Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Misadventures in the Thaw

As you may have inferred from the dearth of personal posts and new pictures, there has not been a great deal of cycling lately. But suddenly, yesterday: a thaw. A cursory glance outside suggested that the streets had somewhat cleared of snow, and so I eagerly dragged out the bike. But what was meant to be a productive day, became instead a frazzled misadventure.

Liberated from the heaps of snow under which it's sat for over a month, my entire street now looks like it's being dug for trenches. I am amazed that this could happen over the course of a single winter, especially since they'd just recently repaved it. There is barely a foot of road where the asphalt is not broken, and it's nearly impossible to cycle through what is essentially one big ditch.

Soon I was on the main road, which has bike lanes in both directions. That is the bike lane in the picture above. When the blizzards were in full force, it was understandable that the bike lanes were not cleared. The whole town was covered in yards of snow, and I don't think bike lanes deserve special treatment compared to traffic lanes and sidewalks. But they do deserve equal treatment, and for the past couple of weeks they have not been getting it, as far as I can see. Everything except for the bike lanes is now cleared.

After a couple of swerves and dodges, I decided to get out of the bike lane altogether and cycle on the road. The drivers thought I was insane. Apparently, they are no longer sympathetic to cyclists being in the traffic lane, because the conditions aren't harsh enough to evoke the "winter weather mode of politeness." I got a couple of "what are you doing??" gestures through rolled down windows, and my feeble attempts to point at the slush and ice in the bike lane elicited only blank stares. The bike lane looked fine to them - at least fine enough to make it no longer acceptable for me to be out in the traffic lane. After this happened a couple of times, I gave in. I didn't want to be right. I just wanted to get where I needed to go without arguing with every third car that passed me. So I got back in the bike lane. And that's when it happened: My first near-accident.

I don't have pictures of what the spot looked like, but it was similar to the watery area you see behind the bike here. I was cycling along a more or less clear portion of the bike lane, when suddenly I approached what looked like water with some slushy edging to it. It was getting dark at this point, and I considered that the water might in fact be covering a layer of ice. But by the time this thought entered my mind, I had a choice to either brake suddenly, swerve around it, or go through it. Looking over my shoulder, there was no room to swerve. And braking seemed like a bad idea in that particular spot. So I went through it. There was indeed ice underneath the water, and the bike's reaction surprised me. It did not slide out from underneath me or flip over upon hitting the ice, but remained upright while "skating" in a zig-zag, much like a car would on an icy road. Incredibly, I kept my balance and tried to contain the zig-zagging within the bike lane, as there was a steady flow of cars to my left. It seemed to me that this went on forever, but in all likelihood it was probably over in less than 10 seconds. I looked back afterward, and the ice-watery stretch was a quarter of a block long. I feel comfortable classifying that as a safety hazard.

I don't mind admitting that the experience left me a bit shaken, and I decided to turn back before reaching my intended destination. I switched on my lights and cycled on the road again, not caring whom I was inconveniencing and how they chose to express that. Then I stopped by a shop near my house to get some olives.

Not having taken my pannier along, I put the olives in a paper bag and secured the package via "rat-trap" - which made me think about rack design again. It is surprising to me that the Gazelle rack, which is rated for a huge amount of weight, has no provisions for bungee cord attachment. I don't really trust these rat trap thingies. I also have mixed feelings about "cafe locks." They are heavy, they are not always easy to use, and you can hurt your fingers if they get in the way of the lever popping back up when the lock is released - which is exactly what happened after my olive purchase.

I arrived home without further incident, albeit trailing olive brine from the rat trap having pressed into the container. A notification of a missed package greeted me with a malicious grin, as I removed the leaking packet from my bike rack and prepared to drag the Gazelle up the stairs. A productive afternoon it was not.

But surely there are lessons to be learned from this. The lure of the first thaw is not to be trusted? Water-covered ice is more treacherous than packed snow? Don't let drivers bully you into a bike lane that you feel is unsafe? Yes, all of those certainly seem to fit, but somehow I don't feel a whole lot wiser after the experience. What exactly am I supposed to do next time, cycle on the road and be shouted at the whole way? Or stay off the bike until the city finally decides to clear the sides of the roads? Neither is an appealing option.

