Normally I like Mondays. I've never really understood people who don't.
To me, Monday is the start of a new week, a day full of possibilities.
But I have to confess that I felt a little different this Monday. Fresh snow (maybe 3-5 cm) and a temperature well below zero made me wonder what riding conditions would be like. Never mind driving conditions. And sure enough, the drive into the west end was s-l-o-w, thanks to a crash on the Yellowhead, which meant that traffic was diverted to 16A. Running a bit late and fearing that the shared pathway on 100 Avenue would not be cleared, I decided to park in Crestwood. The bridge leading to Stony Plain Road was cleared right down to the boards -- a good start to my ride -- but it pretty much went downhill after that. A few sidewalks had been cleared, but the streets and any sidewalks under the city's purview were in rough shape. So I decided to cheer myself up by snapping photos of my bike at the bright spots along the way -- like these three trees on 132 Street:
and one of the tall, tall trees (there are two) at the High Street shopping centre:
I ended my commute by doing something I almost never (well, really absolutely never) do: riding on the sidewalk, on the wrong side of the street. This sidewalk was so beautifully clear of snow that I simply couldn't resist and I have to confess that I didn't even feel one bit guilty.
My commute today was a little slow and a little frustrating -- and the ride back to the car after work was slightly worse, thanks to warmer temperatures -- but still I end my day thankful for the exercise, glad I can ride instead of driving all the way, and warmed by the thought of those cheerfully-lit trees that brighten my path!
Now that the dust -- or should I say snow -- has settled, riding is not so bad. I still wish the city would do a better job of snow removal, especially on bike routes and main street sidewalks, but on the whole it was a pleasant week of riding. It has been between -5 and +4 everyday, so not too cold, but also not warm enough to create any serious slush. After work on Tuesday I met Gillian, a thirty-something first-winter rider. We stopped for a chat in the little park that forms part of the bike route and the bridge detour north of 102 Avenue. We both agreed that so far this has been a great winter for cycling, but also that the city really should clear that route; the park is bladed nicely but the adjacent streets are so snow-covered and mushy that riding is virtually impossible, causing cyclists to hop onto the sidewalks. The bike route signs on this stretch seem like a sick joke at times like these! Every morning I see at least two or three other cycle commuters and I often see a few on my way home as well. This is the perfect winter for people to try it out, and it looks like that's what's happening. One disappointment: the city has chosen to close the shared sidewalk on 100 Avenue across from Safeway. There is some construction that has been going on for months, and all of a sudden in the middle of winter, they decide they need to close the sidewalk? Go figure.
Again I left home at about ten to seven. Surely today will be better, I thought. WRONG! Apparently there was a crash on the Yellowhead, so 16A was also affected. I felt lucky when I was able to go 30 km/hour for the first half of my drive into Edmonton. I finally hit the westernmost end of the city at about 8:00. Again the question arose -- where should I park? I knew I didn't have time to ride all the way from Glenwood, but what about Crestwood? Hmmm, I wasn't sure. So I decided to drive into Glenora and park there. I am not sure that was a good decision; maybe Crestwood would have been better, but once I drove past 149 Street I was committed.
Between the packed roads and cleared or snow-packed sidewalks, riding my chubby-tired bike, I made pretty good time and arrived at the corner of 109 Street and 100 Avenue at about 8:45. As I stood waiting for the light to change, I noticed a young guy looking at me and my bike with an unfathomable expression on his face. Finally he spoke: "I saw you riding on Stony Plain Road," he said. "I recognize your bike. I was in my car, and you got here before me." Let's hear it for commuting by bike!!
Actually they said on the radio that it was 25 centimeters,
but the 24 - 24 is catchier!
It was quite a day of riding.
MORNING: First, I had to drive into the city from Spruce Grove. That did not go so well. It normally takes me 20-25 minutes to drive to my parking spot in Glenwood. Because of the heavy snow today, I had decided to park a little closer to work, in Crestwood, another five minutes east on 100 Avenue. I left home at about 6:50 a.m., and I reached the parking spot at about 8:00. Oh well, I thought, even if I get to work at 8:45, it will be OK. I got my bike set up and seeing that the ravine trail was deep with snow, I rode across the pedestrian bridge to Stony Plain Road. The sidewalk was covered in ankle-deep snow, so I started out by pushing my bike along, thinking I'd hop on and ride as soon as I reached a cleared section. But it didn't take long before I realized that a cleared section was not going to happen. Enter Plan B -- the bus. This has always been my contingency plan: I know that all the city buses have bike racks on the front, so I have always figured that if I got a flat or otherwise had a problem with my bike, I could catch a bus. I carry a supply of toonies, loonies, quarters and nickels specifically for that purpose. There was a bus stop a few steps away, and the bus came almost at once, so I thought I was lucky. I smiled at the bus driver, a sweet-looking blonde woman, and indicated that I was going to put my bike on the rack. She replied by heaving a sigh and rolling her eyes. Nice. Oh well, I wasn't going to let her make me feel bad. It was that kind of day. But when I went to put my bike on the rack, I realized that I didn't know how. Yes, there were some cryptic instructions written on the rack -- something about pulling and pushing, but no matter what I did, nothing happened. The rack wouldn't budge. So I looked at the driver and asked for help. Again with the eye roll. She snarled something at me, presumably some sort of instructions, so I tried again. Still nothing. I gave her my best big-eyed pleading look, and she rolled her eyes yet again, snarled, "Oh my God," and got out of her seat. She tried to get the rack to work and finally said with satisfaction, "It doesn't work. You'll have to wait for the next bus." Whew. That