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Jon Ramos

September 2013

Southie Bikes

Photography by Deborah McCarthy

It’s Jon Ramos’ dream to see a bicycle network in South Boston.  A sign of the times brought into the spotlight at a recent local debate over whether South Boston should have bike lanes on West Broadway or not.  As little as five years ago, the question of bike lanes would never have been asked – the perception being that bike lanes are for Cambridge and certainly not Southie.  Fast-forward to the present with a steady influx of new residents, the development of more condos, and a parking problem that is causing residents to throw their hands up in despair.  People are trading in their cars for bikes leaving the hassle of parking in the dust and taking a more green approach to living.  Enter Southie Bikes. 

A year ago, Tanya Connolly, a young, vibrant, Irish immigrant living in South Boston, was struck and killed by a shipping truck at the intersection of A Street & West Broadway.  “I didn’t know Tanya personally, but the news of her fate took a very serious toll on me. I was not alone in how I felt. There was a loud and angry outcry from the bicycling community here in South Boston. Scores of people, cyclists and non-cyclists came out of the woodwork to attend the Planet Southie meeting to voice their concerns about bicycle safety. It was at that moment that I discovered far more people in the neighborhood rely on their bikes for getting around than I ever realized,” says Jon.  From that meeting a Bike Action Team was formed in hopes to make the roads safer for not only bicyclists but for the safety of all road users.  Within a few weeks, Jon began to collect information from volunteers including transportation planners and Nicole Freedman of Boston Bikes about what would South Boston need to become more bike friendly. 

Scoop on Jon:

  • Grew up in Southern, NH, Living in Boston area for over 15 years.
  • Moved to Southie five years ago with his wife Jane.  “I’ve always known Southie to be a nice neighborhood, but I’ve been simply overwhelmed with friendly smiles and genuine people living here; new comers and old timers alike.”
  • Studied architecture at Wentworth Institute of Technology
  • Works at Miller Dyer Spears Inc, a Boston architecture firm that specializes in institutional work (local colleges, hospitals, & some public work)
  • He is the commissioner of an architects & engineers co-ed softball league, and plays down at Moakley Park
  • He is a ride leader for 1,700 member cycling club since 2005, called The Greater Boston Cycling & Outdoor Fitness Club
  • One of the founders of a monthly urban ride called Boston Bike Party
  • Involved in St. Vincent’s Lower End Neighborhood Association including park cleanups, development meetings, planting flowers, and meeting with election candidates.  
  • He rides three different bikes. “For daily commuting I use my Vilano single speed.  It’s an inexpensive bike that can take the abuse of all season riding.  Salt, snow, rain, it doesn’t matter, this bike is bulletproof. For longer distance rides I have a 1979 steel frame Univega.  It’s a multi-gear bike which I found very useful on my bike trip from Boston to Montreal.  The Univega also works great with my bike trailer for hauling groceries, portable grill, tools, sports equipment, you name it. Lastly I have a Gary Fisher hard-tail 29er mountain bike. I’ll take that beast up to the Fellsway or Blue Hills for exploring the off road trails.”

Both Jon and his wife Jane are “mutil-modal” when it comes to local transportation.  They rely on walking, public transportation, biking and occasionally driving. ” I am willing to bet that more people who live South Boston use public transit, walk, shuttle, or bike to work than drive cars. Perhaps here in South Boston personal cars are actually the “alternative” mode of transportation.”  According to the 2010 census, there are sections within South Boston where more than 50% of households simply don’t own a car.  According to Jon, as the population within South Boston continues to become more dense, we will see an ever increasing need for public transportation, bike lanes, and improved walking.

