Thursday, January 15, 2009

Head Makes a Good Ice Breaker

This morning's ride was more treacherous than usual thanks to a night of freezing rain. But at first I didn't appreciate how hazardous it might be because the streets were merely wet. I rode up above Városmajor liget to drop off my boy at day care, and then back down the körút to the river without slipping or even seeing much ice at all.

Then I turned onto the riverside bike path just north of Battyannyi tér -- and bam! Down I went, as my tires slipped on a gleaming sheet of rain-slickened ice. It was so slippery, I could barely get back on my feet and onto the bike. I started peddling ever so gingerly, but my back wheel spun out anyway. Regaining traction, I followed the path very slowly to the next crossing, and then got onto the road. I wasn't keen to get into rush hour car traffic, but at least the road wasn't icy.

I was wondering why it is that while the bike path was glazed over with a half-centimeter sheet of frozen rain, the road was merely wet. It was the same last night up in Szentendre. The walking paths around our office were encrusted in ice but the roads perfectly safe.

I guess the difference is that the roads get a lot of car traffic, which wears away the ice before it can build up, and also the ever-present residue of salt from the frequent passings of salt spreaders during the winter season.

With bike paths completely neglected during winter, the only safe way to ride in snow and sleet is on the streets. This isn't the case in better biking cities. In Gothenburg, Sweden, for example, the city's "biking highways" are the first things to get cleared after a snowfall. There's a city that takes its cyclists seriously.

1 comment:

Char said...

I ride on a bike path a lot on my bike commute to and from work. It is somewhat maintained by the National Park Service - though they don't salt or plow it - we are on our own for that. :/ I do have a mountain bike with studded tires, so that helps a little - but still, it's quite a balancing act to make it through the ice and snow. Be careful out there! :)