MARTHA’S MAGIC

Stuff you need to know when head­ing for Martha’s Vine­yard.

Where Boston - - CONTENTS - By Matthew Simko

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.

VI­SION­ARY

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.

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