57 comments:

  1. Knowing you are not a fan of them, I would still suggest studded tires. Water covered ice is indeed way more hazardous than packed snow and either of those make studs a good choice. The Schwalbe Marathon winter tires seem like the best choice, based on your type of riding. Think about it for next year, they are great for the current conditions, especically the ice patches and refreezing melt we have right now. Many will disagree with me, I am sure, and this is only my opinion, based on my personal experience.
    Don't give up and DO take the lane if needed!

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  2. Yeah, this kind of thing sucks.
    When the bike lane is partially cleared, that's almost worse then when it's not clear at all because you can see the giant icy pile of snow ahead, but the annoyed driver behind you sees a clear bike lane right next to you. Like you, I was fine with the non- clearance in the crisis. But now that the "crisis" is over, the cities have just decided that they'll let nature take its course. I increasingly think that they need to have a strategy like the snow emergency routes, except for bike lanes. Clear the highest trafficked routes first, then the less traveled ones, and so on.
    I think that there's the attitude that only the wild and crazy fringe cyclists are brave enough to go out in the winter, and that they can just ride in the road and tough it out.. Unfortunate, because they're not going to encourage more mainstream bikers to ride year around with that attitude

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  3. In this condition coaster brake is dangerous...

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  4. Those pictures are familiar-- they're the same roads I've been riding on, and to put this into perspective for readers: they are even worse than they look in the photos. The amount of debris strewn into the bike lanes is unbelievable (where there IS a bike lane not covered with mounds of snow, that is!). I for one have been taking the lane when necessary-- is there any other choice?

    Apparently, they are no longer sympathetic to cyclists being in the traffic lane, because the conditions aren't harsh enough to evoke the "winter weather mode of politeness." I got a couple of "what are you doing??" gestures through rolled down windows, and my feeble attempts to point at the slush and ice in the bike lane elicited only blank stares.

    I've noticed this behavior as well. Initially, during the storms, drivers were overly cautious and sympathetic of cyclists. I felt fine riding through the storm. But, in the aftermath, what with the narrow streets and increased commute times that drivers are forced to endure now, their patience has grown thinner. I absolutley do notice that drivers are more aggressive toward cyclists since the storm, they get closer to me, and make aggressive gestures (honking the horn, revving the engine, yelling...). Last night I experienced the most angry gesture ever from a motorist: a 20-something male driver in the opposite lane screamed out his window "Get the **** off the road". The strange thing was, neither of us were affecting one another; we were near MIT on Albany Street, he was in the opposite lane coming toward me, no one was in front of or behind me, and traffic was freely flowing. I was left confused, and feeling lousy. I've never had anything like that yelled at me... ever.

    I can't wait till all these snow mountains are gone, the streets are swept, and things return to normal That won't be for at least 6 more weeks!!!

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  5. Scary - it's a horrid feeling when the bike starts to go out of control underneath you, especially with cars passing close by.

    Is there a way you can alert the city government to the state of the bike lanes? If enough people ring and complain then usually somebody has to actually do something about it... especially if you tell them about your accident - they may at least fear getting sued

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  6. We all have "one of those days." Usually mine aren't so well told and photographed.

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  7. I think the biggest lesson to be learned is not really a big secret - "we have a long way to go".

    In Portland, on the rare occasions we get snow, they gravel the roads, and once the snow melts, all the gravel gets pushed into the bike lanes, so you end up riding on a half-inch of loose gravel. Not exactly confidence-inspiring. Plus the painted lines on the road basically get removed every time this happens as well.

    Do we need any more arguments for some separated infrastructure on certain streets?

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  8. You certainly have the right to be in the road when there is clearly not a safe place for you to ride. I had an experience similar to yours with drivers being rude/unhappy with me being in "their" lane several months ago (actually during the end of the summer months). The highway had narrowed to one lane due to road work being completed in the shoulder (which is where I normally ride) and the far right lane of traffic. I merged, as any vehicle would, into the single lane, but stayed as far to the right as I possibly could without hitting workers or cones. Honestly, the cars weren't even moving because it was so backed up, so I was really just slowly rolling past. One man in particular was absolutely not having it. He honked uncontrollably, rolled down his window, and screamed at me that I needed to get out of traffic. And where exactly would he have me go? I'm not sure. There were others who joined this driver in his unnecessary rudeness, but I think it taught me that all I can do is be as polite as possible, do what I know is right, and ignore the incidents as best I can.