Q&A

Q: What is your favorite restaurant in Southie?
A: I LOVE to eat, especially after a long day of biking.  I’m a bit of a beer nut, so I’m a fan of Local 149 for their ever rotating selection of craft beer, but I also have an affinity for Lucky’s because I’ve been going there with co-workers for years. Oh, and we can’t forget Harpoon’s beer hall… not exactly a restaurant, but it’s the best pretzel & beer you’ll get anywhere in the city (hint hint, try Harpoon’s Leviathan IPA, you’ll thank me later)

Q: What is your favorite spot?
A: The urban explorer in me still likes finding the hidden gems. The little park next to the 4 concrete silos on Black Falcon Ave is pretty great, and I really like Rolling Bridge park which hides itself behind the inaccessible part of Dorchester Ave… oh and we can’t forget the fantastic public dock on the Fort Point Channel…. but the best spot for me will always be the small wooden picnic table, under the canopy of a tree cluster, overlooking the water, where I enjoy a peaceful picnic with my wife.  No, I’m not telling you where it is… that’s my spot 😉

Q: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about giving up their car and using a bike to get around?
A: Be smart, ride respectfully, share the road, stay alert, always bring a headlight just in case it gets dark, and leave the damn earbuds in your backpack.  These are all crash prevention techniques, which is the best way to stay safe.  And for heaven’s sake, you don’t need to clad yourself in neon green and spandex just to ride a bike!  I ride in business casual for my commute, it’s a very civilized way to get around.

As a proponent of bike lanes in South Boston, and in particular on West Broadway, Jon is passionate about the subject.  Ultimately he wants South Boston to be safe for all commuters and residents.  “The main reason to have bike lanes anywhere in the city is safety. Bike lanes are proven to reduce the risk of injury by 50% by separating the bicyclists from the motorists.  Many drivers will agree that bike lanes also provide a measure of stress relief knowing that bicyclists have their own place to ride that is out of their way while also encouraging bikers to ride more predictably.”

7 Positives for Bike Lanes according to Jon Ramos:

  • Safety – Bike lanes are proven to reduce the risk of injury by about 50% (source: Boston Bikes)
  • Predictability – Cyclists tend to operate in a more predictably in bike lanes, which is good for everyone.  No more bikers swerving in an out, or splitting lanes to get past the traffic.
  • Parking – Every person riding a bike to a local store represents one more parking space for someone who really needs it.
  • Confidence – Bike lanes give confidence to riders who aren’t quite ready to share the road travel lanes with general motorist traffic, and allow the bicyclist to travel at his/her own pace.
  • Stress – Bike lanes are proven to reduce stress of both cyclists and motorists because it separates the two transit types.
  • Traffic –  Removes slower-moving bikes from vehicular traffic lanes, reducing delay for drivers.
  • Economy – Bikers tend to do more shopping locally. Studies show that cyclists spend more locally than the average motorist.  (source: Oregon Transportation Research & Education Consortium).  Bikers don’t want to ride further than necessary to buy goods.  It makes sense, for the same reason many retail businesses choose locations that are close to public transportation and streets with heavy foot traffic.

When asked about why he loves living in Southie, Jon smiles and says, “It’s just such a vibrant place to live. I love it all – the good, the bad, and the potholes.”
 

There will be a memorial bike ride in honor of Tanya Connolly on Sunday, September 15th at 11am in South Boston. 

For more information on Southie Bikes, you can follow them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/SouthieBikes or on twitter @southiebikes

 

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About the Author

Maureen Dahill

Maureen Dahill is the editor of Caught in Southie and a lifelong resident of South Boston sometimes mistaken for a yuppie. Co-host of Caught Up, storyteller, lover of red wine and binge watching TV series. Mrs. Peter G. Follow her @MaureenCaught.

Comments

  1. Brian says

    Being a former lifetime resident of Southie, 37 years and an avid bicyclist I really don”t feel the Bike lanes will make much of a differenace because the people who drive threw Southie and other parts of Boston really don’t care. Granted it will give the rider a lane, but it won’t deter the driver from driving like an idiot. I have been hit twice by cars in my life while bicycling. Both times in the South End while driving in a “Bike Lane.” There is very little room as is for drivers to negotiate the ever changing road patterns in Southie. There is NO need to take away any additiional space from them.

