Tag: malden

Bike Initiatives on a Roll North of Boston

(We interrupt these recipes for a word about bike safety. This is an article I wrote and a video I created about bike accidents in communities north of Boston. It was published in the Boston Sunday Globe on Nov. 29, 2015.)

By Mark Micheli

It happened to cigarette smokers and drunk drivers.

Richard Fries believes the next major shift in what’s not socially acceptable will zero in on impatient motorists, bicyclists, and even pedestrians.

“It used to be acceptable to be drunk and drive,” said Fries, executive director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition. “It used to be acceptable to smoke — in a school. And here we are again. The times are changing.”

Fries said he is expecting — and fighting for — a world where bicyclists not only feel safe on the roads, but that they belong there and they matter. And he believes communities north of Boston — with a few exceptions — are working toward that end.

  • In Somerville, they’re planning the city’s first elevated bike lanes, to be separated from traffic by a curb and the sidewalk by a buffer zone with plants.
  • In Salem, they’re planning to connect the Salem State campus and the Marblehead Rail Trail to an off-road path reaching into downtown. That trail could eventually join the off-road East Coast Greenway stretching from Canada to Florida.
  • Beverly and Lowell this year adopted the Complete Streets program, which requires city engineers to consider all users when improving roadways, making accommodations for bicyclists and pedestrians where appropriate.
  • There’s work being done to connect rail trails in Topsfield and Boxford, as well as trails in Amesbury, Newbury, Newburyport, and Salisbury.
  • This year, a portion of the Northern Strand Trail was built in Revere, providing the missing link to create 7½ miles of continuous off-road riding from Everett, through Malden, Revere, and Saugus, to the Lynn line.

For Fries, it’s all about the realization that many bicyclists ride not for recreation, but out of necessity to get to jobs, schools, to shop, or simply to use their cars less. And that, he said, is why off-road trails, in combination with on-road accommodations, are needed.

“We’re not talking about working out,’’ he said. “We’re talking about expanding people’s radius of unmotorized travel to about a 3-mile radius.

“Imagine if they built 5 miles of the interstate highway and then you had to drive 10 miles more to get to the next section? That’s where we’re at right now in the construction of bike facilities.”

Somerville, he said, leads the regional pack on bike-friendly accommodations, with more than 30 miles of painted bike lanes, eight bike boxes — areas painted on roadways where bicyclists can wait in front of motorists for the light to change — and a police department more concerned with why someone violated a road rule than issuing citations.

“Our police force is so good at this,’’ said Brad Rawson, the city’s director of transportation and infrastructure. “I see it all the time in my daily commute.”

“They ask them ‘Why are you running a red light? Why are you riding a bicycle the wrong way down a street? Why are you crossing mid-block?’ Those types of things,” said Bonnie Polin, chief safety analyst with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. MassDOT gave $40,000 to Somerville this year for extra police details to work at problem intersections. She said some safety improvements have come from the answers police get.

The 12 communities the state chose for the extra details program — a list that includes Salem, Haverhill, and Lynn — have the highest ratio of bicycle and pedestrian crashes compared with total accidents, Polin said.

Somerville has some of the region’s worst hot spots for bicycle accidents: Four of the state’s top 10 bicycle crash clustersare in the city. Overall, according to MassDOT statistics, Somerville has 13 such clusters where 589 accidents occurred from 2004 through 2013. One was deadly; 382 others involved injuries.

The city seems to be zeroing in on the problem spots; the plan to build elevated bike lanes along Beacon Street, from Inman Square to Cambridge’s Porter Square, is one of the solutions officials envision. Some 300 bicyclists per hour travel that route during morning and evening rush hours, said Rawson.

In Lynn, both the severity of bike problems and the city’s response are quite different. The city doesn’t make the top 10 list on accidents, but it is home to three bicycle crash clusters where 41 accidents occurred from 2004 through 2013. Twenty-four of those accidents involved injuries, and one a death.

There are no plans to fix those spots, said James Marsh, the city’s community development director, who said that narrow roadways make such work all but impossible. He said Lynn is instead focused on a much larger project to develop its waterfront, which would include three pedestrian bridges over the Lynnway, where he said two or three people have been killed in recent years. Those plans, however, are years from design and completion.

