Winter in the suburbs sucks

Winter in the suburbs sucks

*sigh* Here is what my husband has worn to be able to safely walk the dog for the past month or more:

(photographed on a section of our sidewalk that we can’t seem to keep ice-free no matter how diligent we are)

Yes, tungsten carbide cleats attached to galoshes, found at the local cult-of-jogging emporium. That’s how treacherous the half-not-cleared, half-frozen-puddle sidewalks are in our neighborhood. The roads, finally cleared after weeks of waiting of 6 inches of hard-packed snow that turns to oatmeal on warm days, are little better. Lanes beside curbs are usually reduced to half their width by uneven windrows of snow (which the city is now working on clearing on the main arteries), two-way car traffic is no longer possible on roads where cars have parked, and where sharrows have been painted, they’re usually invisible under layers of ice and wheel-polished snow. This is the sad reality of living in a car-dependent suburb (WalkScore: less than 25 no matter what street you pick. Sigh).

So you can see how having a properly-equipped winter bike really is a necessity for riding in these conditions. The main roads are clear now, but I need to be able to get to them without falling off my bike.

I am currently without a winter bike (sadface). I was going to throw snow tires on Bert, but my gurus at RedBike say snow tires won’t fit onto any of my Raleigh-built bikes without removing the mudguards, and mudguards are not optional for me if I’m going to ride in my everyday clothes. So I’m still weighing my options. I only recently learnt to ride confidently with traffic, so the road conditions are really discouraging as well. Perhaps my best bet would be creating (or buying? do they come that size?) a set of snow tires for my Norco foldy, so I could run local errands and legally stick to the suburban sidewalks and multiuser paths (which not many pedestrians are using in these icy conditions). If I won a lottery I’d just buy my midlife-crisis bakfiets and order snow tires for it at the same time.

Rabbit tracks in the waist-deep snow on top of my front garden 

I am NOT complaining about the wait to have residential roads cleared – Edmonton has enough roadway surface to reach to Cancun and back, thanks to the sprawl that comes with being a Prairie city, and I knew what was coming when we moved to the suburbs. The main arteries and the bus route one street over were cleared within 24 hours of each of the recent snowstorms, and that’s all I expect. It would be nice to see the road the new elementary schools are on added to that clearance priority list, as will likely happen when the city reviews its’ snow-clearance policies in light of this winter’s unusual challenges. However, poor conditions on residential roads are a definite hurdle for making bicycling an accessible year-round alternative to driving in a winter city, and if the city wants to encourage more than the core-dwellers to use bicycles more, they’ll need to consider this factor. Maybe adding the newly-sharrowed roads in the ‘burbs to the plowing priority lists might be a good compromise?

Meanwhile I am eagerly awaiting enough warm days that the roads are clear. It’s hard to write about bicycles, or even to motivate myself to work on my bicycle craft projects (instead I have been working on my other blog and planning a trip to Japan). I hate hibernating.

6 thoughts on “Winter in the suburbs sucks

  1. The first studded tire (the black one, size 20×1.75) that I made for the Porta-Bike is currently at EBC, awaiting a new home. You could try it out (for cheaper than a new tire), and if it worked, you could make another one if you wanted a set (Given the conditions, I’d recommend making a tire with more studs to put on the front). The fenders on Porta-Bike cleared it with ease but your pics make me wonder if the Norco fenders are narrower, but it would still be worth a try. The studs on that tire have a fairly low profile.

  2. OMG, Coreen, you are my hero! =D I’ll figure out timing with hubby in the morning and arrange to bring my Norco foldy in to EBC over the weekend. I’ve been meaning to come in regardless, as I understand that Keith has left me a shifter…

  3. I too live in the suburbs and our roads only received one sweep of the snowplow per storm. Without snow tires I didn’t feel it prudent to be out of the road with any of my bikes. By February I did a combination of pedaling and pushing my bike over still snow covered sections of the road. The hardest part is just getting down my north facing driveway. It is so steep that I slip and slide all the way down to the sidewalk so, like your husband, I had to wear cleats to safely navigate it.

  4. Hi Deborah,

    Hope all is well and that the roads are getting better for you and that you have been able to ride. Also wanted to let you know I got my first loop frame bike: A Pashley.

    Take Care. Sue

  5. Sue: Yay!! A Pashley!! I want one too.

    The roads in my part of the city are still gripped by the end-of-winter freeze-thaw cycle, slush one day and sheet ice the next. But spring is in the air, and I’ve noticed more bicycle commuters in the area around the University.

    Meanwhile my plans to winterize the foldy – and have Keith minister to the Rollfast’s needs – have been utterly waylaid. The foldy is in Angel’s garage, which has a broken door opener; my car and I were in an accident, so it has gone to the shop and I’ve been preoccupied with insurance paperwork and doctor visits (I’m OK, just mild whiplash); and I’ve also been not a little preoccupied with the news from Japan and trying to figure out if my husband and I can still travel there in May as planned. I’m sure my twitter followers think I’ve turned into an RT-bot. =D

  6. Look forward to seeing the foldy and yes, I thought about you when I read your post about Japan. It’s extremely sad. Sorry to hear about the car accident, I’m glad you’re ok and didn’t get seriously hurt.

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