  2. Jason says

    Typical arrogant yuppie. He breezes into this town 5 years ago and decides that things are not to his liking; even though people who have built this town over generations like Broadway just the way it is. I’m willing to bet he’s one of those people that no one ever said ‘NO’ to when he was growing up. Well, here it comes – “NO”. No bike lanes on Broadway. Not now, not ever. It doesn’t matter what City Hall says. You don’t like it, move back out of state where you came from.

  3. Southie is cool says

    Hi “No Bike Lanes,”

    I personally know Jon, and he’s not an arrogant yuppie. He decided to invest in a civic life in Southie because it’s the first place he felt is his home. He goes to many of the community events in Southie, and he will listen to you if you tell him your concerns on bicycling. Please give him a chance.

  4. Anonymous says

    I am a life long resident of South Boston. my family has lived here for generations. I have seen Jon at many community meetings. Honestly, in my ignorant and arrogant mindset I initially viewed Jon as a “typical arrogant yuppy who has never been told no.” As I watched Jon engage passionately in numerous discussions my attitude began to change. I attend many community meetings and I see many people new to south Boston who engage in community issues respectfully even when they disagree.I also see many ignorant and arrogant people who personally attack people simply because they disagree. Those people seem to have some type of entited attitude and think just because they say something or write it in some obscure publication that it is true. I’m not sure where that attitude comes from. The generations of my family who helped to build this community definitely did not teach me to approach people in a way that my opinion is more valuable than theirs. I am sad to be grouped in with such an attitude. South Boston is fortunate to have people such as Jon who have chosen to move here and who have the courage to stand up for something they believe in. I don’t ride a bike, but if a small percentage of people in a neighborhood do, there should be some small measures taken to give them the access to do so.
    So I can’t park illegally on broadway when I run in to pay a utility bill (?). Maybe I’ll start biking there. There are vacancies on broadway right now. That’s probably due to people driving their cars to shop somewhere else. Maybe these “weird bike people” are on to something with their whole “shop local” and conserve energy type of thinking. Maybe that will help with vacancy issue, double parking definitely isn’t. But then again we are different and we do want we want, right or wrong. Maybe just maybe if we give some of these people a chance they may just add some more positive attributes to a place we all love. Maybe this place will continue to be a great place for Jon’s children and mine. Maybe our children will ride their bikes to broadway station then take the train to Copley to see a movie. Maybe but I could just be an arrogant jerk who believes that we can do better than constantly cutting people down who don’t agree with with our “traditions”.
  5. Anonymous says

    Bikes would be a good solution to the parking problems facing South Boston right now if it was realistic that everyone who rode a bike to work etc 1. Didn’t own a car for use when traveling outside of the city of Boston  2. Didn’t have the possibilty of needing a car in the future while they still live in South Boston (i.e. they start a family, or just want to be able to get around with more ease as they get older). If anything, Bike lanes have the potential to take away the possibility of parking in certain areas.

    I also would like to say that while I think it’s a great personal and environmental choice to ride a bike, I often see that many people that ride bikes to work don’t really know the rules of the road for riding a bike in the city, either because it is something that they just picked up as it  has become a lot more commone place over the past few years or because they come from a more rural area where there is less danger involved. I don’t think bike lanes would change that, and I think it would instead offer inexperienced city bikers a false sense of security. 

  6. Aaron says

    Maybe Jon is a yuppie, but he CARES and he wants to have a discussion about some improvements he think will be good for everyone. Is that really SO awful? City Hall has NOTHING to do with this, it’s just neighbors talking with neighbors. You don’t like it, fine, but try to be American about it and come with sound rebuttals, not dismissiveness and insults. “No” isn’t an argument, it’s what toddlers say when they throw a tantrum.