To Fries, Lynn is the least bike-friendly community north of Boston. It has no bike lanes, he said, and is the last holdout to approve the Northern Strand Trail from Everett to Nahant Beach. Similarly, Swampscott is the last town to agree to completion of the Marblehead Rail Trail, which some abutters — not town officials — are delaying. Filling in those two gaps would create an off-road path from the North Shore into Boston.

Barbara Jacobson, who works with municipal officials as program manager at the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, said there is little political will in Lynn to support bicycling. Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy did not respond to interview requests for this story.

Still, the city has taken some safety steps. It took part in the program that provided money for more detail officers at dangerous intersections, said Lynn Police Sergeant Ned Shinnick, and it conducted two bicycle and pedestrian safety audits. In addition, it will likely add shared bicycle/motorist lane markings on Lynnfield Street as part of a new project.

Some communities require a push to become more bike-friendly. Last year, Lowell considered removing newly painted bike lanes from Father Morissette Boulevard, but bike advocates fought back, packing a City Council hearing. Now the city is working on better markings for those lanes, said Nicolas Bosonetto, Lowell transportation engineer.

“It’s a quality-of-life issue,’’ said Bosonetto. “As more people come back to the urban center they’re expecting more amenities, more walkability, more bicycling accommodations, more transit.”

“I believe the next frontier in bicycle advocacy is not the hip, happening, Boulder, Colo., Portland, Ore., Cambridge, Somerville, Manhattan,” said Fries. “I think it’s the Brocktons, and the Lynns, and the Lowells. Those are the communities where folks can really use good basic bike infrastructure.”

Bicycle safety improvements underway north of Boston


  • Road projects considering bicyclists and pedestrians are planned for Bridge Street; the Beverly/Salem bridge; Routes 97 and 1A; and River Street.
  • Bike lanes to be painted on Brimble Avenue, with plans to add shared bicycle/pedestrian paths.
  • Signs, shared lane markings, and possible traffic-calming measures are planned for Cabot Street.


  • Improvements along the Merrimack River and boardwalk will include accommodations for bicyclists, pedestrians.


  • Plans to connect off-road paths.
  • Working with state to make VFW Highway safer for all users.
  • Working with UMass Lowell to make Pawtucket Street safer for bicyclists, pedestrians. ? Safety improvements at VFW Highway/Bridge Street intersection, including realigning road and shortening pedestrian bridge.
  • Planned redevelopment project to make Lowell Overpass safer.


  • Planned waterfront project could include three pedestrian bridges over Lynnway and boardwalk connecting to Lynn Shore Drive.
  • Shared bicycle/motorist lane markings on Lynnfield Street.


  • Accommodations along Bridge Street to the train station.
  • More bike lanes planned for Lafayette Street (Route 114).
  • Off-road path planned along Canal Street to connect Salem State campus and the Marblehead Rail Trail to the downtown.


  • Spring construction start planned for first elevated bike lanes, along Beacon Street from Cambridge’s Porter Square to Inman Square.
  • Safety improvements for Holland Street south of Teele Square. ? Safety improvements are being studied for Elm Street near Davis Square.

SOURCES: Cities, towns, and the Mass. Bicycle Coalition.

Mark Micheli can be reached at markfmiceli@gmail.com.

City Rebounds With Some Asian Flair

Douglas Tran (top) opened All Seasons Table in Malden in 2007. (Pat Greenhouse Photo/Globe Staff)
Douglas Tran (top) opened All Seasons Table in Malden in 2007. (Pat Greenhouse Photo/Globe Staff)

By Mark Micheli
(This story ran in the Feb. 22, 2015 edition of the Boston Sunday Globe.)

MALDEN — It took Maria Tran 11 tries before she successfully left Vietnam in 1984.

“It was not a trip. It was an escape,” said the owner of Maria’s Beauty Salon in Malden Square, who was one of the 2 million boat people who fled between 1975 and 1995 after the fall of Saigon.

Ten times she was caught and 10 times she was put in jail, from the time she was 14 until she was 18. Finally, she and her younger brother made it onto a fishing boat with 75 others and traveled for two weeks — with little food — to a US refugee camp in Malaysia.

Eventually she ended up in Malden, where she opened her hair salon 17 years ago. At the time, there were few other Asian-owned businesses in Malden Square. Today, they are in the majority.

Malden has a large Asian population, estimated at more than 23 percent of the nearly 60,000 residents. In a stretch of Pleasant Street in Malden Square — from the MBTA station to Main Street — there are 19 Asian-owned businesses, four of which opened in the past 14 months. Another four are scheduled to open this year.

