Left In Lowell

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April 30, 2014

Gold Gold Comedy Gold…And, Rules? What Rules?

by at 12:13 am.

Part the First: Digging for Gold

So a Council meeting happened tonight. With so much chocolatey goodness I hardly know where to start! If you want an accurate, but straightforward and boring recap of the meeting, Dick’s already got his notes up. I’m not calling Dick boring, his write up is great, and so useful. But. BUT.

In cycling, you move your pedals forward for anything to happen. But, sometimes when you’re bored, and you don’t need to push yourself for a bit, you might flip your pedals the other way - while coasting down a hill, say. It makes this pleasant empty clicky-whizzing sound. But the Council’s backpedaling tonight was a sight to behold! I could almost see the furious weightless reverse motion of pedals moving through space and time but affecting so little. Breathtaking. Unchained. Glorious! Like going backwards on your bike pedals and realizing that actually, you’re producing sunshine and ice cream and puppies by the motion!

In an effort to showcase my on-the-spot razor wit, this post will be punctuated with my live tweets at various points, which will help illustrate the pure singing joy the evening brought me. Plus, I’m lazy. Many of the tweets will be out of sequence as I try to make some sort of salient narrative. Follow me after the clicky bit:

So the “makers of the motion,” Rita Mercier and Rodney Elliott, got first dibs on addressing not only the viewers at home, but the 50-some-odd folks who came in specifically in support of bike lanes in general and Father Mo’s in particular. I cannot stress how awesome a performance followed on both their parts (though not for the reason they might hope). I’ll quote from Dick’s write up. First, Rita.

Rita Mercier begins by saying sometimes she makes a motion to shock people to find out if anyone uses a resource. [snip to end…] She implies that the motion to abolish the bike lanes was just a pretense to get the bicyclists to show up and identify themselves.

OK, this is revisionist nonsense…and I have eye(ear?)witness proof. This was such an utterly brilliant revision that I just marvel at its artistry…but it’s complete bull. Because, after the meeting, I met up with someone who told me they was in Council chambers at the beginning, right near Rita Mercier, when the bike crowd started trickling in en masse.

She was flummoxed by the crowd that she never expected. Ergo, there is no way she was fishing for some sort of reaction from bicyclists. She thought no one would even notice. She’s so busted! Here’s what I think went down: a couple of complaining, confused drivers who use Father Mo Blvd called Rita, and like she typically does, she requested a motion…with zero forethought of what it might really mean or if said complainants have a complaint worth entirely upending FMB road striping for. (See also: Mill No 5 massage parlors.) Rita shoots from the hip. Sometimes she hits the bullseye, but often she misses, and comically, the projectile ricochets around the room…causing all sorts of unexpected (by her) mayhem!

By the way, she doubled down at the end of the discussion on this…

Council sends it back to the City Manager for review. Council Mercier interjects that if the motion had been just to send it back to the Manager, no one would have paid attention to it. But by making it a shocking motion, it got everyone here so I think it was a great motion.


So many gems from the evening. You should have seen my little invisible mind elf rubbing her hands together in glee. At one point, I couldn’t hold it together and, as I was standing up near the doorway and pretty visible, sank to the ground to keep my expression from being seen by the video cameras and/or the Mayah. I think there was silent giggling at one point…

The real performance of the night (First Prize, Gold Medal) was all Elliott, however. Again, I will quote Dick’s write up and my Twitter reactions…

Mayor Elliott says the bike lanes have been in place for 9 months. Says he hasn’t seen one bicyclist using them.

He doesn’t oppose bikes but he says people who support him and see him have asked him to do something about the lanes which are underutilized.

IT’S APRIL. And 40 degrees out. Obviously not peak season. *sigh* These bike lanes have not even had one single month of May. Or June. Or July. Never mind that I don’t believe that Rodney even travels this stretch often enough to frigging SEE the bike lane use. I can’t believe that anyone who goes on that road ever would think dropping a lane has caused traffic problems. Well, maybe someone like Rodney might, but I’m beginning to suspect his reality is very different from everyone else’s.

