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Dec 14

Snowy Commute

We got our first good snow of the year yesterday.  The local weather forecasters were talking up the event like it was going to be a blizzard.  I’ve heard this same talk plenty of times since we moved to Rhode Island and most times, the storm diminishes and we get a light dusting.  So I decided to ride anyways, figuring I could always catch the bus if it was too nasty.  Well, by about 2:30pm, we had somewhere around 5″ of snow and people were beginning to bail from work; so the forecasters weren’t completely off.

I try riding, it’s not far to the bike trail and I’d be totally safe once I made it there.  As it turns out, there was such gridlock downtown, that I was plenty safe.  Pedestrians were making far better time than cars.  As I approached the entrance to the bike trail, there was a woman standing on the edge of the road, her car was stuck.  She asked if I had a cell phone and proceeded to say, “oh, I thought you were the police.  You know, one of those bike police.”  I guess this gives you a sense of how much reflective gear I wear at night ;)  She proceeded to make her phone call and I overheard her say “nobody would even stop for me, except this nice guy on a bicycle.  Yeah, a bicycle.”

I wished her luck and went on my way.  I brought my snow bike, an old mountain bike with 2.1″ studded tires.  The bike trail can get pretty rutted if people have been walking on it and this bike lets me stay upright.  Well, let me tell you, pushing it through 5″ of snow is a workout.  After 10 miles, I decided to bail and changed paths to find a bus stop.  I finally reached a stop and waited, waited, waited…  Fortunately, I had plenty of extra cloths in panniers.  I ended up wearing an  odd assortment of biking and work clothes, but they kept me from completely freezing.  As I was standing by the side of the road, I counted 5 buses going into the city, but not a one going the other direction.  I started to wonder, how would I know if RIPTA decided the weather was just too bad and they stopped service?  I could be standing out here a really long time!

At one point, I spoke with my wife and was feeling pretty guilty about my commute choice.  I figured I would have been home by now, if I had just taken the bus from the beginning.  Eventually a bus approached.  The driver didn’t seem to be slowing down, so I started waving madly.  He eventually stopped, a ways past where I was standing.  It was completely packed, but it was warm!  I later suspect I have the other riders to thank for the driver stopping.  As we continued on our way, passengers would start yelling, “driver, there’s someone at the stop up there.”  I’m not sure he would have stopped otherwise, given how packed the bus was.  The topic of discussion was invariably, how long peopled had been trying to get home.  A woman standing nearby, said they had boarded this bus downtown at 1:30pm!  That was more than an hour after I had started biking.  Suddenly, I realized my commute choice hadn’t been horrible, I managed to make it out of the city faster than I would have by bus.

Today, I had a chance to speak with some other people who tried to ride the bus.  Because of the weather, drivers were not allowing people to stand and only allowing people to board if there were enough seats.  How my bus became so full by the time it reached the point where it picked me up, I’m not sure.  Many co-workers were standing out waiting for the bus for two or three hours before they could even get on.

Once again, the bike comes out looking pretty good.  I do have to admit though, I’m pretty darn sore this morning!

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