Sunday, March 09, 2008

Score another one for Old Man Winter.

I must have jinxed this winter by deciding who needs studded bike tires in downtown Toronto, we never get that much snow. This past weekend's big blizzard was just one more snowstorm on top of what seems like a neverending series. Over the years I've gotten less stubborn, and know when its best just to leave the bike at home and take transit instead. Of course days when its too bad out to bike are rarely pleasant transit days, with jampacked vehicles and delays-a-plenty. So I have this association with don't take transit unless you really feel you'll go sliding on your ass if you don't.

Tuesday night, a snowstorm started and about an hour into the downfall I had the most fun ride of the season. Just the joy of making tracks in fresh snow and the big flakes falling. Wednesday after some contemplation and visual inspection of the main roadways after an overnight heavy snowfall still continuing, I opted for transit. It was good because it gave me the excuse to walk the 6 km home after work (after most of the sidewalks were cleared), and I really enjoy long walks but rarely go for them with the bicycle so convenient.

Friday the forecast is for a big storm, but the morning looks so nice out I can't resist riding anyway. I generally ignore the forecast and worry about only the current direction of travel (I have left the bike in the garage at work before) By the time I leave work the snow is blowing but the accumulation isn't too bad yet - so I am confident I will not fall on my ass.

I pick the more arterial of my two normal route choices - Adelaide, a four lane one way street, over Queen - more bike friendly but a narrow zone to ride in between parked cars and streetcar tracks. I figure on Adelaide I can have my own lane. I'm taking the rightmost lane - hardly driveable by cars due to ice chunks from previous snowfalls. I am visible with two taillights and reflective vest. But yet drivers persist in trying to pass by only inches - straddling the two lanes. Did I mention they are all driving at bike speed to begin because of the conditions? (which is odd I don't find I have to slow down at all)

Its probably the "oh its a crazy person" factor so people are less respectful then they would be during better weather. Along the same lines a pedestrian at a light asks "Hi, how are you?" in that kind of voice where is sounds like he's trying to assess if I'm a sane human being or not. I'm like Great! How are you? And he mentions about riding safe.

Saturday I'm volunteering at the bike show. We've had snowfall all night and there's supposed to be a whole lot more during the show. It seems wrong somehow to not bike to the bike show... but yet once again after visual inspection of the main road, I decide its not worth it and the wickedly gusting wind just confirms my choice. From the transit I see only two cyclists - which is very unusual for downtown Toronto. One is rocking the bike back and forth a lot from side to side on a skinny-tired fixie (much better for cutting through the snow than my wide tires). The other is on a road that the plow just came up five minutes before (a luxury that would not be possible most of my route). The transit trip seems like a real pain compared to riding though, and when a fellow randonneur asks if I would like a drive home the answer is that would be great, thanks!

Today though I was itching to get back on the bike again. Sunshine helped immensely and it appeared that a single lane of most main roads were clear. I head out to a social event, monitoring the rearview mirror carefully so I could take the clear space while not enraging the bulls in the cages. On Bloor Street its just frustrating to be in that single lane of traffic, as it creeps along so slowly - but there's definitely no room to filter with the snow eating up extra space.

But I guess only one direction was the sunny side of the street. Coming back is significantly more challenging so I'm trying to tread carefully over packed snow and pick the barest lines while avoiding all the massive potholes that have appeared over this past winter. To my amazement I see dump trucks actually clearing the bike lanes on the Bloor viaduct (it seemed to take several weeks for them to do the same after previous storms). I'm also pretty much freezing my ass off as I dressed assuming near zero temps (being lulled into confusion by the lovely sunshine) when it was really -10C. (time to pedal harder!)

On Queen Street I'm cursing the locals that have plowed out parking lots into snow mountains in the middle of the road. I check for traffic and change lanes across the streetcar tracks to get by the mountains. A bit further along, in the rearview mirror I see a car approaching far too quickly and far too close. Its making me very nervous. I see a gap in the snow mountains but there's loose/stray packed snow there too. I cross the tracks too abruptly back towards the curb, hit the packed snow, and whoosh. I would never have crossed at that point if I hadn't felt threatened. The big key to not falling in winter crap on the road is to not ride in the crap on the road and use the bare space even if it inconveniences some motorists - most seem to respect that, and I always facilitate passing when its safe for me to do so.

I knew it had been far too long since I had been reminded that asphalt hurts. Actually I didn't impact the asphalt as much as my bike impacted my shin. And the asshole tailgating driver? He does appear to pull over up some distance ahead, but as soon as he sees me get up off the ground he takes off without so much as opening the door to ask if I'm alright.

Score another one for Old Man winter and one big shiny bruised bump for me. Forgive me if I keep asking but I would like an order of spring please!

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