Thursday night I went to a meeting of the Cambridge Parking and Transportation Committee about Snow removal issues. Someone from DPW spoke about what they're doing, and someone from Parking Enforcement spoke too. Most of the public comments were from the Cambridge Committee for Persons with Disabilities, and it was really wrenching. People with disabilities have it much harder off then bikers in this kind of weather- It's hard enough to negotiate the snowy, icy sidewalks without a disability, imagine if you were blind, used a cane or a wheelchair!
My comments to the committee were that I understand that this is an exceptional year, and that they can't clear every bike lane, but I wondered if they could coordinate with the bike committee to determine the most used bike lanes and prioritize clearing those first- just like they prioritize snow routes for plowing for cars.
The chair of the committee is biker too- he left by folder when I was getting Gilbert out of the snowbank in which I had locked him. He did seem a bit like an old skool VC- telling me my shoes (chunky heeled mary janes) weren't appropriate bicycle footwear and donning layers of fluoro gortex before setting out on a dry mid-20's evening.
The most disappointing part of the evening was when the head of DPW told me after the meeting that in her opinion the safest place for bikers in the winter was the traffic lane. If only we could get all the cars to recognize that! I had a really close pass on Thursday morning where I was in the middle of a lane that had been reduced to about 5' by cars parked next to a snowbank, and a Masshole decided that he'd try to squeeze through the gap beween the other cars and me. His mirror just missed my handlebars. Grrr. And yes, I got his license plate and will report him to the RMV, for whatever good it will do. I have a nice photo of him flipping me off at the stoplight where I caught up to him and took his photo!
I think that Cambridge has been really successful in building a community of people who rely on biking for their primary transportation, so we now have a responsibility to ensure that they still have a means to get around even in the winter. If we want to build year round ridership I don't think we can do it with the current attitude. Eventually we will have to realize that there is a large percentage of riders who count on facilities. It's a bit of a chicken and the egg problem. The city doesn't feel that they need to maintain facilities because "no one rides in the winter" but a lot of people DO ride, and there are even more who would ride if they had a well maintained space on the road. It will be interesting to see at what point will there be enough momentum in the community (the people I see biking past my window) that we can start to demand better care of those facilities year round. If we can prove that indeed lots of people still bike in the winter, will that convince Cambridge that they need to maintain facilities though the winter?