They are filling up storefronts in Malden Square, bringing the vacancy rate to nearly zero, and playing a major role in the city’s downtown revitalization efforts. Those plans include tearing down City Hall to reopen Pleasant Street and replacing it with apartment buildings that include street-level commercial space.

Two large storefronts that have been empty for several years also are under construction and will open as Asian-owned businesses this year.

A 9,000-square-foot space at 21 Pleasant St. — which has been empty since Family Dollar moved out in 2008 — is being renovated into an upscale Asian seafood restaurant called Ming. Nearby at 46 Pleasant St., the five-floor, 28,000 square-foot former Bank of America branch that closed in 2012 is being gutted to house Bling, a 100-seat hot pot restaurant with 25 private entertainment rooms for karaoke, sports-TV parties, and business meetings.

“We looked at Boston, Cambridge, and Malden,” said Yuan Huang, 40, co-owner and managing partner of Bling, who was born in Beijing and came to the United States when he was 13.

Huang said he is one of seven partners who have invested more than $2 million to renovate the former bank building. Some of that money, he said, came from investors in China under a US government program that will help them gain citizenship for investing more than $500,000 in a business that will help stimulate the economy.

Huang said that the convenience of Malden was one of the major attractions, with the Orange Line, commuter rail, bus service, and parking garages all in the city center. Another attraction was the city’s large population of Chinese and college students, two demographics Bling is targeting.

Huang co-owns a real estate company that specializes in residential leasing in Greater Boston, including downtown Malden.

“We have cooperation with all of the Chinese student associations in the city in all the major colleges, and we have an exclusive relationship with them,” he said.

One of the oldest Asian businesses in the square is India Bazaar at 430 Main St. The large Indian grocery store opened in a smaller space about a block away in 1999 to serve the growing Indian population, said Varun Punj, 25. He took ownership of the store about six months ago, when his father died.

Varun Punj owns Indian Bazaar, a food store, one of the oldest Asian businesses in the city. (Wendy Maeda Photo/Globe Staff)
Varun Punj owns Indian Bazaar, a food store, one of the oldest Asian businesses in the city. (Wendy Maeda Photo/Globe Staff)

He said his father and uncle opened the store because there was a need to serve the Indian population here.

“There was only one store in the Greater Boston area, somewhere in Somerville,” said Punj, who moved from India to Malden when he was 6. “I remember as a kid, we used to go down there and it was quite a trip for us, especially not having a car.”

Now, there are two smaller Indian grocery stores and two large Asian supermarkets in Malden. But Punj, who graduated with a degree in business from Suffolk University last year, said he is not worried about competition. He said he will modernize the store and will also follow the business lessons he learned from his father.

“The foundation was already built,” he said. “I’m just continuing his legacy.”

Douglas Tran opened All Seasons Table — an Asian fusion restaurant with live jazz on the weekends — at 64 Pleasant St. in 2007. Business was so good, he expanded into an adjacent vacant storefront three years later to accommodate private functions and overflow crowds that still line up on the weekends.

Many believe his success was the turning point that encouraged more Asian restaurateurs to come to Malden.

Three Asian restaurants opened after All Seasons Table, and another three are scheduled to open this year, all within a few blocks of Tran’s restaurant. Still, Tran said he is not worried about the extra competition.

“Competition will make you better, smarter,” said Tran, 46, who came to the United States from Saigon — formerly the capital of South Vietnam — when he was 11. “It will make you work harder.”

Tran is opening another restaurant in Malden, at 2 Florence St. across from the MBTA station, where the Italian restaurant Artichokes once thrived before moving to Wakefield in 2009. Tran’s B&B Café will feature “new American cuisine.”

“We want to tap into what Malden doesn’t have now,” said Jackie Bouley, a manager at All Seasons Table who is a partner with Tran and All Seasons bar manager Andre Barbosa in the new venture. The restaurant is expected to open in late spring.

Steve Liu, 30, who last May opened Wow Barbecue — about a 10-minute walk from Malden Square on Salem Street — agrees competition is good but for a different reason.

“Malden has become a dining destination, especially for Chinese,” said Liu, who was born in Beijing, has a master’s in business from Babson College, and did a business analysis of the barbecue market in China before opening his restaurant a short walk from his home. “Having more [Chinese restaurants] will attract more Chinese to live here, and that will require even more restaurants.”

