Winter Wobblies

I’d forgotten how hard it is to ride on snow. While it is still loose, it’s like pedalling through sand but it rolls into snowballs under the mudguards and around the brakes. Compacted snow is worse, nearly as slippery as ice but twice as bumpy so Brown Bike and I do our famous imitation of Bambi on an ice rink. For these conditions, an MTB with nobblies or spikes and disk brakes would be more sensible. (I whisper it quietly, for I love Brown and Ruby Bikes.) But we ventured out today, before the white stuff gets a chance to freeze and rethaw. Food stocks are low and BB wanted some fun.

A shared-use path is near the fence, usually a reasonable alternative to a road recently upgraded to dual-carriageway, but currently impassable by bike. We used the road instead. Keeping well clear of the slushy gutter was fine on this quiet Sunday but I’m not sure about tomorrow, when I need to go that way again.

BB could almost, but not quite, stand up by himself in the snow.

I used to take a large rucksack for shopping by bus but I’m not sure if that’s wise with an osteoporotic spine. I need one of those shopping-baskets-on-wheels that old folk use. Does this make me one of the old folk? Hmm, let’s not go there. I’d take the bike trailer but it’s too big and heavy for buses. So it made sense to do the shopping today. Life gets complicated when the weather gets dodgy, the body gets crumbly, and I don’t have a car. Winter is when I miss Katie, my ancient Land Rover, the most. She was happy on snow, ice, mud or anything. If I lived in a place with dodgier weather than here, I’d get the bike equivalent of a Landy.

Before BB was a twinkle in Mr Raleigh’s eye, I commuted on Yellow Bike between Haxby and York. One winter was particularly rough with snow and ice everywhere. Following an operation for varicose veins, I had to wear surgical stockings. Toasty warm and wonderful. Today I have long johns under my trousers. Overkill for cycling as it’s only around freezing, but useful if I need to get off and walk.

Snow is also loved by cars. Now, instead of merely blocking pavements by parking on them, they compact the snow and make it lethal for pedestrians. And these are off-road sports utility vehicles, who doubtless also want their fun. My Katie, I hasten to add, was a real Land Rover, not a Discovery or Range Rover. I was and remain a Landy snob.

While I was photographing this example, the driver returned and wanted to know if there was anything wrong with his parking. I pointed out that two of his wheels were on the pavement. He said that was because the snow had narrowed the available road, so he parked there “in the interests of road safety”.

He didn’t use the almost empty car park across the road, for some reason, nor the very large car park on the other side of the supermarket. He seemed to think the rational decision was to park on the pavement, to block and endanger pedestrians, “in the interests of road safety”.

He also said he would take up the matter with a named local councillor, who I happen to know chairs the parish council and admires a certain Mr J Clarkson. I also know that yellow lines are shortly to be painted at this location. But the pavement is wide, so I guess motorists won’t bother to merely straddle the kerb when they can drive entirely on it. “In the interests of road safety”, of course.

I then posed while he snapped me with his mobile phone. That was fair enough as I had taken a few of him. If you see a bearded bloke grinning broadly in hi-viz, fleece hat and black plastic hat being mocked on a piston-head blog, that’s probably me.

Pavement parkers aside, no problems with traffic. Everyone gave me plenty of room, and waited patiently at junctions or I waited patiently for them. Back in my village the roads hadn’t been swept and cars had compacted the snow horribly so I walked.