Sunday, December 26, 2010

In Praise of Wet Pavement at 19 Degrees

I may be bragging just a bit, but this photo shows what my front sidewalk looked like on Christmas Day, 2010.

It's mostly snowless (and iceless) and wet.

We had a light dusting of now again last night, so today, Dec. 26, I again scraped the walk off and it looks a lot like this again.

Which is important. The low winter sun is in the sky today, and the temperature is 19.

Now, those of you who remember high school science know that in the Fahrenheit thermometer system, water freezes at 32 degrees and science fiction novels are written at 451 degrees.

So why is the pavement "wet?" Because, if it gets over 15 degrees or so, and the sun shines, it will warm the pavement to higher than the ambient air temperature. If most of the snow has been shoveled off of a piece of pavement, then the warming will melt the remaining snow, which will mostly evaporate into the dry winter air as the temperature drops, rather than freezing in place. If water is 1/2 inch thick or more, it freezes and become dangerous to walkers and bikers.

But, if the pavement is merely "wet" without "splashing," it's on it's way to becoming a dry paved surface, very safe for winter transit.

However, snow, even a very thin layer of snow, make s a huge difference. Cover this sidewalk above in 1/2 inch of snow, and shine the sun on it as 19 degrees, and what happens? The snow remains, possibly becoming crusty and icy.

Or, on a Cedar Rapids side street, scrape all but the last 1/2 inch of snow, but compact the rest, and you get a very persistent, won't melt below 32 degrees and even then only very slowly, icing that can last for many sunny winter days.

Audrey got me a snow blower this year, not for Christmas, but earlier. I've been enjoying it--it was a great tool when 7.8 inches fell the day before Christmas. But even in my shovel days, and even today when there was not enough to burn dead dinosaurs and I merely scrape-cleaned with a shovel, I've been a bare pavement fan.

Thanks to all of you out there who are also snow scrapers. The sun today will make your walks very usable, and I for one may use some of them.

There are many adjustments to living in an Iowa climate. Learning to clear snow is one of them.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A No-Bike White Christmas

It’s the night before Christmas, and I’m going to blog quickly and then go to bed so I can get to church at 9 a.m. and the day can officially begin.

Christmas has long been one of my favorite days, for both religious and secular reasons. As a child, it was a day that not only had no school, but began a week of no school, and that was fine by me. Our parents used to sneak into our bedrooms and leave our stocking on our bed—in all my years of childhood, I was such a deep sleeper that I never caught on once. And I have no explanation for why the idea of Santa sneaking into my bedroom didn’t creep me out.

Anyway, there is warmer weather on the way, so maybe we’ll melt some of this foot of snow on the ground. We had 3 to 4 inches, and added 8 in the past 24 hours.

A White Christmas is also a no-bike Christmas, and that’s too bad. If weather allowed, I’m sure I would have worked some bicycle excursions into my Christmas break plans, but not this winter!

Oh well. As I noted, warmer weather is on the way.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Snow, snow, snow, snow!

I don't let cold weather keep me off my bike.

But, since I took a nasty fall last January, I'm taking more seriously a rule I've always had--no pavement, no riding.

Snow is in the air today, on top of other snow, on top of ice. It does not look to be shaping up as a good winter for a bike commuter.

Oh well. I'll ride a bike in the gym to be ready for spring, and look forward to getting back on the saddle sometime in 2011. I just hope it's before March ...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Everything's Up to Date

Just got back from a fun trip to Kansas City.

Not sure if it's a practical place to bike, but where I was, definitely not. Audrey and I stayed near the plaza and strolled there at night, and I noticed several bikes chained outside restaurants, either for patrons or employees.

Well. Cedar Rapids may have some work to do so it can be bike friendly, but it's already more bike friendly than the plaza in Kansas City.

When you want to use 2 wheels, Cedar Rapids is probably the right size. Smaller and there is nowhere to go. Bigger and there's no way to go there.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Polite School Bus Driver

I cycled to work for the first time this week today. Should have gone yesterday, my wife reports that E Avenue was clear, and it was the last street I was waiting for before hopping on two wheels again.

Whatever. I'm gambling today, as snow is in the forecast, but it's not supposted to start until later and I'm planning to cycle home while there is still daylight.

The commute this morning was OK. F and E have some iffy parts, but are largely clear--yet another reason to cycle home in daylight rather than trusting my lights.

F Avenue crosses Old Marion Road at a traffic light. North of the light, F is pretty narrow, and a school bus was coming up behind me as I cycled south on F.

Well, let the record show that this school bus driver did what few in his shoes would do. He was patient. While I was 1/2 block from the light on a narrow stretch of F with snow at my side, he simply slowed down and waited.

He passed me after we both had crossed Old Marion road--on a much wider stretch of road where his passing left me plenty of room.

Going slow for 2 minutes to wait until you get to a nice safe place to pass a bike? I like the way that school bus driver was driving--it's a model for us all.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Icing should be on cookies, not streets

Well, snow is bedeviling Cedar Rapids once again.

On Friday and Saturday, we had about an inch of the white stuff. I shoveled my walkways early Saturday, and had to freshen the renewal late that day.

But, with sunshine and temperatures in the 20s Sunday, my sidewalks quickly became bare pavement, as did the street in front of my house.

Sadly, that cannot be said for the route I would bike to work. I am not sure what the deal is in Cedar Rapids, but snow removal, if it's not a substantial snowfall, often sucks. Major streets are well plowed, but any side streets are left under a glaze of compacted white snow--and when we get a cold but sunny day, such as we had Sunday, that means those glazed streets just stay glazed.

Which is why I'm not bike commuting for the next few days.

It makes me a bit sad, because just one follow up sweep of Lindale and E and I would be able to ride. Not going to chance it thought, I'm mindful of what happened to me in January, a fall that I described in my other blog.

Again, Ron, if you're reading this--plowing the streets would be a popular move in snowy CR.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Nearly a UPS Hood Ornament

I thought of posting the license number (which I was close enough to see and did write down) but thought better of it--but I had one of those biker near death experiences Wednesday, which keeps life so interesting.

I left campus around 5:30 p.m. and was pedaling home. By 6, I had reached the corner of C Avenue and Blair's Ferry Road.

When I get to that road, I push the switch for a "walk" sign, and I followed my usual pattern. Once the little yellow guy was shining, I started north across Blair's Ferry, in the crosswalk. Did I mention I had a walk sign? I thought so.

A UPS truck was coming south on C, turning to head west on Blair's Ferry. I don't know if he was stunned or just pissed to see a biker in the crosswalk, but he waited until I was fairly close, and then gunned it around the corner.

Now, he didn't really threaten to hit me. But a big brown UPS van turning in front of you (maybe 2 yards in front of you) blocks the view of any cars coming down C behind it. If someone driving behind the truck were aiming for the left lane after the turn, his or her path would lead right through my torso.

Probably not doing it, or my bike, much good.

Well, if a Taurus trailing the UPS truck smacked into me, I hope my widow would sue UPS. Sure, the Taurus driver should watch out too, but the UPS truck was first in line and the "blocker."

Yes, it's December. Yes, its full dark at 6. Yes, I was wearing dark clothing (although there i sa white reflective band on my coat). But, yes, I have a light on my helmet, and two on the bike (as well as a rear light). No way did the UPS driver not see me.

Shame on you, UPS man . Not good PR for your company. Don't drive in ways that scare the bikers.