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alternate modes of transport

December 15, 2010

berries encased in ice

{Source: A glimpse of life}

Ever since the weekend blizzard, our town has been under a blanket of snow and ice. The roads are slowly getting excavated but it’s still treacherous and slippery out there. The kids across the street have been using their snow-covered sidewalk as a toboggan run and we’ve witnessed several cars slide across the road when taking a turn too quickly into our neighborhood.

All of this to say that my bikes have continued to remain in the garage and I have been exploring alternate modes of transport this week.

I want this blog to inspire other to view cycling (year-round) as a viable means of getting around. I hope to inspire others to drive less and be more eco-conscious in their choices. But I don’t ever want to lie to my readers and pretend that cycling is all roses and kittens when it’s not.

What’s more, there are other ways of getting around that are eco-friendly and sometimes better suited to the context. I had planned on taking the bus to campus, but I actually ended up walking one day. It wasn’t terribly cold and I felt safer tackling the icey sidewalks in my winter boots that I did on my bike. It was definitely slippery but I watched my footing and had a great walk listening to my podcasts and breathing the fresh air.

On another occasion, when I had to be on campus at 7 am to give a final exam, I had my husband give me a lift. There was no timely bus and I didn’t feel like walking in the dark and cold.

All in all, I don’t believe in being extreme and subjecting myself to unreasonable circumstances just to prove a point. I believe that someone can be more fit and healthy, and more eco-friendly, just by even substituting half of the commutes done by car with another mode of transport: walking, taking a public ride like a bus, metro, car pool, etc. That’s already reducing one’s carbon footprint by a good amount. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

As I was getting ready to write this post, I spied that Dottie of Let’s Go Ride a Bike wrote about the same thing. And Anna of Cycling is Good for You also wrote about cycling or not cycling in extreme snow, offering tips for those interested and suggesting storing one’s bike indoors if one isn’t using it.

I like hearing other cyclists and bloggers being honest about the commute – the joys and the limitations. Only by being realistic can we paint a viable picture of what it’s like to bike commute year round. I hope to jump on my bike and give cycling to campus another try soon. But if we go into winter break and if it doesn’t happen until after the holidays when we return from visits to our parents’ homes, then so be it. I know my bike isn’t going anywhere. It’s there and waiting for the next fun ride.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. December 15, 2010 14:09

    I used to live in a rather bike-friendly small town which allowed me to use my bike to commute/shop/do whatever – all year round, regardless of the weather. Even if it was slippery or wet, I still felt safe because most drivers were careful and there were good bike lanes. Having moved to a bigger city a couple of years ago, I’ve drastically reduced my amount of biking as it’s a lot less fun here (no good lanes, too many cars, having to fetch my bike from the cellar which is like THE most dangerous part of commuting for me as I’m going to break my neck someday…) and either walk or use public transportation.

    Because I just own a rather minimalistic single speed/brake dutch bike right now, it goes down to the cellar once it gets snowy, unfortunately. I’ve been slipping on ice or leaves a fair amount of times, so that’s where I draw a line regarding safety. Plus, I really don’t like biking back home late at night when I’m on my own, so to me using the car in situations where biking/walking wouldn’t be safe is more important than reducing my carbon footprint.

    On a final note, I find it quite interesting that the “cycling culture” in the States seems to be pretty different from what I’ve grown up with in Europe. To me, using my bike to get around town has always been kind of natural, and I haven’t owned a car for the biggest part of my life. Though, to be honest, I really hate having to walk to the grocery store, especially when there’s rain or snow, and I often find myself tricking a friend into giving me a lift. ;)

  2. December 15, 2010 18:35

    Some folks switch to kick sleds when it snows.

  3. December 15, 2010 18:35

    Oh, those berries!…

  4. December 15, 2010 21:24

    I don’t think anyone should feel guilty about working his/her way into winter biking. I think we each have to find our own comfort with it. Some people are just fine rolling through piles of snow, while others prefer to only ride when there are dry roads to use. Sounds as though you are working your way up to it, and in the mean time, you’re using alternate means at your disposal. As you said, even if you’re only eliminating some of your drives, you’re still benefiting everyone (and I consider carpooling eliminating a drive too!).

    Of course, my opinion has its own bias simply because I am unable to bike a lot of times due to distance of commute. If I’m not willing to do a 70 mile round trip bike ride in the summer, I’m definitely not attempting it in the snowy months. We do our “snow rides” into town though (which is only 18-20 miles or so round trip), but we also have to have the time to devote to the ride when things are snowy and icy. It definitely adds time to the normal ride time.

    By the way, love that “berries in ice” shot you obtained. Truly beautiful!

  5. December 16, 2010 14:51

    I wrote on our two mile challenge blog of forgoing a meeting because I didn’t want to go out in a downpour.I just decided it wasn’t that important for me to be there. I think our advocacy actually loses credibility when we brag of going to extremes ( although I guess it;s still kind of extreme to be able to opt out of going to work for fear of getting wet!).
    We encourage people “to endeavor” to leave their car at home when going less than two miles. So I drove to the post office the other day because I had a big, fragile package and was concerned that it might break unless packed “just so” in my trailer. I didn’t have the time to be super careful. I think the point is to stop and think before getting in a car.

  6. Erin permalink
    December 16, 2010 15:59

    I have been thinking about your cycling in the snow, and I’m glad you’ve decided to write about the issue.

    I used to live in Madison, which is a bike-loving town. Unfortunately, snow removal in Madison also is sorely lacking. This combination is scary for both motorists and cyclists. My hat tips to folks who want to ride all year (you’re tougher than I am!), but it’s downright dangerous for both drivers and cyclists when bikers power through the snow. It’s hard enough for cars to stop for other cars, and I can’t imagine control on a bike is great, either.

    In short, I’m glad to hear that you’re not trying to be a cycling hero and putting yourself in harm’s way by riding in poor conditions.

  7. December 16, 2010 23:57

    Very well said! Thanks S.

  8. December 19, 2010 08:52

    That photo is amazing!

  9. December 30, 2010 19:55

    I am a fair weather cyclist. I’ll cycle in the cold, but I don’t do it in ice and snow. The places that I have lived often don’t plow or salt the side streets (which considering where I have lived are necessary to take to even get to more main roads). In the winter, I put my bike in the basement or garage and settle for cycling as much as possible spring through fall.

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