    Southie is changing right in front of us. While we’re squabbling over bike lanes and parking, developers are running roughshod over the community through backroom deals to claim as many variances as possible to build higher, denser, cheaper, and wider, while returning NOTHING to our neighborhoods. It’s your choice to pretend that it’s the people moving in who are the problem, which suits those who exploit those false divides to slip in unnoticed and rob our community blind, but in truth you’re aiming at the wrong target.

     

    If your concern is quality of life for you and your family, have a look at the BRA and the developers who partner with them to fill every parcel of land with multistory condos, and then ask “wait, what’s in this for us, the people who built this town?” The answer right now is…”nothing.”

  7. "No Bike Lanes" says

    I wasn’t really vested in this bike lane thing, but after reading the “typical arrogant yuppie” comment above, I’m going to get myself and my people behind it full force.  Jon Ramos isn’t one of the “frat boys” everyone complains about, he’s one of the burgeoning class of highly educated, middle age professionals that changing Southie.  Get with the change or get left behind.  The old Southie sold out, and we bought it.
     

  8. Harsh Vahalia says

    Long time resident of Southie here. I have the pleasure of knowing Jon personally through all the wonderful work he’s been doing to make Southie a better place to live in. The work Southie Bikes is doing is a great way of bridging the gap between the young people’s needs and the born-and-bred Southie residents. Instead of dividing the community based in how long people have lived here, they are doing a great job uniting voices for the betterment of all. I’m proud and thankful of all the work they are doing.
  9. Bike lanes aren't so bad says

    This isn’t about “yuppies/hipsters invading a perfectly neighborhood and annoyingly gentrifying it.” This is a safety issue. Is it worth people like Tanya Connelly dying just so you can keep something you think “people like it just the way it is?” Also, for anyone who complains about lack of parking, the more people who ride bikes means less cars on the road and more places for you to park. It is in public interest to encourage bicycle commuting.

    Also, if you look at any pictures of the city over the years, it’s obvious that a lot has changed. So, holding on to something like a bike lane-free Broadway due to some false sense of nostalgia is kind of stubborn and childish.

  10. Anonymous says

    I’m not convinced you know what the word “arrogant” means, unless you’re being satirical? Maybe calling someone arrogant in a comment where you clearly express an arrogant attitude by saying something you don’t want will never happen? If that’s the case bravo, well played. If not you’re a total idiot and as a lifelong Southie resident let me say you’re an embarrassment.
  11. Stefanie Valovic says

    Hi there

    FYI: if you are concerned about the neighborhood going downhill, Jon is actually your ally. In addition to his bike advocacy, Jon works tirelessly to try to keep residents informed about development meetings and attend them. As an architect, he can talk the talk with these greedy developers and make arguments in their own language. 

    Just last night I saw Jon at the BRA meeting about 240 W 2nd Street. I was there because he got the word out. Thanks to him and many other neighbors, the developer got a much-deserved earful and has to go back to the drawing board.

    As anothor commenter noted, newcomers are scapegoated for the legacy left by predatory development. This works out great for the developers. Many of these newcomers you scorn are joining the fight for development that actually improves quality of life for South Boston families.

    Do you get it? The strategy is divide and conquer. Neighbors of all kinds need to come together, stick together and stand up for our families and eveyone else too. And we don’t have to agree on everything to do that.

    Go ahead and argue against bike lanes, but why attack Jon personally, in such an accusatory way? If you want to save the neighborhood, get involved in your neighborhood association and development meetings. Its too easy to sit back and blame newcomers.

    And on a personal note, Jon and Jane are my neighbors. Believe me, they are exactly the kind of people you want here: generous, down-to-earth, kind people who work to build community.

    Go ahead and hate on bike lanes, but don’t hate on Jon. You have obviously never met him.

    – Stefanie V

  12. Stefanie Valovic says

    This is brilliant! Thank you!