Malden Mayor Gary Christenson said his office helped steer business to Malden by streamlining the permitting process. The city also has targeted the Asian community by participating in cultural events in Boston’s Chinatown, as well as by hiring a liaison who speaks Chinese to work in the city’s strategy and business development office.

Still, the mayor admits he is concerned about there being too many Asian restaurants downtown.

“We’ve tried to encourage some of the newer [restaurants] to come up with a niche,” Christenson said. “We want them all to succeed, but realistically I think some duplication will cause that not to be.”

Kevin Duffy, the city’s strategy and business development officer, pointed out that although there are several Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants, there are also immigrants from many other countries who offer other kinds of food. Those restaurants serve Indian, Ethiopian, Cuban, Korean, Mexican, Italian, Haitian, Mediterranean, American, and Brazilian cuisine. Malden Square also has an Irish pub.

“If you come here and open up an ethnic food place, you can’t fake it,” Duffy said. “Someone will call you out on it because they know what it’s supposed to taste like.”

Go Figure! Entrepreneur Uses 3D Printers To Make Sculptures Of You

By Mark Micheli
(This story ran in the Feb. 17, 2015 edition of the Boston Globe.)

You don’t have to be a psychotic villain, plotting world domination while stroking a hairless cat in your lap, to want a “Mini-Me.”

Entrepreneur Yifei Zhang is betting the market for his lifelike figurines extends beyond characters from an Austin Powers movie.

A few of Yifei Zhang’s sandstone figurines, created from 3D imaging. (Pat Greenhouse Photo/Globe Staff)
A few of Yifei Zhang’s sandstone figurines, created from 3D imaging. (Pat Greenhouse Photo/Globe Staff)

Zhang, 28, of Malden, owns 3D Bean, which makes lifelike sandstone figurines by using 3D printing technology. He spent the past year developing a technique that uses 90 cameras to create 3D images in a small office in Malden Square. He is now ready to start marketing his services from a studio in Boston’s South End, where he is hoping to get more exposure.

“This product is very similar to a photo. It saves a moment in time and that is its value,” Zhang said. “It’s not just sandstone. It’s a moment that you won’t be able to capture again.”

The statues range in price from $319 to $1,299, and range in height from about 4 inches to 11-½ inches. Zhang said they are targeted at brides and grooms, parents of young children, pet owners — or anyone else who wants to capture a special moment.

Malden Mayor Gary Christenson and his sandstone figurine. (Wendy Maeda Photo/Globe Staff)
Malden Mayor Gary Christenson and his sandstone figurine. (Wendy Maeda Photo/Globe Staff)

Malden Mayor Gary Christenson bought two figurines of himself and gave them to his mother and sister during the holidays. He said his mother put hers in a glass case.

“As mayor, I don’t see my family as much as I would like, so I presented the gifts as a way for them to never lose touch with me,” Christenson joked. “You go through a lot of gifts around the holiday season but that one left them laughing like I’ve never seen before. My sister was speechless and she’s never, ever at a loss for words.”

Zhang uses 90 entry-level, Canon DSLR cameras, placed strategically in a circle, to take 90 images of a subject. Those photos are stitched together with software to create a 3D image. He then uploads the image to a 3D printing website, such asShapeways or Sculpteo, which prints out the statue and ships it.

Although the business model of using a third-party 3D printing company is not unusual, using sandstone as a material is quite different, said Anthony Vicari, who studies the 3D printing industry for Lux Research, an international company with offices in Boston.

Vicari said he knows of a few companies that make personal figurines using plastic or even paper and glue, but hasn’t heard of anyone using sandstone. A company called Corbel, in Vancouver, uses sandstone to create figurines that look identical to the type 3D Bean makes, but Zhang believes he is the only company in the Boston area doing this. He uses sandstone because the color is applied as the figurine is being built, not painted on later.

Yifei Zhang and his former studio in Malden, where he used 70 cameras to capture 3D images of his subjects. His new studio includes 90 digital cameras. (Pat Greenhouse Photo/Globe Staff)
Yifei Zhang and his former studio in Malden, where he used 70 cameras to capture 3D images of his subjects. His new studio includes 90 digital cameras. (Pat Greenhouse Photo/Globe Staff)

Zhang’s subjects have to remain still only for as long as it takes to snap one photo; all 90 cameras fire at once. He said he has a patent pending for a circular cage where cameras can be mounted without fear of them being accidently moved.

