Stuff you need to know when heading for Martha’s Vineyard.
OFF THE SOUTHERN coast of Cape Cod lies the island of Martha’s Vineyard. Just seven miles offshore, ‘The Vineyard’ as locals and regulars call it, feels like a world away from hectic everyday life thanks partially to the 45-minute ferry ride through Vineyard Sound. There are six towns, each with its own personality, ranging from rustic and rural to cozy and chic. Best of all, you don’t need a car to get around Martha’s Vineyard, and in the summertime, you’re better off without. Whether spending a day, weekend, or entire week, Martha’s Vineyard never disappoints.
FROM FERRY TO CAROUSEL
The ferry from Woods Hole comes to port at one of two places, Vineyard Haven, the year-round ferry terminal, or Oak Bluffs, the preferred hangout for locals and regulars thanks to a lively yet laidback reputation built around great restaurants and nightlife. Here, you’ll find Flying Horse, the oldest platform carousel in the country, moved from Coney Island to Oak Bluffs in 1884. It’s even been designated a national landmark by the U.S. Interior Department. Still in operation today, the decorative horses allow riders to reach for a lucky brass ring.
Once your equine fun is done, take the hour or so bus ride further off the beaten path to Aquinnah, to see stunning Gay Head Light set high upon the Gay Head Cliffs. Located in the truly tropical looking westernmost part of Martha’s Vineyard, the lighthouse guards a dangerous section of underwater rocks known as “Devil’s Bridge.” It’s open to the public for self-guided tours and offers sweeping views of the island from all angles. The area surrounding Gay Head is comprised of several shops, museums, snack bars and a restaurant, making
ONE DAY in a golden future—when the euphoria of free-wheeling through the clean air and safe streets of any global metropolis is taken for granted—the new cycling citizenry might trace its warm glow of contentment back to the Boston of 2017. That probably sounds unrealistic, divorced from the realities of the densely populated urban jungle, but hold your cynicism in check for a moment. Right here in Boston, the seeds of an ideal city scenario have taken root, thanks to a pair of tireless entrepreneurs: tech genius Assaf Biderman and bike rental groundbreaker Andrew Prescott.
Biderman has built on his research with the SENSEable City Lab at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) to become founder and CEO of Cambridge-based company, Superpedestrian, where he hopes to revolutionize transportation, no less. Prescott is the self-styled Chief Wheel Officer of downtown bike shop Urban Adventours which—like the SENSEable City Lab —was founded in 2004, when Boston was arguably the least friendly city for cyclists in the whole of the U.S. Now, Boston is the hub of a brave new pedalcentric universe, thanks to the smarts of these hometown visionaries.
For more than a decade, Prescott has helped raise the profile of cycling in the city by offering guided tours as well as bike rentals and sales. “I shamelessly promoted my business everywhere I went,” he recalls. “People would be proud of the fact they were riding in Boston. We got involved in any cycling event that was going on, whether that was working with the mayor’s office in Boston or Cambridge, letting them know that there was somebody who cared that we got biking to the forefront.”
For Prescott, biking is not just a great way to experience the city, it’s the natural first choice. “I feel that our tours—and just riding a bike in Boston—are the best way to see as much as possible. There’s so much diversity with every different neighborhood, whether it’s Back Bay, the South End, Beacon Hill, Charlestown to Chinatown: it gives you a whole other perspective. Riding anywhere along the Charles River is great; and the Emerald Necklace goes from the Public Garden all the way out to Jamaica Plain and beyond.”
Ideally placed to speed Boston’s progress towards bike utopia is Biderman, whose inspired mash-up of cycling and advanced robotics has literally reinvented the wheel. Superpedestrian began as a collaboration between MIT and the Danish city of Copenhagen. The goal was to increase bike use by eliminating many of the reasons— time, hassle, distance, effort—with which we excuse ourselves from taking to the streets on two wheels. The solution, devised by Biderman and his fellow researchers, was the Copenhagen Wheel.
Fitted to any existing bike and hooked up to a proprietary smartphone app, the Copenhagen Wheel—with its signature red hub of technological trickery—has an almost supernatural effect. “You move your body, it feels like magic,” says Biderman.
Here’s why. The instant you start to pedal a Superpedestrian bike, a sweet charge of momentum kicks in—seemingly from nowhere, like your legs have become bionic—leaving nothing but dust and a deep sense of euphoria in your wake. It’s easily controlled, quiet as a breeze and can be dialed up or down at will, from ‘eco’ (mild assistance) to ‘turbo.’ Superpedestrian, it seems, has breezed into the e-bike space with a genuine game-changer.
“In a sense, it’s a vehicle condensed into one wheel,” explains Biderman. “We’re building it to provide an identical experience to riding a regular bike, but you think you became Superman or Wonder Woman. We developed our own sensors and algorithms. As a user, you don’t need to know anything about this. Forget about technology: just pedal. You can go anywhere, you don’t need to think twice; hills flatten, distances disappear.”
So far the signs for Superpedestrian have been very encouraging. First-time users tend to walk away from their test rides, as we did, with broad smiles. Those who have bought into the Copenhagen Wheel, says Biderman, tend to use cars and taxis far less often. “These people are not cyclists,” he says. “It just makes sense.”
FREE WHEEL (From top) Andrew Prescott, Chief Wheel Officer, Urban Adventours; Assaf Biderman, Superpedestrian CEO; Ed Thomas in Boston with the Copenhagen Wheel.