicole, Cara,
and whom it concerns in the Somerville traffic department,

Nicole and Cara, we’ve spoken in the past, and I thank you for following up with me about the development of the Harvard Ave. bike lane and the problems with taxi parking in Harvard Square. I thank my lucky stars for every inch of bike lane I have the privilege to use on my commute to and from work every day. I have cc’d you both, as well as the Somerville traffic department, on the following issues because the more I explore the problem, the more accounts of abuse I hear reported in all parts of the greater Boston area. I started out concerned with one particular intersection, but the problem may be much much larger than that.

The issue I have for you today is a difficult one, because it involves the MBTA, who I’m told are not in any way influenced by either the Boston administration or the jurisdiction of the local police. I’ve been told this on the phone by government officials and police officers. Regardless of these statements, I’m really hoping you can help me with this, because it doesn’t seem like I’m getting anywhere in terms of rectifying the situation in my talks with the MBTA, the police, or the people of these cities.

On January 29th, 2010 I had an incident involving an MBTA Route 66 Bus headed West on Cambridge Street at Harvard Ave. in Allston. I had come to a stop at a red light on Franklin, facing the northern entrance of Harvard Ave., and was waiting to proceed. As I was waiting, Route 66 Bus #0721 stopped to my left to let passengers off at the Cambridge/Franklin stop. I watched the Cambridge Street light turn yellow, then red, and then stood on my pedals to prepare for my own signal. As my signal changed and my foot came down on my front pedal, the bus, which I had been ignoring since it was stopped completely at a red light, cycled up and roared through the intersection causing me to slam on my brakes and dodge. It had gone from a complete stop to proceeding through a red light.

I contacted the MBTA about this. I left a complaint on the line and received a form email in response. I’m sure you’re familiar with these.

I then sent an email to the Superintendent of Cabot Garage.
I received an email back on February 2nd:

Gabrielle Collins,

Thank you for your e-mail concerning the route 66.  I apologize for reckless driving exhibited by one of our employees. MBTA Bus operators must complete a comprehensive Defensive Drivers Course prior to being certified to operate an MBTA vehicle in passenger service. This operator has been identified and will be re-instructed on her duties and responsibilities as a professional driver. Any further violations of the MBTA’s Rules and Policies will subject her to more severe progressive discipline up to and including recommendation for discharge. Additionally, I have forwarded your correspondence to the Instruction Department in order for them to include the intersection of Cambridge Street and Harvard Avenue in the Safety Related Compliance Program. This intersection will be monitored by Safety and Instruction personnel to ensure all traffic rules are strictly followed. Again, I apologize for your unpleasant experience with the MBTA.


John J. Houghton


Cabot Garage

I found this to be at least somewhat reassuring. Unfortunately, not three hours later on my ride home I had an even more ominous experience. I’ll let my email to John Houghton sum it up.

John Houghton,

February 3rd, 2010

Yesterday, not three hours after I’d received my response from you regarding the bus that nearly hit me on Monday, I was again waiting at a red light on Harvard Avenue to cross Cambridge Street. As the light for Cambridge Street became yellow I put my foot on my pedal, and made ready to move. As  I watched the light turn red, my body exhibiting the intent to scoot out into the intersection at a moment’s notice, I became aware of a growing roar from my left, west on Cambridge Street. And then a sharp honk. Route 66 Bus #2294 (or 2293, it was going over 30 MPH so it was difficult to catch the number) not only roared through the intersection against a red light, but gave me warning that it had ABSOLUTELY NO INTENTION OF SLOWING OR STOPPING.

I realized after this that the drivers of Route 66 deserve not just our disdain and our everlasting disappointment, but also our FEAR. The drivers of these buses are blatantly neglecting the safety of the citizens of the Boston area, and breaking the trust that we put in them to hold our lives in their hands every day, whether we are their passengers or merely sharing the roads with them.  I am disgusted by this neglectful behavior, having witnessed it daily for over a year on my route to work; having been hit by an MBTA bus while on my bicycle and then told by the driver that she was in no way required to provide me her information; having watched the them proceed through intersections against the traffic signals; having watched buses stop in the middle of the lane the entire length of their route to meet passengers, even though it is policy that they pull into each stop completely so traffic can get by. The list of their transgressions goes on and on. I have written to the local newspapers and the Governer about this latest infraction, and I expect some type of response from yourself and the MBTA at large, in terms of punishment for this action and prevention – form letter will not be good enough this time. I call for the bus driver who ran that red light yesterday at 5:10PM on Route 66, number 2294 or 2293, to be removed from service completely. To run a red light at speeds of 30 MPH and give warning shows premeditated disregard for traffic law, and a comfort with such acts that cannot be tolerated.

I have so far received no response.

My blog about these events was picked up by the local Blog and broadcast to many Bostonians. You can read their horrifying responses at UniversalHub, like this gem:

Don’t blame the drivers for doing their jobs and getting us home. Blame the state for not giving them technology found in most cities, a simple transponder that holds the green a couple of extra seconds so the bus doesn’t have to run the red.

So not only is it common knowledge in Massachusetts that MBTA vehicles are not subject to traffic laws, and run red lights and commit other various traffic violations without repercussion, but apparently there is the pervasive sentiment of apathy, sometimes even approval! As one who was almost killed not two weeks ago in the very same spot where Kelly Wallace died in 2007 under similar circumstances, I DO care, very much. As I said in my second email to John Houghton, I have also been hit by an MBTA bus, and then the driver refused to open the door, let alone stop the bus and exchange information. If I had ended up underneath the wheels of that bus, would anyone have known how neglectful the driver had been? Would I just be another ghost bike, locked to the pole by the Cambridge/Franklin stop until it became so rusted as to be a disgrace to my memory, and then subsequently removed?

Ultimately my question is this: Can you help us do something about this?
Thank you for your time and concern,


If you are as concerned as I am about this issue, please take the time to reiterate this call to action. Thanks for your support, everyone!

Just what I was looking for…

Monday, February 1st, 2010

So I’ve been looking at this website SeeClickFix, and it goes a long way to providing that ‘see something, say something’ form that I’ve been talking about. And as you can see, you can put a Widget on your site! It’s mostly being used for potholes, but there is a great range of uses for a site like this – people are reporting bad traffic light situations, graffiti, awkward intersections. You can even upload photos! The question I have yet to answer is; just who is looking at this page? Who, with the ability to get any of these issues handled, monitors these complaints? If our reps haven’t seen this yet, you can bet I’ll bring it to their attention!

On a side note: another bus ran the red light at Harvard Ave./Cambridge St. this morning. Route 66 #2218. I’m about to call and report it right now but I don’t expect there to be anything done about it. Not until someone (else) dies.

My tobacco plants are flowering!

Monday, January 25th, 2010
wee little ‘baccy flowers

I have no idea why this happened… or if it’s supposed to happen…

This is my first attempt at growing my own tobacco, and unfortunately the light table really wasn’t big enough to house as many plants as I wanted or get them as big as they need to be harvested. This means I’m going to have to transplant them to the garden some time in April so they can mature fully. I didn’t expect them to start wanting to have sex first! The flowers are sticky and smell like… tar, kinda. Not that great. But not terrible, either.  I wonder if I’ll get viable seeds out of this. Exciting!