I’m not much of a winter biker. I’ve done it in the past and learned that it can actually be warmer and more comfortable than waiting for a bus. I expect I’ll do it again in the future.
But right now in my lice I drop off my daughter at daycare everyday on the way to work. Our bike commute already has it’s challenges. We live on a steep hill and when we get to the bottom we join the traffic frenzy around Forest Hills which is currently designed to support a highway interchange. The infrastructure encourage a high volume of traffic and is engineered to allow drivers to speed, and they do. Once we get through all of that, we can ride on the protected Pierre Lallement Bike Path in the Southwest Corridor Park and breath a sigh of relief. In the winter, the hill gets icy, snow mounds narrow the main roads and the drivers get testier. And, apparently, the Southwest Corridor bike path offers no refuge because the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation does not maintain it well after snowstorms, as has been reported in national news.
So, I don’t bike in the winter time. Maybe when my kids are older or if Hubway opens up year round in Boston that will change. But I have a lot of respect for winter bike riders and know that they’re in on a good thing. That’s why I find it outrageous that the DCR not only fails to properly clear snow from the bike paths, but as revealed in an email exchange posted on Universal Hub, some DCR higher ups have a dismissive view of bike commuters. Unfortunately, Universal Hub tends to have a right-wing bias and so many of the comments there reflect the idea that motor vehicles are normal and that bicycling is done by outsiders. They say that maintaining bike paths in the winter wastes “their” taxpayer money and that if someone wants to bike in the winter they should use the plowed city streets (of course, I expect that if they were drivers behind you on a bike they’d tell you to get off the road).
The way I see it is that the city has streets for everyone using whatever mode of conveyance of their choice, protected paths for bike riders and walkers, and limited access highways like I-90, I-93, and Storrow Drive exclusively for motor vehicles. Their would be outrage if Storrow Drive was not properly cleared after a snowstorm and drivers were told that they could still drive on the city streets. Similarily, the idea that bike paths are recreational and intended for commuters. Storrow Drive, Soldiers Field Road and other parkways are maintained by the DCR and are still expected to open for commuters at any time other than a state of emergency. It shouldn’t be too difficult for the DCR to send a plow down the bike path regularly during and after snowstorms, or arrange with another agency to do so. And yes, the paths are wide enough for a truck with a plow as they are routinely used by patrol cars and maintenance vehicles in the warmer months.
Anyhow, I’ve probably said too much, and I’m glad that other people and groups are working for a positive resolution as well as bringing attention to winter biking in Boston. Check out these links for more!
There has already been a positive response as the DCR is planning a meeting to discuss winter biking issues. More information at the ever-resourceful BCU website.