Monday, February 9, 2015

In Which I Barely Survive a Short Commute

Friday afternoon, bike at MMU campus. Warm sunshine, but I  did not ride this bike (this is not The Beast). In fact, if you look close, you may notice the front brake on this bike has been disabled. I hope whoever rides it later notices!

OK, universe, I get the message. Friday was too soon. I’m hoping, after some sun and warmth this weekend, that Monday will prove better. Wish me luck.

February has been a pretty much total bust, for a bicycle commuters, because10 inches of snow blanketed Cedar Rapids streets and sidewalks Feb. 1. After a bit of warmth, and five days after the snowfall, I decided that Friday would be the day I would try to bike for the first time this month.

I got about a block from home. The sidewalk along C Avenue was full of fluffy tan stuff, a mix of kicked up snow and sand that was deep and soft like an unstable beach. But I was on the The Beast, a mountain bike, and was making decent progress on the first stretch up the hill. I figured once I passed the C Avenue Bridge, the sidewalk would improve.

But I didn’t find out what was beyond the bridge. The sandy snow “beach” went from several inches deep to what appeared to be about a foot deep right at the C Avenue Bridge over Dry Creek. If you’ve never experienced a fall from a bicycle, I hope you never do. They are not slow-mo events where your life flashes before your eyes. Instead, when a moving bike hits the tipping point, you instantly flip, going from riding way above the ground to a hard landing on the ground in a bone-jarring nanosecond.

Wear your helmets, kiddos.

And I fell towards the street, almost tumbling over the guard rail, catching myself while my body was still on the sidewalk with my head hanging into one of Cedar Rapids most busy traffic ways.

My life didn’t flash before my eyes in the second it took to collect myself and withdraw my cranium from probable crushing, but grim images of what could have been or horrific headlines (Crazy Biking Professor Decapitated By Garbage Truck) did quickly occur to me.

OK, universe, I got the memo. Friday was too soon. I stood up, assessed the status of my bones (nothing broken or even sore, I was traveling very slowly, and even if the fall itself felt instant, it wasn’t fast enough to injure me beyond a minor mark on one shin—and a snow beach is a soft spot to land in), and turned around. It felt odd getting back on The Beast (should I really ride at all?), but the snow in front of me on the way home wasn’t the deep stuff on the bridge, and I had no scary incident returning to home to put The Beast away and hop into Rodrigo the Montego.

Scene of the spill. I fell right at the edge of the bridge and almost went over the guard rail. This is Sunday, however, and note while some snow and ice is here, the deep stuff has melted.

Well, better luck today, I hope. In the cloudy but pleasantly warm afternoon Sunday, my wife and I strolled about the neighborhood, including walking across the C Avenue Bridge. I’ll have to be careful there today due to ice—and if it looks iffy, I’ll stop and walk my bike across it—but the deep sandy snow mix has melted away. Honestly, I’m hoping that the slickest part of the commute will be on my own sidewalk, which is north of the house and tends to be very icy when melting starts.

We’ll see. I’m taking a risk, I know. I hope it’s not a crazy one. But life is full of risk and even commuters end up dead if their Rodrigos get hit by garbage trucks. Let’s hope for safe drivers and riders in garbage trucks, other trucks, cars and bikes today!

9:30 a.m. update: As I rode towards the C Avenue Bridge, I noted a walker crossing it, coming in my direction. My habit is to stop and wait off to the side before crossing, when a walker is approaching--in my opinion, a sidewalk belongs to the walkers, and if conditions force me to use my bike on it, I still always give them the right of way, and the bridge is too narrow for both walker and biker to use in comfort, so the walker should win. Anyway, as he approach, the north-bound walker man said "watch out, there's some ice on the bridge." There was, and I had to dismount and walk part of it. It was not the only time I crossed ice on the way in, although at other times it was smooth enough that I just coasted over it without having to walk The Beast. I arrived at MMU, safe and sound, no scary incidents on the commute in to report. Whew!

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