Monday, December 20, 2010

Chickening out

The prediction was for "flurries' and "no accumulation" when I biked to work this morning.
Around 6, when I was ready to leave, there was about 1 1/2" on the ground, and big flakes coming hard sideways, and no sign of a plow.   If I'd had a protected cycle track or even MUP all the way home, I think I would have been happy to go, but the news was full of stories about fender benders and snarled traffic.
The street outside my office: (can you see the biker in the far distance (next to the 2nd car on the right?)

It seems like every first snow drivers have to remember what they learned last year about a) everything, including braking, happening slower in fresh snow  and b) just because you can go (4WD) doesn't mean you can stop.   A fender bender is one thing if you're in a steel cage, but I just wasn't brave enough to risk playing bumper cars.   The bike lane outside my house:

I felt like a bit of a wimp though when I saw three bikes within 5 minutes of leaving my office, and a total of 10 bikes out and about in the snowy night.  Still coming down as I write this:


  1. I took my newly built up vintage roadbike out for a test ride right before it began snowing and the flurries caught me on the way home. But after that I stayed in, and walked rather than cycle when I needed to go to the store later. With fresh snow and "new" drivers, I don't like to risk it.

  2. You chickened out? Damn. I was wondering if I'd spot you and Gilbert somewhere in the city.

    Anyways, I'm a huge proponent of blizzard cycling. Cars drive very slowly and gently in weather like this and they go through turns slowly. That's a big deal for me, because getting hit by a careening, left-turning car is my biggest fear. Overall, I almost feel safer in this kind of weather, because of the slow and careful drivers.

    I guess on normal days, the risk of hurting a cyclist or pedestrian isn't enough of an incentive to drive carefully. But as soon as their cars are at risk, damn...

  3. Some times it's wiser to simply take a pass.

  4. I found the streets not to bad over all. Well except for the street in Brookline which had ice under the snow (i of course found the ice).

    Luckily no other road users immediately around.

    My bike commute last night (including errand in Brookline) was a combination of biking & walking. Other than that one time on the ice I had much better luck on the bike than walking. While walking I nearly fell a dozen or more times.

    I did wimp out from going to a MeetUp in the Alewife area last night because of the icy conditions.

  5. Cycler, that bicycle tire track outside your house could have been mine! :) (well, probably not). I passed your house at 3pm after doing an afternoon errand in Harvard Square, and the streets were just starting to get slick, but no real precipitation had formed. But then I did commute home at 5:30 on mostly snowy streets. I took it *really* slow and steady, and made sure I didn't make any sharp turns. Drivers were crawling and there was some backed up traffic, but drivers were surprisingly nice to me and careful. Two hours after getting home, the street outside my house had gone from 1" of snow to nothing but wet, as the salt truck had made at least a half-dozen passes.

    I wish I had had my camera with me; the evening snow was quite beautiful.

  6. You're not a wimp. Trusting other drivers to not hit you in conditions like this would be reckless. Heck, trusting drivers not to hit me in the best of conditions is barely sane (at least, here in RI).

  7. Probably a wise choice. Early afternoon was fine but around 4pm the slick layers of black ice under very little snow was faking out the drivers. I saw 3 cars in a 5 minute period skid against the curb of Broadway, near route 16. Everyone was driving very very slowly but without the road treatments.

  8. Hah... well, after a few weeks of riding "sabbatical" due to various illnesses and the like; I had tapped yesterday as the day to get back on the bike. The ride to work was fine, and the forecast (like you said) only called for flurries... needless to say it was a little more than flurries. I rode home anyway.

    The ride, itself, wasn't so bad. Traffic was so snarled that it barely moved as I rode by, and even though I was going about 1/3 as fast as I normally would, I am sure that I still got home quicker than some cars!

    Interestingly (and not so surprisingly) the most dangerous thing I encountered were the freshly painted lines on Comm Ave and from (ironically) the newly painted bike lanes on Washington St. in Brighton.

  9. I rode across Cambridge last night and it wasn't on the whole much worse than riding in rain. I had to pass over some packed snow that was slick. If it had been really cold, there might have been more ice, as it was it was mainly just wet. I did ride more slowly than usual. Next week, though, I am going for snow tires.

  10. I'm chicken too, in fact I'm in cycling hibernation till the snow and ice has gone, even though it's so frustrating not being able to commute.

  11. N and I have an informal rule that if we can't see the asphalt when we wake up then we'll pass on the ride. No asphalt usually means that the plows aren't keeping up so the cars are going to be difficult. Still, I also feel the guilt when I see another biker going by while standing at the bus stop (and rue having to get on crowded buses!) fortunately, the plows are usually efficient ... it's just when we get those back-to-back-to-back Noreasters that it becomes an issue.

    I should also say that it can be a nifty pleasure to ride in a new blizzard, especially when it's outside of commuting hours and most drivers would also opt to just stay in. The roads are extra peaceful and the sound of tires on snow has this nice, soft schussing.