I Want to Ride My Bicycle, or: On Days Like Today, It Pays to Be Car-Free in Big D
The dog days of winter: the scene in Deep Ellum this morning
To the Dodge Ram driver who was futilely spinning his wheels on the Woodall Rodgers Freeway exit ramp this morning; the Lexus driver who locked her brakes and whirled her car across Maple Avenue; and the Ford 150 driver who couldn't find the traction he needed to turn on to Hood Street: I'm now sitting by the space heater in my office, drinking hot tea.
And to my mother, who was aghast when I told her she could follow my commuting adventures online today ("Do not let Wilonsky goad you into unsafe biking just for a story," she e-mailed at 1 a.m. "Biking in slippery snow is very dangerous."): I didn't crash once getting here.
So maybe it's not perfect bike riding weather. When I left my house for the gym this morning, conditions were still so treacherous that I ended up walking my bike most of the way. It was too dark to distinguish the manageable icy patches from the dodgy ones. The streets were unsanded, the sidewalks were unsalted; I was continuously slapped in the face by sleet and occasionally knocked down by rogue wind gusts.
"Be careful with that bicycle, baby," a concerned passerby told me.
But after the sun came up, my bike seemed like a reasonable way to travel. Call me crazy -- which is what the usually taciturn fellow at the Downtown YMCA check-in desk did -- but I think bikes might have the edge on cars in nasty winter weather.
My bike doesn't have a heater, of course: If I'm counting correctly, I put on 14 items of clothing this morning (in addition to insulation, extra layers provide good padding when you hit the pavement.) And if we faced snow and ice more frequently in Dallas, I'd have a bike equipped with fenders and studded tires, as I did when I lived in the Adirondacks.
Yet my bike served me well this morning. I could pick a mostly melted line through the ice that cars couldn't maneuver, and I didn't have to worry about getting my vehicle stuck somewhere. The streets were empty, which is just how a cyclist likes them. Still, I largely stuck to the sidewalk, since I figured I'd be pretty defenseless if a car spun out alongside me -- or if I crashed and sprawled out on the street (that happened a few weeks ago when I hit a splotch of black ice, which I why I now have a good bruise on my thigh and new ice-ready tires on my bike.)
I reached work about 15 minutes later than usual. The office was dark; only music editor Pete Freedman -- a fellow veteran of upstate New York winters -- had made it in. Might just be time for my colleagues to trade their cars for bikes.
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