Summer, Central, Broadway, Temple: Driving in Circles Around Somerville

Posted on October 13, 2010


I’m told all the time that visitors to Somerville have a hard time navigating around the city. (Maybe locals do too but we’re less likely to admit it.) I have family and friends who live outside the city who steadfastly refuse to drive to my house by any route other than the one they’ve been taking for the past six years – even when I’ve discovered more efficient ways with fewer lights or traffic. Perhaps it’s all the one-way streets. Maybe it’s that every “square” isn’t a square at all but a tangled collection of streets that meet at less than 90 degree intersections. When giving friends directions how to get from my house back to 93 I always say, “Take a right on Summer, left on Central, right on Broadway, left on Temple.” Are their faster ways to get from Spring Hill to 93? Yes. But are they as easy to remember as “Summer, Central, Broadway, Temple?” I don’t think so.

One of my favorite examples of the complexity of driving around Somerville is trying to give directions from Union Square to the Porter Square area. When I try, I end up sounding something like this:

“So, coming from Washington Street, drive under McGrath (I’ve been to a dance party under that overpass by the way) and follow the road as it winds to the left. But you want to be in the far right lane. At the light with Dunkin’ Donuts in front of you [I challenge you to give directions to anywhere in Massachusetts and NOT use a Dunkin’ Donuts as a landmark] turn right. Stay in the right lane but don’t make a hard right (go past Stone Ave) but bear to the right onto Bow Street. You’ll pass Bloc 11 Cafe and The Neighborhood Restaurant on your right. Then you’ll immediately come to a fork in the road and continue straight (well, slightly right) onto Summer Street.” (That is unless you want to explain how to bear to the left onto Somerville Ave and go past Market Basket, but not too far left so as to turn back into Union Square.)

Crazy, right?

Do you have a favorite rhyme or mnemonic for remembering directions, or tips on how to navigate around Somerville? How about a secret driving route to avoid traffic? Or maybe a favorite getting lost in the ‘Ville story? Let me know! (Thanks to Dave for the inspiration for this post.)