Saturday Night Bike Blogging: Freedom versus Bikeways

Yesterday, I did something different …

… I decided that I would Take the Long Way Home

… as that Tom Waite{NB} lyric says at the beginning:

Well I stumbled in the darkness

I’m lost and alone

Though I said I’d go before us

And show the way back home

There a light up ahead

I can’t hold onto her arm

Forgive me pretty baby but I always take the long way home

{NB. No, that is not Tom Waite singing the song. Good eye!}

Now, I wasn’t literally lost. What I did was decide that, with four days off coming up, I could take the long way home, which ought to be very pretty this time of year. Instead of going down the county highway to turn left onto the township highway to turn right onto the main county highway that goes straight to my (current) home town …

… I decided to turn right to go past the Quarry, then cross the state route to go along the Lake road then the bike trail that runs to my home town.

And I was glad I did, because it was a terrible route, and I set me thinking about bikeways versus freedom to ride.

Sometimes you have time to think …

… when you Take the Long Way Home

… and (with some line prompting from the Intertubes) I recall that that lyric includes something about:

Cos you’re the joke of the neighborhood

Why should you care if you’re feeling good

Take the long way home

Take the long way home

… which also says something to the winter transport cyclist in a USA where most people’s imaginations on transport is trapped in a 1970’s daydream.

It had been in the high 30’s during the day, and had been for several days, so the roads and even road shoulders were clear. The occasional patch of slush requires attention but poses no serious risk.

Until the bikeway, when there is snow on top of slush. The bikeway, after all, is crushed gravel with a layer of sand on top. Since it runs through shady woods, it gets less direct sunlight than most of the road, and since it is a light color, it doesn’t melt the snow as fast if some of the bikeway surface starts to peak through.

And, of course, since the bikeway is only for three season use, since of course it is for recreational biking rather than existing as a transport route, it of course is not cleared of snow after a snowfall … as even the township highways are, once the state routes then county highways have been cleared.

Indeed, if I had strap on belts with spikes for my tires, I definitely would have strapped them on … but apart from the little question of whether anyone makes any such useful thing, and that I probably couldn’t afford them anyway, but they would be most useful for coping with my on-road nemesis of freezing rain … with several inches of snow on top of slush, I imagine they would of some use, but not quite as effective.

So far, in my crash course as a transport cyclist in the winter, I have coped with most road conditions, and my biggest concern has been with balancing retaining sufficient heat with shedding excess heat and sweat. But that has been because I had already switched to a route that was almost entirely on-road.

If I had still been using my original route that went via the bikeway to the Lake road, I would have been forced to abandon.

Of course, it was no catastrophe …

… because after all, I was intending to Take the Long Way Home (original promotional video clip)

Turned up in places that I never intended to go

And so ended my youth

I once depended on proof, now I’m in the flow …

There are things I know beyond knowing,

I’ve never seen a seed growing

I was going back home, when a man said Stop

I want to have what you have,

and get what you got …

I got it sleeping rough on the streets in the rain

I got it learning to share my peoples pain

I got it making flowers grow in hearts of stone

I got it ‘cos I always take the long way home

… so I went with the flow. I dismounted and walked much of the first leg, until it crosses a county road. It is paved at that point since it rises to the county road and then falls back to the grade of the branch rail line that it follows from that point on. Turns out, slush is little problem free wheeling down in a straight line … and after that, by some accident of drainage or slope, I found drier snow. And, of course, cycling on fairly dry snow two or three inches deep is about the same work as cycling on a gravel and sand track.

And on one point I was definitely right … it was beautiful at this time of year.

Of course, when I came to the point where the path brushed a back road that got onto one of the main roads coming into my home town, I left the cycleway, and got back to the road, and freedom from slush.

Mind you, this freedom from slush is entirely due to sharing the road with cars. First the snowplows came along and got most of the snow off the top, dropping salt behind them, and then the cars drove the resulting slush into melt water, and then in the series of days in the high 30’s, the melt water in turn melted the snow pile on the shoulder until the dark pavement of the shoulder in the wan winter sun could do the rest.

On the other hand, most of our freedoms are collective goods. If I am going to be paying for those roads, those snowplows and that road salt, through my city and state income taxes and local and state sales taxes, I see no reason to deny myself the use of them just because I am using a two-wheeled non-motorized road vehicle to get to work.

UPDATE: Saturday Evening Bike Blogging

Saturday Night Bike Blogging

Saturday Bike Blogging: Sidewalk Cycling and Other Suicide Lotteries

Saturday Night Bike Blogging: Gearing Up for the Commute

Saturday Night Bike Blogging: Legal Cycle Commuting

Saturday Night Bike Blogging: Winter Bike Commuting

Saturday Night Bike Blogging: I wanna Electric Bike

Saturday Night Bike Blogging: Innovate or Die Pedalpower Contest

Belated Saturday Night Bike Blogging: Breaking Bikes

Saturday Night Bike Blogging: Counting fingers and toes

Saturday Night Bike Blogging: The Joy of Winter Biking

Is the Pony/Pie/Hide rating system too cutsie?

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    • BruceMcF on December 22, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    … pony shoes for snow would have been better than Schwinn’s version of this here new-fangled Iron Horse …

    … but OTOH, I would have no idea how a pony should be shod for winter.

    • pfiore8 on December 22, 2007 at 10:25 pm


    On the other hand, most of our freedoms are collective goods. If I am going to be paying for those roads, those snowplows and that road salt… I see no reason to deny myself the use of them just because I am using a two-wheeled vehicle…

    emphasis mine…

  1. his bike for a month or so. We live in Portland OR so snow isn’t the problem but the rain is. Wet, muddy and dark on his 14 mile commute that did it. His usual route is a combination city streets, and bike trails, some paved others dirt. The dark comes early here 4:30 or so and even though he has lights plus reflective clothing it’s spooky, and treacherous. He’s going back to riding at the end of January when the days start getting longer.

    I love your bike blogging, it keeps me from getting lazy and not riding. This one is really inspiring and reminds me once you are on the bike and moving you find it’s an adventure, one which makes life more real and time also. In Portland the bike roots share the streets with car lanes, the bike route streets often have less cars then bikers. Thanks for the winter ride!          

    • melo on December 23, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    i took my unshod horse out riding with 2 shod horses a couple days ago. their hooves slipped on the ice, mine didn’t.

    connected? dunno…

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