    As for the ice block, I am with you. I hate riding on ice, particularly when I don't even know it's there. It is (or I suppose the tires are) highly unpredictable. Usually, I just off and walk through, but when you don't know it's there, it can be quite a shock. I've been fortunate, as you were in this instance, to avoid a fall (knock on wood) thus far, but I find I have to be extra cautious when the temps are so low.

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  9. I think everything depends on which roads you use. For example, Beacon St. has gone from being one of best routes for cyclists in the city to, quite possibly, THE WORST. For that reason, I've avoided it completely in the last two months. But many other streets are completely okay.

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  10. it's a god awful mess on the roads out there... Between piles of snow (really just filthy blocks of ice, now) obstructing the bike lanes or sides of the street, people just making up parking spots, and cavernous (as in, potentially lethal if you were to hit one) pot-holes it is certainly risky -- days of thaw, though they are welcome to rid our world of this wretched snow) only seem to serve to exacerbate concerns of ice; black ice, in particular.

    Unfortunate, many of the City's attempts to fill the pot-holes has seemed to result in replacing a gaping wound in the road with a swollen hump of equal turbulence.

    Ride safe, everyone!

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  11. Yes, it is the same here in Edmonton, Alberta - Canada. My morning commute was very icy! You couldn't walk anywhere without slipping. I put winter tires (ice tires,) on my bike. This is the first time I have done so and at first I thought paying $200.00 plus for studded tires was nuts, but on days like today I really appreciate them. The bike didn't even hint at slipping. When I got off my bike that was another story; I fell hard and then the bike feel on me. I was funny cause my crane bell hit me in the head and rang out loud alerting a passer by that came to my rescue. I guess you could say I was saved by the bell. lol

    To answer your question though, I believe you should drive where it is safe and ignore the drivers, their the ones with the bad attitudes. Also I think you should always lean towards biking, verses giving up because of the conditions. But then I am a guy that is crazy about biking and will bike in any condition. If I go more than two days without biking I get all fidgety and stuff. If I do get into a car I wind all the windows down so I at least get the weather and the smells of the outdoors. But I am nuts, so be it. Keep up the good work with the blog; this blog helps me get through those days when, for what ever reason, I can't bike. :-)

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  12. @Somervillain:

    I am sorry that happened to you; I have actually had people holler that at me in the past, and usually in a similar fashion (when we were not affecting each other :/ ).

    Last night, as I was riding home from class, I had a motorist in Silver Audi aggressively overtake me and nearly "right-hook" me (with no mare than 5' to spare) -- considering I was battling not only the wind, but an unexpected shower of sleet and freezing rain, it was an extremely hazardous situation that thankfully didn't end with anything more than me feeling livid for a few moments.

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  13. The Rev - I love your bell story!

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  14. Unfortunately, my experience living in Somerville indicates that they will "clear the bike lanes" by letting the snow and ice melt. When I lived in the Boston area, I hated all the bike lanes. They seemed to be in the door zone, strewn with debris, or both, and certainly never got cleared in winter. All those bike lanes seemed to be designed for the purpose of getting cyclists out of the way of "real" traffic, rather than a means to facilitate easy and safe cycling.

    I'm very ambivalent about bike lanes now, because they do seem to encourage more people to ride bikes, and that's good for all of us. But I feel more comfortable on roads without bike lanes, myself.

    On another topic, definitely avoid those puddles. They can conceal all kinds of hazards.

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  15. Merlin - Not sure how long ago you lived here, but over the past 2 years things have improved, so just want to give credit where credit is due.

    Rev & GE - I guess what surprised me the most, is that I have been cycling this winter, and in worse conditions, and drivers had never expressed anger about me being in the traffic lane on this particular street until today. I guess there was a discrepancy between how the bike lane looked to them (cyclable) and how it was in reality.

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  16. Anon 12:08 - I am definitely not against studded tires. It's just that we usually do not need them here in Boston-Cambridge-Somerville. This winter was truly unique, and by the time it became apparent that studs may have been a good idea, the season is nearly over and it's not worth it. In retrospect, I do agree with you that I probably would have benefited from them.

    Marco - Quite the opposite: A coaster brake (or any rear drum brake) is safer in these conditions than other options.

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  17. Merlin - Two years ago, I would have agreed with you. But door zone bike lanes have grown on me. Fact is, I feel more comfortable on roads with them, than without. (And no, I don't ride in the door zone.)

