13 Feb 2011


Who are those jerks riding bikes in this storm?

Move over, Great Wall of China. You are no longer the only Earthly structure visible from space; our towering snow banks are, too.
Is there anyone out there who is not done with winter? How many bent shovels, strained backs, lost tempers and salt-ruined boots must we endure before the weather gets back to normal?
Welcome to the new normal. Record breaking weather is everywhere; typhoons, mudslides, gale force winds. So far, we have lots of snow on top of lots of snow. Narrow streets, walls of impenetrable white stuff and crosswalks that require crampons may be here until June. It’s strange how here in New England the first flakes of snow, be they in October or December, cause people to panic, become ruled by their inner Floridian, travel gingerly then queue up at the store for bread, milk and ____(fill in the blank with cat food, diapers, Tums, beer, eggs, etc). But as soon as one street is cleared to bare pavement, drivers assume it’s OK to go the speed limit.
Once we get in the swing of things, 8, 12, 30 inches of snow; give us a block’s worth of clean roadway and we’re back at 35mph. Too bad there’s no place to park when we get there. Or we park, but get a ticket because we were unable to reach the meter, near buried in a snow bank. We barely think of the poor losers still on side streets spinning their wheels, hoping their skidding lands them enough in the parking to avoid getting sideswiped. Which is better, in a way, than not knowing which side view mirror peeking out from some major mass of snow belongs to your car.

Walking is no fun either. Shoveling just doesn’t do it. Three contiguous walkable sidewalks are better than a hat trick. Then there are the snow blown barricades, framing a pristine driveway. Presumed driveway; you can’t see over the snow wall. Even the best of intensions leaves a layer of ice Disney characters dream of. Unless your full time job is snow removal, constant as in painting the Golden Gate Bridge, your sidewalk will crust over. Back to back blizzards leave little time for anything more than moving snow from one place to another, higher. This is compressed Cambridge and there’s no place to put the snow; no tree lawns or deep street intersections with long sight lines.

The streets are narrow; what had been two lanes, is one. The side streets, when plowed, are re-filled by the spray of snow blowers or by the deposit that had been on top of a car, or thrown back into the street by the car owner shoveling out (illegal and dangerous).

On a rare snow emergency day, cross country skiers could be seen gently giving way to essential vehicles. Parents pulled bundles of children on sleds to the nearest hill.
The Works did an excellent job of coaxing unfair amounts of snow and ice out of harm’s way.

Back to school and busses got stuck, the T broke down, toes got froze.
The roads were messy and pedestrians had to walk in the streets.

True Story:
A Post Office Delivery van was having a challenging time maneuvering between cars parked on both sides (legally) of a narrow ‘Port street. With scarcely a millimeter clearance on either side, the truck barely inched along at 4mph. There were 6 cars patiently, seriously nary a horn tap, patiently following. When the parade finally reached a large intersection, the van pulled over, the cars turned and everyone went on their merry way.

Had that delay been created by a taxi, the scenario would have been the same.
Ditto a Toyota. Or any other 4-wheeled vehicle. Even if the driver was just going to buy a lottery ticket. Had the delay been caused by someone on a bicycle moving cautiously, it’s doubtful the horns would have been silent. Same Roads Same Rules, remember?
Using a bicycle, like taking the T, or carpooling, or walking, is how some people travel.
Is there a subconscious assumption that if it’s cold out, there should be no bikes?

Riding a bike is challenging in the best of weather; and there are days when it is absolutely unsafe to ride. Serious cyclists wear appropriate gear and know how to ride on city streets. Responsible cyclists also know how to travel and be considerate of others. On one way or narrow streets, it’s fine and legal to travel in the middle of the lane. If this is impeding lots of traffic, pull to the side, when possible, to let a row of cars pass. Road hogs are never welcome.
Usually, after a serious snow, the safest path for bikes is in the tread marks of previous car tires. You can see pot holes and there’s less chance of a chunk of ice. The slightly uneven hardened snow that is OK for pedestrians is treacherous for a 2-wheeler.

Winter 2011 is proving to be a challenge for even our most stringent Calvinists. Patience and respect, remembering we’re in this together will bring spring a bit sooner. That jerk on the bicycle may be me. Or it may be an emergency room doctor going to work.
Travel responsibly.

Board meeting

20 Jan 2011

OK Team
send you best bets to Mel soon.