was a narrow escape. I might have had to ride on the same bus as that witch. Talk about bad karma! The next bus came only a few minutes later, so I was pleased about that. Now, I know it's hard to believe that there could possibly be a section in the bus drivers' manual called, "How to be nasty to people who want to put their bikes on the bike rack" but after today, I am convinced that section exists. This bus driver was a bald 55-ish man, but he had almost the same reaction when he saw me and my bike. Fortunately, this bike rack had very clear directions and everything worked just fine, so I got the bike in place with no trouble. When I entered the bus, I asked the driver whether I'd done it properly and he snarled, "That's all you can do." Thanks for the reassurance, man. I dropped my $3.20 in the box and watched with trepidation as the bus began to roll. The bike held on and seemed perfectly content in its spot up front, so I breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed somewhat. Along the way, I saw a few other intrepid cyclists pushing their bikes, so I felt a bit lazy, but told myself that they probably had a shorter ride than I did. At 127 Street and Stony Plain Road, I disembarked and proceeded to ride/walk the rest of the way to work. There were quite a few shoveled sidewalks and a couple of streets with packed snow, so I would guess that about half the way was rideable. The rest of the time, I pushed the bike along, giving myself a good upper-body workout. I got to work at about 8:50 and managed to be in front of the class ready to start by 9:00. Although it had not been a particularly easy or pleasant commute, I did feel good that at least I had spent some of that time being active instead of just sitting behind the wheel. AFTER WORK: During the day the temperature had fallen -- it was minus 10 with wind chill of -17 C. So I bundled up and set out, knowing that at least part of the time I'd be pushing the bike instead of riding. And yes, that is what happened for more than half the time. Needless to say, I was glad I'd chosen to park closer to work today. Most of my walk/ride/walk/ride was not too bad. Until I came to the bridge across MacKinnon Ravine. The sidewalk here had not been cleared at all, which meant calf-deep snow, partially packed down by pedestrians, but not packed enough to form a firm path. I dragged my bike along, struggling to find a good place to put my feet and a good place for the bike wheels. I actually considered picking the bike up and carrying it, but maybe that would have been even harder.
After I finally made it across, feeling disheartened and worn out, I was getting ready to climb back on my bike and ride the remaining kilometer or so to my van when I noticed that a guy in a stopped car was trying to get my attention. I looked his way and he asked me how much farther I had to go. "I normally ride my bike, too," he said, adding that today he had decided not to. (He very kindly didn't say that he was smarter than I am!) I assured him that I didn't have much farther and that I was OK from here on, and we went our separate ways, but it was amazing how much better I felt after that bit of thoughtfulness. I rode on the mostly cleared sidewalks until I came to a good stretch of road, and before I knew it, I was at the car and then on my way back to Spruce Grove and a hot cup of tea!
Last night right before I hit the sack, I saw that there was a snowfall warning -- for Spruce Grove and other places, but not for the City of Edmonton. Thinking that the weather warning would make good real-life reading practice for my students, I projected it onto the wall first thing this morning and we read the words of the warning and looked at the map. Sure enough, at 9:15 a.m., the lines on the map extended across the whole northern/central section of Alberta, but carefully excluded Edmonton. We all agreed that this was kind of strange, but of course we were not going to complain if the heavy snowfall missed the city! However, when I refreshed the map at break time (10:30) things had changed. The city was now smack-dab in the middle of the snowfall warning area! And sure enough, by about 1:30, the snow had started to fall. By the time I left work at 3:15, it was just a nice layer -- maybe 3-4 cm -- and still easy to ride through. And this roundabout that I ride through along the way looked so pretty that I had to stop and snap a pic.
It's been a while. I have written about my travels in Europe -- and my cycling adventures there -- on my other blog, but for some reason I haven't written about my local riding. Since I wanted this to be a record of not only my cycling routine, but also of weather and other conditions, when we had our first snowfall last week, I decided it's time to start again. This begins my fifth winter of year-round bicycle commuting. I wish I could remember exactly when I started, but I do know it was during the 2011-2012 exceptionally mild winter. Thursday, November 19, was our first real snow this fall. We got about 2-3 cm, but it was enough to make driving a little crazy, so I was happy to park my car at the west end and cycle the rest of the way. As can be seen from the tracks on this Stony Plain Road bridge, quite a lot of other people had the same idea.What a thrill to see the tracks of 4 or 5 other cyclists, plus many pedestrians.
I decided to take the bike lane on 121 Street. Again, there were lots of bike tracks. There was also a truck parked in the bike lane. Thank you, City of Edmonton. Since there are parking spots across the street, I kindly pointed them out to the guy driving the truck. Unfortunately, I am not convinced he understood. Maybe he couldn't hear me very well over the sound of the motorized blower his co-worker was using.
Even with minor inconveniences like this,cycling is definitely the way to go when it comes to commuting. I arrived at work cold but refreshed and happy. It always feels so good to know that I am not letting winter get me down.
A few days ago I heard a researcher from Vermont speaking on the radio. Her research is related to SAD - seasonal affective disorder -- and she actually mentioned winter cycling as an effective way of combating this condition. It has been true for me. I can`t believe how my attitude towards winter has changed since I started my year-round bicycle commuting. I can't say I exactly look forward to the cold and snow, but at least I know I can enjoy it more than I would if I had to drive all the way to work every day.