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  18. Merlin said: "Unfortunately, my experience living in Somerville indicates that they will "clear the bike lanes" by letting the snow and ice melt.

    Actually, in the aftermath of the last two storms, it has become crystal clear to me from daily riding in both cities that Somerville has done a far superior job of snow removal and road treatment than Cambridge (can't speak for Boston since I haven't ridden in Boston since before the storm). In the immediate aftermath of the storms, Cambridge didn't get as close to the curbs with their plows, and as a result, their roads are now more constricted by ice/snow mounds than Somerville's. I think that was the key. Somerville has a snow emergency policy that requires all cars parked on the even side of streets to be removed, regardless of whether the street is a tiny side street or majoy thoroughfare. This way, at least one side of the street gets plowed to the curb (or almost to the curb). By contrast, Cambridge only has a select few thoroughfares (Mass ave and... ???) that have to get cleared of cars during a snow emergency. As a result, narrow side streets with two-side parking are now a pathetic mess. As much as residents of Somerville deride the city for their aggressive snow emergency policies, this winter has proven the values of those policies.

    Hey Merlin, any relationship to the defunct Merlin cycles?

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  19. Somervillian: I've heard that comment several times this winter. And usually it comes from someone who was not inconvenienced at all by my prescence on the road. Once, it came from a pedestrian...

    In Winnipeg, the hostility of motorists toward cyclists seems to increase with worsening road conditions. During and just after a snowstorm is the worst time for verbal assaults. Dangerous maneuvers (overtaking too close and at high speed) decrease, though.

    I think their hostility is based on a misconception that cyclists are placing a burden on taxpayers by doing something unnecessarily dangerous. Many people that I meet have a different attitude, but clearly think that cycling is dangerous. I get lots of "stay safe" comments from people, and I can't help but get annoyed when I hear that. I usually reply, "You, too!", but I doubt I'm getting the point across. I'm tempted to say "Try not to run over any cyclists today!", but that would be too confrontational. How does one tell these well-intentioned people that one is not doing something unreasonably risky?

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  20. somervillain - Your first comment puts my story into a clearer perspective. Otherwise, I would have thought that perhaps it was just one of those days when everything seems to go wrong. I will have to rethink my route and try to choose quieter streets then; I think that's the best solution.

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  21. Kudos, I'm sure it's tough to have a bummer of a day and then write about it for all of us and include nice pictures :)

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  22. The pictures were taken near the olive store after the whole dreaded thing was over, and it was a nice way to calm myself down : )

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  23. Somervillian: "merlin" was my username at MIT (and various subsequent networks) -- no relation to Merlin cycles. I posted a couple of comments here after experimentally setting my Google profile nickname, and I thought it would be best to leave it that way to maintain my identity.

    I lived in Cambridge and Somerville for several years, but not since 2002, when I moved to Arlington. I didn't start commuting (off and on) by bicycle (to Waltham, then Lexington) until 2004, and I didn't start doing it as primary transportation until after arriving in Winnipeg. So I don't really remember very well the differences between snow-clearing in Cambridge and Somerville. I mostly got around on foot and train then. I do remember being pretty unimpressed by both of them after I saw snow-clearing operations in Ottawa, where they actually remove the snow from both the streets and sidewalks (and take it to a big snow dump). I remember the silly game of shopkeepers on Prospect Street, where they would shovel snow into the street (for lack of anyplace else to put it), whereupon the plows would come by and push it back onto the sidewalk.

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  24. Marco,

    Coaster brakes are not dangerous under these
    conditions.

    Veloria,

    Get studded tires. The snow may not last
    long, but they are still a good investment.
    Think of them like skis or a snow sled.
    These only get used in the winter months
    but people think skis are "worth it".
    The snow and ice may not last long,
    but the effect of falling can.

    John I

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  25. Hi i am from Europe and Gazelles are common here i have never seen one that did not have straps
    http://www.popiel.co.uk/en/bicycles-strap
    Though i don't think i have seen one with a rat-trap either so maybe just for the USA market ?

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  26. Hi again,

    Without trying to labour the point,
    the best reason to get studded tires
    is that they are so liberating.
    While everyone is feeling a bit trapped
    by the conditions, I have spent my winter
    riding absolutely everywhere, without fear.
    The feeling of freedom is fantastic.
    Yes, I did use a coaster brake.

