Tuesday, December 7, 2010

More snow, please

As the old saying goes, one picture says more than a thousand words. But if the picture in question is a crappy one, it only says some 800 words. So, as the three pictures in this post are low resolution, blurry photos taken with a mobile phone, I'll also crank out some regular words made out of letters to make this blog post 3000 words long.

In the weekend, a shitload of snow fell on southern Finland again. So I, for one, was surprised to find out that the bicycling routes were actually plowed pretty well this morning. My commute took only 5 minutes longer than usual. There were a couple of places where I had to carry the bike, though. Like this one:

This bit of light traffic pathway is often a challenging one. There's a steep ascent, under which there's a chicane consisting of two sharp turns. Apparently, the place is challenging also for maintenance vehicles, as it is usually sloppily plowed. This morning, however, the level of sloppy plowing had reached new, unforeseen heights: there was a bank of snow about one metre deep. The only way to negotiate this obstacle was to carry the bicycle, cyclocross-style, up the ascent while wading knee deep in the snow.

Of course, it's understandable that it isn't possible to plow narrow passages with a large vehicle. But how friggin' large was the vehicle that had to go around this traffic sign from the left?

It seems to me that there's no more space here on the left side of the traffic sign than there is on the right side. However, this road (Veturitie) had been plowed in a less-than-meticulous manner, i.e. all the trickier bits had just been bypassed. Well, at least in this place there were two alternative ways of advancing:
a) carry the bicycle while wading knee-deep
b) go against the stream of cars on the road.

Needless to say, all the commuters had chosen alternative b), as there were no signs of wading in the snow.

Then there's the intersection that I just love to hate:

Now, this intersection was redesigned and rebuilt some two years ago. Or perhaps it had already been designed in the 60's, when these kinds of sub-optimal solutions were favoured, and it wasn't feasible to change the plans, even though they should know better by now. Anyway, in their infinite wisdom, the designers chose to make the bike lane meander in a W shape, even though the road is totally straight. Then they added high curbs and put the lanes for pedestrians and bikes in slightly different levels to make it fancier. So, now we have an intersection that

  • slows down the bicyclists
  • forces the bicyclists to take sharp turns (dangerous when the road is slippery)
  • is, apparently, unplowable by machine (well, they could use shovels, couldn't they?)
  • has high curbs where you'd assume the bike lane goes (which may be surprising when the curbs are hidden by snow, or when there's bad visibility due to rain, fog or steamy goggles).
Also, pedestrians tend to optimize by walking in a straight line, even though the route meant for them takes turns (as you can observe in any park from the formation of paths in the grass). Therefore pedestrians usually cross the bike lane several times in this intersection, causing dangerous situations.

They should hand whoever designed this intersection a shovel and make him/her keep it rideable in the winter. Perhaps that way they'd think of maintainability when designing their next intersection.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Budget cyclist's lists of things

Yesterday there was a truck parked on the light traffic pathway, blocking all but a 30 cm strip of it. The driver had apparently pulled over there to speak on the mobile. I inched past it, cursing to myself.

Today there was a car parked on the light traffic pathway, blocking all but a 15 cm strip of it. The driver was loading some stuff in the trunk. I had to jump off and on the curb in order to get past the car. I pointed out to the driver that he'd parked on the bike lane. "Yeah, yeah", he replied.

Both of these drivers just made my list of enemies.

Budget cyclist's list of enemies (short version)
Then there's the list of entities who I don't quite consider enemies yet, but am watching closely.

Budget cyclist's list of not-quite-trustworthy entities
  • the police
  • the legislators (a.k.a. The Man)
  • teenagers
  • dog owners
  • SUV drivers
But I'm not totally paranoid & pessimist. I also have a list of things I like.

Budget cyclist's list of likes

And, for the sake of completeness, there's yet another list.

Budget cyclist's list of "meh"

  • everything else.