    “If your concern is quality of life for you and your family, have a look at the BRA and the developers who partner with them to fill every parcel of land with multistory condos, and then ask “wait, what’s in this for us, the people who built this town?” The answer right now is…’nothing.’ “

  13. Anonymous says

    I don’t think it’s a false sense of nostalgia, it is a fact that it’s virtually impossible NOT to double park in order to do business with most of the stores on East and West Broadway.Reasonable people understand this and look the other way on enforcement because anyone with common sense knows there is no other choice BUT to double park most every time you patron one of those businesses. 

  14. Anonymous says

    ….they didn’t sell all of it. Not sure who “your people” are but we have people too, and plenty of them. 

  15. Anonymous says

    This guy sounds like a really good guy. I sincerely regret that people have resorted to name calling- he does not desrve that. Having said that, I still disagree with many of his contentions about having bike lanes in Southie. It seems self serving and the supporting arguments are being backed up by studies in Oregon?- that shows me they are reaching at straws to justify these bike lanes. I might be more amenable to their cause if they left off the far-fetched logic about increased business etc. – have yet to see a bike loaded with shopping bags ever.

  16. Anonymous says

    This previous comment is clearly written by John Ciccone, who recently wrote a devastatingly stupid article opposing bike lanes in Southie, and seems to think that his opinion is the only one that matters.

  17. Elodie says

    I am very surpized by those first comments. I am relatively new in the Boston area, and only have been few times to South Boston even if I really enjoy it. South Boston can be hard to access with a bike, not to mention that the public transportation over there is not great (it’s fairly far from the “touristical Boston”, cars are driving fast and not considering the human life sitting on the bike, street quality usually low…).
    Without doubts, Southie would see many more people coming by if bike infrastructure was improved. And a bike lane DOES help. Jon is one of the first person I have ever met that is fully devoted to somethin, and the something is his neighborhood’s life. He’s trying right there to make the life of hundred of people being a lil better, not just his. And that’s great.
    We need more Jon Ramos around us.

  18. t says

    Who was at fault in the tragedy that occured at A and Broadway last year? Was it a case of reckless driving or reckless bicycling?

  19. tom says

    Was the tragedy that happened last year at Brodway and A street a case of reckless driving or was it reckless bicycling?

  20. Anonymous says

    no you didn’t buy it       the developers did and charged you way more money than its worth     btw   i have no doubt yr parents gave you yuppies a hefty down payment or more for the poorly build condo you and yr 4 roommates are now crammed in

     

  21. Shawn says

    Broadway is about the worst road in Southie to put a bike lane. I am all in favor of cycling and think it is great for many reasons. But many people definitely don’t know how to ride in a city, especially THIS city with too many people driving in too little space. Narrow roads, angry drivers, ridiculous traffic and cyclists are a bad mix.

    First, people need to learn the real ins and outs of riding a bike defensively and not act entitled. Laws are the same for bikes and cars. Ultimately though, on a bike, you need to assume cars cannot see you, especially when turning! Laws aside, cars win every time in a crash…
    Dot Ave has a great bike lane and there is room there for it. Maybe some of the cross there needs to be as much room as possible so drive roads like 4th would work. But Broadway is too dangerous between the buses, cabs, double parking and overall volume of traffic.

    I applaud the efforts of John and Menino but I think we need to get a bit more realistic about how many bike lanes Boston and Southie can handle. Places like Oregon, Denver and Seattle are big, spread out and basically built with bikes in mind. Boston was built for horses pretty much. And now the ever increasing condos bring millions more cars. Certain small roads could be used just for bikes to create more separation. From experience, getting hit is not fun. The last thing we need is to make motorists who are already jammed in endless traffic even more pissed off.

    Select the roads carefully if you support and fight for nice lanes!

  22. Anonymous says

    What’s wrong with putting in bike lanes on Broadway Street? Where I grew up, our Main Street had bike lanes, and people loved them.  We also need bike rental stations; I’m thinking East 1st and L Street would work well