    John I

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  27. I use studded tires all winter, when you rely on your bike, your bike should be reliable even if the roads aren't. Same with rear drum brakes, coaster or not.

    I must have a good bike/motorist aura. I have yet to be criticized or cut off by a motorist this winter, though I did have a couple close passes due to the narrower streets.

    The Somerville Bike Committee will be discussing these very issues tonight, 7pm at city hall basement. We have one letter to the mayor drafted, one specific to Beacon or at least pavement conditions appears to be warranted.

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  28. The nice thing about having studded tires on the bike (I leave mine on most of the winter, not all of which is icy) is that you can stop worrying about the road conditions quite so much and just use your bike when you want to. It's true that they slow you down when you don't need them but I find the freedom to just hop on and ride to be worth it. Ditto dynamo-powered lights. Part of treating a bike as a normal mode of transportation, not something semi-recreational, is being prepared.
    This seems consistent with your philosophy: design a bike so you can ride it comfortably in your work clothes, have a chain case to avoid getting grease stains, simplify maintenance with internal gearing, etc. Maybe that's why you keep getting studded tire recommendations. You just seem like that sort of rider.

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  29. Steve - This Gazelle was bought in Europe, not in the USA. It is a 1990s model.

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  30. Whenever you think you're about to go down remember that your bike is fundamentally and extremely stable. Your bicycle is your friend. Relax and steering geometry will save you.

    Luck helps too. Sounds like you got lucky

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  31. Since you have several bikes, why not put studded snow tires on one of them? I commute by bike every day year 'round, and I ride with snow tires whenever there is ice on the ground. They work really well; I wouldn't ride in mid-winter without them.

    I definitely take the lane (as cyclists are entitled to do) whenever the bike lane or shoulder is not completely clear and safe to ride in.

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  32. I'm sorry for your difficult day! I'm glad you emerged intact and healthy. Here's to better days ahead!

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  33. Apparently, they are no longer sympathetic to cyclists being in the traffic lane

    Yes, this! The insanely deep potholes also seem to try drivers' patience with me, because I'm weaving around the road trying not to break an axle or toss myself off the bike. On the narrow one-way streets around my house I'll sometimes pull into driveways to let cars pass, but then some of those are completely iced over...

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  34. Oh, and about straps- I bet most european Gazelles have something like these that slip onto the axle assembly
    http://clevercycles.com/products/accessories/racks/#Bibia-quattro

    Harris has a similar product but these Bibia ones I got at Clever are much nicer

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  35. I think it's pointless and tiring to argue with drivers. My favorite response to honking/yelling is to smile and wave enthusiastically. That usually ends any conflict right away, although if one takes it too far (head nodding, fist pumping) then it becomes more overtly sarcastic than strange/confusing.

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  36. I think that when things on the road are clear and smooth, standard right-side bike lanes are a fine way to give everyone space and make sure drivers are paying attention to cyclists. But I think when things are bad in the way you describe, they contribute to an attitude of scarcity, of everyone fighting for their narrow strip of space.

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  37. I have no opinion on studded tires... My tires have no tread pattern (slick) and I've been getting around just fine, but I don't ride over ice, ever. With regards to bike lanes, I know I'm somewhat new to transportation cycling (just over a year now) but I have to say I'm against them. I wrote to the Kansas City Star in a latter to the editor. "Bike lanes are segregation and segregation promotes the idea of second class status. Additionally, motorists come to believe that bikes belong ONLY in the bike lanes, when in fact, cyclists need to use the full roadway at times (avoiding hazards and making left turns)" I'd rather see WOL, wide outside lanes, which give more room for the right lane of traffic and cyclists to coexist. (and as a lane of traffic would be cleared of snow) Call me crazy, but I act just like all the other traffic and take whatever lane I need to use, right or left, never go to the front in a line of vehicles, but keep my place (a car couldn't move up, why should I) and I very rarely have anyone honk at me and never have had someone yell.

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  38. yeah, as the snows are thawing out, it's sort of been like watching a bandage unwrap. There are some scarred segments on Broadway heading into Kendall Square, too, and the eastbound side of the Harvard Rotary underpass was a nightmare for the last couple of weeks (if you want to talk about having to take the lane while dodging potholes in stress-y situations) but this past week, it seems at least Cambridge has managed to dig itself out of most of the snow and has also been tackling the problem of filling in potholes. It'll come. Battles are fought, some are lost, other victories are made.

