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February 24, 2009

Cyclist to Blizzard: Screw You!

Out of Winnipeg comes this interesting tale by Jonathan Dyck:

Everyone in Winnipeg seems to understand the difficulty of commuting to work on days when the snow comes down thick and the wind won't let up. Whether you frequent public transit, walk or take your own vehicle, a blizzard will find some way to disrupt your morning routine.

What everyone doesn't seem to understand on days like these is why twentysomethings like me stubbornly take up vehicle lanes on our bicycles, especially when visibility is poor at best.

He can't really explain just why he, and many others do it, but his story is as funny as it is serious in its discussion of the subject.

At every intersection I could feel motorists glaring at me, imagining the collision or wipeout I was fated to have. Those images run through my mind, too. But I don't have airbags. Nor do I have tinted windows to hide behind. The only thing that keeps me warm is moving my legs up and down. My safety rests upon the layers of wool sweaters and old scarves I've accumulated over the years. Enough to make me look like a thrift-store spectacle.

I wear a heavy winter coat, a scarf, a tuque and mittens - no helmet. Not because of the way it looks. When I'm cycling downtown, it's obvious my appearance isn't that important to me. My reason for riding without a helmet is simply because it doesn't fit with my tuque on, and I'd rather have warm ears than protect myself from a fall that might never happen. I'll wear it again when things warm up a bit in March. Each season brings its own hazards, but winter is far and away the most gruelling.

Among the things he discusses is the cammeraderie among cyclists who ride in these condition, and how there seems to be nothing similar among motorists, or users of other modes of transportation, regardless of the weather.

Read the full piece in The Toronto Globe and Mail:

Hello, blizzard. My bike shall defeat you: Winnipeg's blowing snow, monstrous potholes and glaring motorists won't keep me from my daily thrill.


February 24, 2009 in The Well Read Cyclist | Permalink


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I live in IL and work in Chicago proper.

City cyclists in general are freakin' insane.

Riding a bike anywhere in Chicago, but along the lakefront, is literally a life-threatening endeavor.

City bus drivers will clip you just for fun, then clip you again if you have the nerve to give chase.

I have one customer who is crazier than the rest.

He not only rides the city streets, he does it year round.

I asked him once, on a -20F day that he was getting ready to go out riding in, how cold a day he'd still go out to ride.

He said, "Minus forty."

THAT is crazy.

But I DO get why, though it may not make sense to some, and there are obviously degrees to the reasoning.

People who love riding love it in part for the challenge.

In a very real, very common way, cycling on almost any level requires the acceptance and overcoming of pain.

Depending on how, and when you ride, the pain is different, but it's often there.

For most cyclists, that pain itself is a very significant part of the challenge; it's part of what must be overcome, like the road or trail, like a hill, like other riders, like cars and busses, like rain and cold and snow.

These challenges take on personalities, almost like they're another person, and they taunt, they mock, they ridicule.

Overcoming them, sticking a thumb in their eye, is what makes riding fun, worthwhile, even obsessive.

Many of us, most of us for that matter, stop short of facing snow storms and temps of -40F.

But any of us who will take a minute to reflect on why WE ride, will have little problem understanding why others push themselves to those limits.

Posted by: Tom | Feb 24, 2009 3:55:11 PM

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