Sunday, February 6, 2011

Winter Riding

I'd say that this winter in Boston has been a challenge for getting around without a car, but, to be honest, it's been a challenge getting around with or without a car.  I've heard lots and lots of high-pitching whining of tires on slick ice and helped dig out and push stuck cars.  I definitely haven't missed trying to figure out where I'm going to park my car, if I have to drive it somewhere.  When we had a car, I'd dread taking the car out when a third of the parking spots were filled with three feet of snow, and trying to figure out how to get out safely on the ever more narrow streets.

When the streets are icy, I stick to getting around by foot and by T.  Unfortunately, in heavy storms, the T gets super crowded and somewhat unreliable.  In December, I ended up walking all the way from Brookline to Cambridge in a snowstorm to go to a party at the Central Square Theatre.  I walked three miles each way along the bus route, and I was never passed by a bus.

In past winters, I'd be reluctant to take the bike out, but I'm getting bolder about this all the time.  Usually by the day after a storm, the streets have been plowed down to the pavement on most major roads, so I feel fairly safe getting around by bike.  If we have a hard freeze following a lot melting, I avoid going out, if I think there will be slick, frozen puddles.  Ice and bikes don't mix.  (I don't have studded tires.)

I'm still grocery shopping by bicycle every weekend, using the bike trailer.  It's been great--I like the exercise and the fresh air--though finding bike parking is getting tougher, as the snow banks continue to rise.

The hardest part about biking this winter has been the narrowing of the streets.  Some of the snow banks are cutting 2-3 feet off the width of the road on each side.  Side streets that normally are two-way now can barely accommodate one car at a time.  All of this makes it a lot harder to have room for bikes. 

I don't mind the cold at all.  I actually prefer cool weather riding to hot weather riding.  In the summer, I arrive at my destination drenched in sweat.  In the winter, if I dress right, I warm up quickly, but not too much.

This winter, with almost 70 inches of snow so far, has definitely been a good test of our "no car" life, and I feel like we've been getting through pretty well.  But I'm definitely looking forward to spring, and wider roads again.

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