    Last night, I rode out to the Fenway to meet my girlfriend for whiskey cocktails and a very specifically non-Valentine's supper at Citizen Public House, then met some friends at a tribal bellydance club night. The ride home from that, in the wind, was bitter and slow and made me somewhat envious for the cars that were just blowing by, ignorant of the wind or the frozen over puddles. I was riding along Brattle, which had been repaved earlier in the summer and thinking how glorious it was after its overhaul, and remembering how wretched it had been prior to that. Brattle's current state, for all that it's suffered over this winter, is still miles better than where it was last spring.

    I think the detente between drivers and cyclists reached its peak a week and a half ago, when the snow accumulation had cut our street widths in half; but everyone was up to their usual hijinks (trucks double parking, cyclists filtering and running reds, cars letting passengers out in the middle of the street, peds walking on the road because the sidewalk was treacherous). We all just lost a lot of patience with each other around then.

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  39. Scary! Ice is the worst.

    I guess it points out how cyclists are just sort of 'halfway important people' compared to cars in that they leave so little provision for our safety.

    What if the city only plowed a single lane for cars on each two lane street?

    I was thinking the other day that considering how much cyclists save the city in road costs and how we don't add to the environmental disasters like cars do, we ought to actually be paid to cycle. A small monthly stipend would be nice... sort of a reverse tax for helping to save the planet. Of course this will never occur.

    I also agree that there's actually few things that fit easily on a rack alone.

    jn

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  40. A mountain bike would be ideal for those conditions. And lugged steel versions do exist. Think Bridgestone MB1. Nothing like a little off road riding to hone ones bike handling skills over rough pavement. Though I no longer own a mountain bike, it was mountain biking that really got me interested many years ago. And it's been around so long, it's beginning to be beyond trendy.

    If you can do fixed gear, a mountain bike would be easy.

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  41. oh, I should also say that the 'zig-zag' fishtailing you describe is a sometimes common trait of snow biking on regular tires. and the common tactic to get through is, as you did, not to panic and brake or slow down so much that you flip over. Breathe, pedal and maintain constant velocity. So, yes, hooray for surviving that! It's easier to handle when it's happening in the middle of an honest-to-God blizzard and all of the other cars are crawling along as well.

    Also, it sometimes helps to be muttering the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, too. At least it helps me.

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  42. Unfortunately, even where the bike lanes are cleared, cars are illegally parked in them. Adding insult to injury is the fact that the cities refuse to do anything about it.

    Take the lane. Period. And if you have the capability, take pictures and submit to the police. Even if they don't care, insist that it goes on the record, and if that driver ever causes a crash the photos could be used as evidence that "I didn't see him" is a lie.

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  43. Hmm. Maybe you could not post my previous comment about Mountain Bikes. I just looked at the photos, but didn't read the article prior to commenting. I do think Mountain bikes are great for rough conditions and riding off road does hone one's skills, but my comment wasn't really appropriate for this post. Clearly, you had an unpleasant experience and were probably not looking for that kind of response.

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  44. You bring up a good point about the different
    attitude toward traffic lanes and bike lanes.
    Years ago we were traffic because we fought
    to be treated like operators of vehicles.
    However, with the ever increasing number of
    bikes lanes we are now viewed as pedestrians
    with wheels.

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  45. Have you emailed your city roads department, mayor, and various elected officials who will want your vote in future? I hope you include the link to your blog posting and comments also!

    Like another commenter, I live in a "gravel in the (few) bike lanes after a snowfall-area". Additionally Saanich (adjacent to Victoria, BC) also plows the road snow onto the sidewalks raising the same risks/issues for pedestrians!!
    J

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  46. arevee - Not at all, I thought your previous comment was useful. If winter was this bad around here all the time, I would indeed get a mountain bike, lugged or not.

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  47. My current model Gazelle Toer Populair purchased in Australia has the same rat trap rack. All the other Gazelle models imported here seem to have the straps ! I have purchased a Basil clip on bag and ( just today ) a small Basil Catania folding side-mounted basket for it as I don't trust the "rat trap" much either ! A top mounted basket would most likely interfere too much with my getting on and off the diamond frame ... that's one big advantage of the step-through model !

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  48. to avoid ice and or snow melt, i drove to Westport Ma. Parked at Horseneck Beach and rode to Little Compton RI..Barely any snow on the ground, maybe 15 cars past us in 3+hrs. highly recommended.