Somerville resident Christian Nachtrieb, who owns Brighter Lights Media, did some promotional videos for Zhang and as part of that process had a figurine of his dog made. Harvey is a 67-pound rescue boxer/pit bull mix who is a bit skittish, but his photo session only took about seven or eight minutes, Nachtrieb said.

“The bright lights kind of scared him but any normal, non-rescue dog that wasn’t traumatized shouldn’t have a problem,” he said. He noted that Harvey was recently treated for thyroid cancer and, although recent tests showed the cancer was gone, he wanted the figurine as a keepsake.

“A pet’s lifespan is so much shorter and instead of having just a picture, a figurine is so much better,” Nachtrieb said.

Vicari said more than half of the $2.3 billion 3D market involves industrial uses. The consumer 3D printing market is still in its infancy

“We’ve only started seeing products being made with 3D printing in the past five to 10 years,” Vicari said.

Although some 3D printers sell for only a few hundred dollars, printers that can make something that is actually functional cost several thousand dollars, according to Vicari. Zhang said he doesn’t have his own 3D printer because it would cost him about $80,000.

Zhang tried to raise $20,000 through a Kickstarter campaign last fall but he fell about $7,000 short of his goal. According to Kickstarter’s rules, he collected nothing. Instead he used his personal savings and got his parents in China and his fiancée to invest in his business. But first he had to educate them about 3D printing.

“My mother had no idea about 3D printing,” Zhang said. “But once I could make my parents understand what it is I am doing, they really believed this is something that could have a bright future.”

He said his next challenge is to educate consumers. Zhang, who earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Northeastern University in 2012, said his expertise is technical and he’ll probably need a partner — “maybe one of my friends” — who can do the marketing.

Christenson said he believes there is a market for this and he became convinced of it after a few photos of his “Mini-Me” were posted on his Facebook page. He said the comments were extremely positive.

“People were stunned just by the clarity and how lifelike it looks,” he said.

Old House Design Tip: Keep It (the lighting) Real

This early electric style sconce provides great task lighting in the RootsLiving kitchen.
This early electric style sconce provides great task lighting in the RootsLiving kitchen.

When we were remodeling our 161-year-old kitchen, we wanted to keep as much of the old world charm as possible without sacrificing the modern conveniences.

So we picked out a very large and deep white porcelain farmer’s sink. We had custom cabinets built to match the original douglas fir cabinets in our adjoining butler’s pantry. And we decided to refurbish an original jelly cabinet rather than ripping it out even though that would have opened up the space more and given us more options for counter space and work flow.

The original douglas fir cabinets in the butler's pantry were an inspiration for the new kitchen cabinets that were made to look old.
The original douglas fir cabinets in the butler's pantry were an inspiration for the new kitchen cabinets that were made to look old.

But one thing I wasn’t willing to sacrifice was good lighting. I vowed my days of stumbling around the countertops in the shadows cast from a lighting fixture in the center of the ceiling were over. So I started to sketch out where I thought it made the most sense to install recessed lights.

My wife, Patricia, pointed out that recessed lights were a modern convenience and would probably look out of place. She asked if there was another answer. And a lightbulb went off in my head: how about period sconces instead?

This sconce is called "Oregon City" and sells for $209.
This sconce is called "Oregon City" and sells for $209.

I had already bought some period sconces from a company called, Rejuvenation, for a bathroom makeover and was happy with the quality and service. So I started looking through their online catalogue, which is organized in several different ways, including by time period. It wasn’t easy and was time-consuming, but I did have fun following these steps:

  • I first looked at sconces that were in styles in keeping with the period of my home.
  • After finding a few sconces I liked, I carefully checked their dimensions to make sure they would fit the scale of the room. When you look at light fixtures online or in a catalogue it’s often hard to determine their actual size and you want to be sure the light won’t be too big or too small for the room.
  • I then looked at all the available glass shade options. Changing shades can change the entire appearance of a sconce.
  • And finally, I made sure that the four sconces (with three different styles) I chose to hang over the kitchen counters worked well together.

Note: The most important thing to keep in mind is to choose lights that you like the most and fit in with the style of your room. Don’t be locked into picking a lighting fixture just because it was the style at the time your house was built.

The lights work great, provide task lighting just where I need it,  and work as good as any recessed lights but with lots more style and integrity.

(Photos by Mark Micheli)

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