The concept behind Boston’s second annual Taco Tour is as simple as it sounds: “You will ride your bike to the first taco restaurant on your list, eat a taco, then bike to the next location, eat a taco, and so on, until you’ve enjoyed all of your tacos,” organizers from the Boston Cyclists Union promise.
As a primary news source on quick eats and cycle culture, it seemed appropriate to put a spotlight on this special event, which will roll through Ole Mexican Grill in Cambridge, El Pelon Taqueria in Fenway, Tenoch Mexican in Somerville, and Angela’s Cafe in Eastie, among other guac spots. Excited for their upcoming outing on Sunday, BCU planners Gülin, Doug, Jon, and Becca took a tandem stab at answering our questions about everything from traffic patterns, to tortillas, T-shirts, and activism.
Tell us briefly about the intersection of cycling and support for the local economy.
People who bike are often very strong supporters of local businesses, and the local economy in general for a few reasons.
One of the biggest reason is convenience. Local businesses are usually more accessible by bike than large chain stores that are surrounded by parking lots and high speed roads. People on bikes don’t have to worry about finding a parking spot, so stores that are easy to run into for a quick purchase are the most appealing. Studies have shown that people who ride bikes patronize businesses more regularly, and spend more money overall than people who primarily drive.
Another reason is that riding a bike, and experiencing neighborhoods at a slow speed, connects people with neighborhood institutions more than driving a car does. When you ride a bike down a street, you notice the shops and restaurants on that street. You smell the bread being baked at the local bakery, or the BBQ being grilled at your favorite BBQ joint. When you drive a car down the same street, you’re often going too fast to notice whats there.
Lastly, people who choose to ride bikes for transportation are often doing it for reasons that align with supporting the local economy. Someone who bikes for environmental reasons is likely to see the benefit of supporting local businesses over big box stores.
There have been debates in Cambridge of late between small business owners who don’t want bike lanes, and cyclists who point to studies showing that businesses near cycle paths actually benefit from the increased traffic. How much does an event like this speak to such issues?
Just to clarify this, the Harvard Square Business Association has been very explicit that they support bike infrastructure. The issue with Brattle Street is that the new road design prevents double parking by customers or delivery vehicles, which is something business owners have come to rely on. This issue is being addressed by the City of Cambridge, which is re-evaluating the loading zones on Brattle Street and on-street parking in order to accommodate the needs of businesses.
An event like this shows businesses that their customer base arrives at their business by many different modes, and in a dense city like Cambridge, many of those customers arrive by bike.
It’s often difficult to tell how someone got to a local business. They could have parked down the street and walked from their car, they could have walked from the T, or they could have ridden their bike. If they don’t have any items on them to identify their mode, a business owner may never know how a customer got there. With this event participants wear helmets, and some wear Taco Tour T-shirts. These articles of clothing show businesses owners that these customers arrive by bike, and their safety should be considered when designing the roadways around a local business.
What is the benefit all about? What might your pitch be to someone who rides a bike all the time but isn’t necessarily involved with the Boston Cyclists Union?
The only way to make changes to our streets, changes that have a real impact on improving safety, is to get organized and make sure that the planners, engineers, and politicians involved in road design projects consider the safety of people biking. Too often projects are implemented with the bare minimum safety accommodations for people biking.
Motor vehicle throughput and curbside parking frequently outweigh safety considerations in road designs. While this is starting to change, we still need to push local governments to implement the safest road designs.
By banding together and speaking up for safety, we can ensure that our streets are made safer now, rather than in years or decades. Just as an example, without the work of bike advocates like the bike union, [former Boston] Mayor [Tom] Menino never would have created the Boston Bikes department, or begun building the bike network. In 2007 when Boston Bikes was created, Boston was ranked one of the worst cities for biking in the United States. Since then, we’ve pushed the city to transform our streets, turning Boston into one of the best cities for biking in the US.
Similarly, the recent progress on pop-up protected bike lanes in Cambridge was thanks to the incredible organizing of local advocates, who mobilized hundreds of people to push their city councilors to commit to rapidly implementing a connected network of protected bike lanes.
Why is it that tacos and bikes seem to go pretty well together?
Many people ride bikes because it’s convenient. Similarly, tacos are an extremely convenient way to make food. They’re quick to make and easy to eat, not to mention delicious.
Biking is practical, tacos are practical. Practical people like practical things. Bikes and tacos were made for one another.
Why is it so important that people hit the assigned taco joints in appropriate order?
There may be over 200 people participating in this event, if we all go to the same taquerias at the same time, it will be overwhelmed. Going to taquerias in the assigned order will help ensure the lines are short and everyone will get their tacos in a timely manner.
Are there any especially accessible bathrooms along the route that you might recommend to participants?
All participating taquerias have bathrooms that are available to customers!
TACO TOUR 2017. SUN 9.10. STARTS AT 12:30PM IN COPLEY SQ, BOSTON. TACOTOUR2017.EVENTBRITE.COM FOR TICKETS.