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  49. Hi I am new to this whole blogging thing but I follow yours like every day! Finally I can comment on something LOL. I just bought a Gazelle Toer Populaire and yes it does have a hook area to attach those bungee straps. I have two racks, the original one that it came with with the "rat trap" and one without. I switched it to the one without because I wanted the traditional kickstand that goes underneath the wheel in addition to that Harley Davidson of a kickstand that modern Gazelles come with and it is attached to a different rear rack. The bike shop that was receiving it from a different dealer just switched it out for me and gave me the double banded strap bungee cords complimentary and they work perfectly fine. Its like a knob near the bottom. I have the rat trap on my Peugeot folder and hardly ever use it.

    Cant comment on the snow because I am in south Florida :p It was a lovely 72 today.

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  50. "Marco said...
    In this condition coaster brake is dangerous..."

    sorry, I was not referring to the braking force, which is certainly higher in these conditions. I was referring to the loss of control... with the coaster brake in my opinion the bike is less manageable than a bike with cantilever brakes in wet or snow.
    I have a coaster brake bike, that in these conditions I'm afraid to use... I prefer the cantilever brakes where you need to control the bike...
    Velouria, sorry for my english... ;)

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  51. Gravel seems to be the "in" thing this year. Always before, we got a mixture of salt and sand. Our snow (in Asheville) has been gone for over a week, but the pea gravel will be with us indefinitely. We used to call those old Pletscher racks (and copies) "rat-tle traps" because of the noise they make when empty--and there's always a way to attach bungie cords. My current favorites are the long thin looped ones they sell in the supermarket for holding plastic trash bags in place in their cans--less than $2!

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  52. You persevered. And sounds like your balance and skills have gotten better than you admit?

    Good olives are like gold. I hope they were OK.

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  53. Kyle - That's a beautiful area; wished we lived closer!

    Bif - Yes, I think my balance skills have definitely improved and a year ago I would not have been able to handle the same situation. I love good olives. Italian or French, and there mustn't be any vinegar in the ingredients.

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  54. I have to agree with Marco. Sure, an internally braking hub is not going to be affected by snow, ice, etc. in the same way that a rim brake would, but having two brakes that can be used independently, and with more modulation, more than makes up for this difference, in my experience. And of the rear hub brake choices, the coaster brake probably offers the least modulation and compromises your ability to make subtle balance shifts. BTW Marco, your English requires no apology...your point is perfectly clear!

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  55. With studded tires, ice is no problem, as long as you don't do anything stupid. Ice is far easier to deal with than deep snow or snow compressed by cars. A sheet of ice is easy to ride on. Heavily rutted or pitted ice or snow is problematic, however. It is bone-jarring and tiring.

    The advantage of a hand-operated rear brake is that it allows for pedaling against the braking force, to keep the rear wheel from locking up on an icy descent.

    Permanently mounted cargo straps are one of my favorite aspects of my omafiets. I'm never without a way to carry significant cargo securely. And when not in use, they just get tucked to the front of the rack or around the rear fender. However, they can still crush delicate objects like food containers.

    In Chicago, many bike lanes are filled with snow, or with the cars displaced by the snow filling the parking spaces. I just take the normal travel lane. Amazingly, Chicago drivers have reacted fine to this. Or I'm Mr. Magoo-ing my way past the insults and gestures.

    Dan.

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  56. Regardless of a bike lane you are legally entitled to be on the road and use a certain amount of space left of the fog line. I was told to ride on the part of the road where the right side tires track and front passenger of a car would sit and don't BUDGE. This is a trick motorcyclists use and it also legally applies to cyclists-dependent on the speed limit. I started trying it in places where there is no shoulder and I normally get squeezed into muck and it works. Some drivers are just going to be rude no matter what.
    The politeness is gone because in driver's minds the crisis is past, their roads are cleared and all is back to normal. Who cares about the cyclists when they have to get somewhere in two minutes?
    I for one would not even want to attempt to bike those bike lanes. When I did bike in the winter snow I would encounter some snow and ice, but would ride on the road if there was a blessed snow mountain on the side.
    But wow, that road is going to be a mess in the spring. There is a section of 'bike lane' on my commute home where a pile of gravel got spilled and I almost fell off when riding my raleigh last week. It was like riding on marbles!
    Snow tires would be a wise investment for at least one bike.

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