Says it was a plan that was rolled out poorly; people in the city didn’t expect it.

It was discussed for months starting over a year ago. It was covered in the Sun as early as February 2013. The loan order was voted on in March 2013. It was covered as the work was done. Hells bells, Rodney made a stink about opposing them throughout the process! How much notice of a change in street striping does he think people really need? Two years? A decade? Oh, please enlighten us, Lowell Traffic Engineer Rodney Elliott!

Maybe bike lanes are better in other parts of the country where bikes can be used for more than five months of the year.

Tell that to Montreal. Or are you claiming they have it easier in winter than we do? Just wondering.

I’ll support sending it back to the city manager for further study but it’s been studied for nine months and people who drive there every day have a problem with it.

You mean, the trickle of traffic of people who are used to pretending Fa’Mo is a German autobahn? Those people? By the way, I have a problem driving on cul-de-sacs, can you make it so those things keep going instead of terminate? I don’t feel like stopping when the street runs out. *rolls eyes*

Now…here was the money quote. The best thing to be said all. night.

I understand the Speck report recommends cycling but what does an urban planner know about the city when he spends less than a month here. We run the city. We listen to the people who live here. Some things work for Cambridge or Somerville but not in Lowell. That doesn’t mean we’re a bad city. The city is run by people who are born, raised and die here. We make progress every day.


Mic drop.

Curtains. Lights out.

You just cannot fathom a more perfect summation of all that is wrong with the vacuum of leadership in Lowell right now. For Lowell. From Lowell. Think you pay taxes here, you Blow-in?? Well, you don’t get to lead the city. Us borned raised dead (?) Lowellians do. Well OK, maybe we’ll include raised in Pelham here, but seriously! Pay your damn property taxes you recent immigrés and STFU.

I really, really thought we were past that sort of thing at this point. Go ahead. Laugh at my naïvety. I deserve it.

Part the Second: Some Minor Gems

OK some other notes. I’ll get to the serious bit in a second, but there was a really funny line from (I think) Elliott that the bike lanes were big enough for a Sherman tank to drive through, which promoted its own shortlived hashtag on Twitter:

And here’s a dark and mysterious “insight” picture of a few of the bike lane supporters (seriously? “Insight,” autocorrect? I think it was supposed to be “invisible” as a reference to how no one seems to see them using Fa’Mo bike lanes…)

Another pic I tweeted. Yes, I know I’m going to hell.


I was taking the picture of Rita’s deadly look while it was aimed at Patrick Murphy…but it turned towards me and my smartphone just as I snapped it. You can’t plan for these things! They just happen and you have to hope you’re ready.

Part the Third: Just Go Home, You’re Not Needed Here!

OK final rant. There are several tweets on my feed as regards to how the City Council appear to have broken their own brand new shiny rule. I mean, the package was scarcely wrapped before they ran right over it with the UPS truck. The rule I am talking about is the one where a maker of a motion gets to speak before the public speakers. The maker, not the entire Council. This was a result from a minor kerfuffle a couple of months ago over lord knows what subject when Kennedy did not get to speak on his own motion before the public did, in order to explain why he brought it forward. So they clarified that a motion’s maker could have the privilege of speaking before the public takes the podium.

That was not what happened tonight. Tonight, the entire Council weighed in before the public was allowed to speak - and therefore, giving the public zero ability to influence the conversation before the matter had been all but decided on. It might seem minor, but it was a slap in the face of all those people who came tonight to speak. And given how smart and knowledgeable and experienced a lot of these speakers are, it was a missed opportunity for the Council to get educated on the subject before making up their minds.

