Reflections on snow, bikes and Seattle

Interlaken Drive, Thanksgiving Day:

36 hours later:Now that we’re coming down from our week of gorging ourselves with food and playing in the snow, our city’s retail front has transitioned into Christmas “buy everything!” mode, and man was killed with a hatchet a few blocks from my home. Here are a few scattered thoughts on last week.

Like the photos above illustrate, this city can change quickly and dramatically. Every once in a while, nature likes to remind us city-folk who’s in charge, and puts our “we can keep the streets clear for cars” hubris in its place.

Riding a bike during the snow can be a lot of fun, but it’s not exactly easy. There were a couple times where streets were too steep and snowy to get up. However, unlike with a car, I was able to simply walk my bike up the hill, get on and continue riding. I did have to spend some time regreasing and lubing components on the bike that had gotten super rusty and squeaky because of the salt.

Clearing bike lanes was nowhere on the city’s priority list, and I had not expected it to be. During a big snow, clearing bus routes is undeniably the most valuable use of the city’s time. But even days after the snow has melted, the city’s bike lanes are full of debris left buried under the snow and salt.

Speaking of salt, it is funny that Mayor McGinn, the environmentalist, is the one who has been pushing the usage of salt on our streets. And yet, in the midst Monday’s snow chaos, he was oddly absent. Near noontime last Monday, when it was clear that the snow was going to keep coming, why didn’t the mayor make a statement urging employers to send people home immediately before the sun went down and the temperatures dropped? It seemed like the city was so confident that they had enough salt brine on the streets that they forgot Seattle has crazy steep hills. People should not have been given the expectation they would be able to drive or bus home.

On a snow day, Seattle moves at a much more reasonable speed. People walk. There are fewer cars, and people drive 15 mph at the most. Polo kids shovel the courts at Cal Anderson so they can play. Grocery stores are packed with people who walked there, maybe for the first time. People laugh a lot. Children lose themselves, playing as though the snow won’t be there tomorrow.

And they could very well be right.

About Tom Fucoloro

Founder and Editor of Seattle Bike Blog.
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2 Responses to Reflections on snow, bikes and Seattle

  1. mike archambault says:

    “…why didn’t the mayor make a statement urging employers to send people home immediately before the sun went down and the temperatures dropped?”
    This one rubs me the wrong way. Sure, it is important that we are not misled regarding our snow-fighting capabilities, but at some point, we all have a personal responsibility to make smart and safe decisions.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Oh, absolutely. I didn’t mean for it to come across as though I was giving a pass to all those people who tried driving up Queen Anne Ave even after the first of many cars came sliding down the hill out of control. But, clearly, the problem was systemic. It wasn’t just a few fools, there were lots and lots of people who needed to get home under those dangerous conditions. I feel like the city needed a leader to come out and say, “Go home, we might not be able to keep the streets clear for much longer.”

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