Monday, December 16, 2013

Crashing is Okay

It's that time of year again when folks at work look at the bicycle commuter with a head tilt and ask, "You didn't ride in today, did you?"  I'm toying with escalating ridiculousness in my response.  "No.  Actually I decided to ice skate."  Or, "Riding a bicycle in the winter is the stupidest thing I've ever heard of.  Do you think I'm an idiot?  I stole my neighbor's car today."  I'd be interested to hear responses from other year round commuters when this perennial question returns each winter.

As an experienced user of the bicycle, my own two feet, transit, and even the occasional car, I should be patient in my treatment of those that ask seasonal and weather related questions that can seem repetitive.  The asker of the question doesn't realize they aren't asking a novel question and therefore don't expect or deserve my impatience.  In truth the question is welcome.  If I can find a way to twist the answer in a way that catches the person's attention or makes them think, perhaps they too will look critically at their rampant single occupancy vehicle trips.   As a friend of mine likes to remind me, clever assholes don't change many minds.

On the topic of changing trends, I've seen several more winter bicycle commuters at Pratt & Whitney.  Studded tires even.  Tomorrow will be a good test of these hardy souls with the low teens and 2-4" of snow predicted.  I received several email from co-workers disappointed that the bicycle racks near their building had been removed.  Curious,  I've dropped a note to our Facilities department who may not have realized that bicycles work in cold weather too.

The CT DOT seems to forget each year that the bicycle and pedestrian crossings adjacent to the Connecticut River highway bridges also need to be cleared of snow and ice.  Eight lanes of highway can be bone dry the day after a storm, but the eight feet of multi-use path can be left for weeks unless pestering ensues.  The level of clearing doesn't match that of the highway lanes.  For example the Charter Oak Bridge was plowed, but a 1" deep layer of dense and icy remainder was left along the entire length of the crossing.  No salt or grit in sight.  There is a tight downhill turn on this crossing, and even with studs the ice can be tricky to navigate.

That brings me to my final topic.  Crashing.  I crash.  On Saturday I spent several hours riding with Salem on my Kona with studded 700x35 Nokians.  They are a bit slow and noisy, and klunky for handling on dry pavement, but they significantly reduce my crashing in the winter.  We hit the perfect level of snow on the ground, smoothing out the trails and quieting my tires.

Later in the afternoon I thought it would be fun to take my fixed gear Schwinn out for an in town trip.  It was fun, and I got to practice locking up the back tire.  Feeling pretty good about my traction and having leaned turns all morning I headed into an intersection.  The slick tires didn't do any good at all in a hard right turn on a 1/2" of packed street snow.  Sliding sideways on my hip, I sprung up and did a little "I'm okay.  Enjoy the show!" dance for the concerned onlookers.  A friendly fellow picked up my fractured rear reflector and made sure I wasn't injured.  Fortunately I've entirely given up on pride, so no other damage was sustained.  When crashing on snow you typically slide, a good way to bleed off the forward momentum.

Crashing is okay, and it can be fun.  If I didn't do it often, it would probably hurt more when it happened on rare occasion.  Falling down is part of the human condition.  It's how you get up that matters.

More hardy P&W bicycle commuters confusing their co-workers this year.
Salem leads the way
Hopefully South Windsor's Bissell Bridge will be cleared more regularly this winter 
This is what happens when you forget you're not on snow tires.


Khal said...

Good post. We make sure our sidewalks and paths are on the Snow and Ice plan and the county buys little tractor plows that fit perfectly on these facilities. They admittedly get done after arterials and major collectors, but they do get done.

Tony C said...

Update - I came across a fellow plowing / snow blowing the Charter Oak bridge on my snowy way home. Caught up to him at the foot of the bridge in Hartford and asked if there was any way they could plow a bit closer to the concrete. The 1" hardpack is a real pain and barely rideable, unless you're on a fate bike. He seriously said - "We're working on it." That's awesome!

Khal - You exist somewhere there are counties. We don't have functioning counties here in CT, just small dysfunctional cities.