Is the Charles all it's cracked up to be?

Devorah Klein reports seeing several people bicycling on the Charles River this evening:

The cyclists were right by MIT, near what looked like a crack in the ice.



    Free tagging: 



    Awaiting Matthew's impassioned defense of how they have every right to ride on the ice and/or were forced there by unplowed bike lanes or people in cars. Then Mark will point out how the ice on the river means global warming doesn't exist, but if it does, then it definitely wasn't caused by people burning fossil fuels while driving their cars.



    The river is a right of way and transportation corridor. You have the right to take a boat down it when it is liquid. In New England, frozen rivers were traditionally used as sleighing corridors for rapid travel between communities.

    While it isn't wise to go out on the ice on the modern Charles, given that it tends to have unfrozen and poorly frozen spots, I'm not so sure that it is explicitly illegal.


    I wouldn't be so sure

    Remember, the original "Massholes", the Puritans, banned just about everything and their legal legacy, the blue laws carried on the tradition. Wouldn't surprise me a bit if bike riding on the Charles' ice was in fact outlawed.


    Non responsive.

    Also, not clever or funny. Which is what Vaughn was going for. Do you act this way in real life? Responding to jokes with a long winded colonial navigation lesson?


    Never wise to go on river ice

    Rivers flow. What looks like ice is ice over top of moving water. Moving below the surface adds energy and keeps it from freezing as easily as you think. It also makes the ice melt faster above it in places depending on the bottom, current, etc. If you break through and go into the water, you won't be able to surface where you went in because it will be upstream by the time you realize it.

    There are few good reasons to play on river ice when you can find plenty of other ice to go out on and those few reasons don't apply to the Charles in any way.


    Potential source of confusion?

    There's a stretch of the Charles in Waltham facetiously called by some "the Lakes District" (Adam may know it better as "that swampy stretch behind Grad housing at Brandeis"). The river at that point takes a lot of twists and turns, has lots of broad expanses, moves very slowly and is often so choked with water hyacinths that it's not particularly navigable. One might be forgiven for thinking there were two rivers: One flowing into a large lake in Waltham, and the Charles flowing out again to the northeast of the Gold Star Mothers Bridge.


    Transportation is good

    Vaughn, I support greater mobility in modes that people most want at low cost. The Charles has excess capacity in liquid state for the few (pleasure) boats out there, so cyclists riding on it nicely reduces them impeding roads. Thin ice shouldn't be a problem for cyclists who think they ride (walk) on water.

    Matthew might suggest narrowing the Charles due to excessive width/capacity and widening the banks for more people to enjoy. Extra windfalls would be cost savings on bridges that could then be shorter, and infinitely safer conditions for pedestrians via shorter crossing distances. Narrowing and slower speeds will make sculling and crew safer too.

    Great video!

    That was a lot of fun to watch although I can't help but picture someone going straight through.
    By the way at the end of the video it says it was filmed in 2004. Apparently uploaded to youtube in 2007.


    I was a freshman at BU for January 2004, and it was a baptism-by-ice winter for all of the kids from warmer climates. My friend's glasses froze over when she exhaled while walking back to our dorm, and we got sent home from my stats class early because the classroom was so cold, no one's pens would work.

    There's nothing like checking and seeing: Current Temp -8, Feels like -19, Today's High 5.


    Yep--I remember that week!

    Yep--I remember that week! In fact, I was talking about it just this morning with the hubs. With everyone complaining about the cold this week, in 2014, I was thinking that it's been 10 years since then.

    I remember walking to Forest Hills wearing two coats, long underwear, my clothes (obvs.), boots, hat, mittens, scarf, etc. I think some schools canceled because of the cold, and I needed to drive out to WMass on the Pike that weekend. It was so cold that the car never really warmed up for the entire two-hour drive that Friday night. The heat never reached the back seat. I was so afraid of breaking down that I packed a snack, water, and a sleeping bag (made it just fine, though.)

    Ah, winter memories! Good times!

    That's actually really cool

    That's actually really cool to me. While the entire from first read from the headline is wow this is stupid, watching that video does give me a how awesome riding on the river with views of Cambridge and Boston - I mean how many times can you get a view of that (and I mean riding and everything, even a boat is the not the same)?

    Now it's something I want to do now. Of course, if I do it, it would requires more cold days and I'm buying a wet suit (or whatever needed for the worse case scenario). Of course, I know it's stupid.

    Wow, I hope this course is

    Wow, I hope this course is making a come back to college campuses across the nation. I took an adult swim course a few years ago and 10 out of the 12 students were Indian immigrants. I'm going to stereotype here and say a lot of Indians can't swim and a lot of them also go to MIT on international student visas. This course would be particularly beneficial for them.

    There was an article about

    There was an article about this in the Globe a few years ago. A lot of people, not just immigrants, have never had the access to clean water in order to have the opportunity or need to learn how to swim. It's an important skill, and I'm glad that MIT is still offering it.

    Actually, he was

    Actually, he was rollerblading on the sidewalk on the Harvard bridge, slipped, and went over the railing at around 4AM. He broke the ice and went under. The combination of the usual 4AM self-inflicted MIT student fatigue, the physical trauma of breaking the ice, the cold water, and being weighed down by the roller blades, was enough to make sure he'd drown.

    The MIT Swim Test <<Ice Water

    Icy conditions + heavy clothing may overwhelm the ability to swim - particularly if the swim tests were a challenge.

    The crews on the Charles typically get out on the water as soon as the ice leaves. This means the water is very cold, and people are wearing fairly heavy clothing. I was in an eight that had a mishap on a day when the water temp was 38F.

    Everyone in the boat had passed not only the swim test but the small boats test, but those are both administered in a 80F swimming pool wearing a swim suit. We were dressed for rowing in 45-50F air temps. When my boat swamped about 30 yards off the dock, I first assisted a team mate who I knew was a marginal swimmer back to the dock, and then noticed that the coxswain was struggling to stay up in her two layers of cotton sweat suits (a thin non-rower needed more layers). I swam back and towed her in. Fortunately, there were people there to grab me and haul me out and wrap me in blankets, as I may not have been able to get out of the water myself otherwise. I couldn't even stand for a couple of minutes.

    So, while swimming well enough to pass the tests may save your life in many possible situations, icy water and heavy clothing are difficult to beat without a bunch of people to help you out. You simply don't have much time.