I have a confession to make.
I haven't ridden my bike outside since December 17th, more than a month ago. Here's a list of contributing factors:
1. We finally broke down and bought a second car after five years of sharing the Jeep. I now have a very convenient way to get to work without inconveniencing Kate and Austen. If I didn't like coffee and NPR in the morning so much, the bike/car contest might be a wash this time of year.
2. Austen has had an ear infection and has been waking in the middle of the night and/or at odd hours of the morning again, jarring our routine and causing us to occasionally oversleep, such that the additional 20 minutes at home in the morning I get from driving to work has been a necessity.
3. We got some actual snow that was just never plowed from the bike lanes or the shoulders of the roads. We had a thaw after that but then more snow and now a deep, deep freeze. I have taken note that portions of Williston Road that were plowed when they were car lanes are not plowed now that they are bike lanes.
4. I have switched over to my true winter bike. It is by far the bike I least enjoy riding. It is heavy and ungainly and I cannot seem to get it set up in the same riding position as my other bikes. I am cheap and thus refuse to replace the big knobby tires on it until I they wear out, and said tires are really too big for the fenders on the bike. It is really hard to get the fenders set up right and every little ding or bump to the bike sets them awry again.
5. It's cold. That doesn't make the riding itself all that unpleasant, but getting dressed for it is awful. I laid out all my stuff last night in preparation to ride in and I think altogether my winter biking gear weighs about 15 pounds, before I put on my bag with tools and tubes and such.
6. I've been sick, with the kind of upper respiratory thing that makes breathing cold air in and out really painful.
This got me thinking once again about those comparisons to Copenhagen and why Burlington is a different sort of place where our expectations about bicycle commuting might have to be a little different. When I look at that list up above, I imagine how things might be different if I lived, say, in the South End of Burlington and worked downtown. The commute would be half as long, much flatter, and on streets that are generally driven at a lower speed. I could do that. I could probably have one bike that would do that commute year-round. I probably wouldn't need special clothes or to shower at the end of my ride. It would probably be just as fast to ride as to drive, maybe faster. So maybe it is fair to compare Burlington to Copenhagen, but not Chittenden County or even the greater Burlington Area.
That raises a more interesting question for me: We have the density we have (not as dense as Copenhagen), we have lots of places we need to get to that are not always very proximate to each other, and we often have to get three people to and from three different places every morning and evening five days a week. Can or should we build infrastructure to serve that development pattern, or should we focus on changes in land use that make the additional infrastructure unnecessary? That's probably fodder for a whole other series of posts.
All that said, I do plan to get back out later this week or next week. I want to start seeing just how long I can leave the Jeep in the driveway for, even if it is tempting me with that warm, coffee-sipping ride to work with the dulcet tones of Morning Edition in the background.