I’ll let my tweets speak for themselves…

There you have it. One SNAFU after another with this crew. Only 18 months and 4 days left til the 2015 election…

OK, I’m tapped out. Hopefully between Dick Howe being all serious and me being the class clown, you got the gist of what went down tonight regarding bikes. I left after this part and spent money downtown with those pesky bicyclists at a local watering hole. All in all, been a while since I had so much fun at a meeting. (I am not including the fun which has been had watching the meeting from friends’ houses with wine, or at a pub, because those were fun too, but in a different way. One way or another, it appears drinking is a part of it. I need to start playing the teetotaler’s City Council Bingo game I posted earlier…)

8 Responses to “Gold Gold Comedy Gold…And, Rules? What Rules?”

  1. Leeann Says:

    Had to miss the meeting, super grateful for the detailed coverage! Laughed out loud (and cheered) upon seeing a big flashing “Driving Prohibited in Bike Lanes” sign appear on Fr. Morissette outbound this morning!

  2. Lynne Says:

    I might have forgotten to report the outcome. The outcome was to send it to the City Manager to review how to make the bike lanes safer, not eliminate them.

    Also, someone pointed out to me…even if you take Rita’s revisionist “no really, I made this motion for shock value” as truth…that is almost worse. That means she is governing by pushing shocking things forward in the hopes it makes a ruckus? This is not a good way to govern. I almost prefer the idea she was totally making that motive up on the spot to cover for her gaffe of making the motion in the first place. At least that doesn’t indicate anything more than her being scared of a big public backlash. If she really does this for real, it’s a very cynical manner in which to govern, and certainly not healthy.

  3. back central baby Says:

    Watched on tv…looks like it went as well as could be expected. I’m sohhappy about the increase in safety over there, as I also use fthr mo Blvd (with a bike). I’m glad they are also big enough for my Sherman tank because I have a friend who got doored in a bike lane in Boston that was not a very safe one. She might as well just hit a brick wall, it was bad.

    I also really enjoyed the longer applause the former mayor murph got, and I really enjoyed his speaking in general. Current mayor really is just #notMymayor .

  4. joe from Lowell Says:

    Perhaps the bicyclists were invisible because Lowell City Hall seems to have designed the lighting to ensure that no one will ever be able to take a good picture on the front stairs after dark.

    Seriously, look at thing; you can see the grain in the granite facade, but you can’t see anyone face!

  5. Gail Says:

    I was unable to attend the meeting, but did catch a little bit of the meeting on-line. I do not cycle, but support the bike lanes [I E-mailed the council]. If I felt safe cycling to work 20 years ago, I’d be a lot healthier and could probably cycle to work now. I’d probably have more discretionary income as well.

    I would like to thank everyone who showed up to speak in favor of the bike lanes. I thought the young woman who spoke about the differences in her spending habits when she commuted by bike compared to by car was an important message and I hope each councilor heard and understood it. To steal a little from Patrick Murphy [it was good to see him], the goal should not be to move cars in and out of the city –as mayor Elliot has indicated, but rather to make the city more people friendly so they get out of their cars, off of their bikes and participate in the life and economy of the city. Making all neighborhoods in the city more pedestrian and bicycle friendly is a great place to start.

    One comment that I would make regarding the absence of traffic on Fr. Morissette is that it is NH school vacation this week and MA last week. When I would wait for the bus, on Mammoth Rd., in the mornings more than 1 out of 3 cars had NH plates. Last week and this week have been light traffic weeks.

    I think for the city to do well during the next 18+months, it is important for everyone to be respectful and to show-up. If a councilor gets 5 calls in opposition to an issue, and 40 people show up in favor, they might start to think rather than having a knew-jerk reaction.

  6. Annoyed DTL Resident Says:

    Was pleased with the outcome, and I agree that the lanes could be better.

    Walking that stretch of road on the sidewalk no longer feels like you’re taking your life in your hands. The parking spots and the bike lanes have slowed traffic on that stretch, and it’s a great thing for everyone.

    Also, I drive that stretch at least 5x a week. I have never once sat in traffic, unless some show is beginning / ending at the Tsongas, and I sat in traffic for the same reason when there were two lanes going in either direction!

    18 months, 4 days…

  7. Lynne Says:

    @joe in lowell…that’s because they are mysterious

  8. Eric Faulkner Says:

    Not that it matters but it was Rita who brought up the Sherman tank.

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