Being car-free arouses a lot of derision, but after a while you get used to it. People assume you’re poor, or an alcoholic. They’ve bought into the car culture they where raised with, and to see someone getting by without ever owning a car kicks a reflex.
However, with global environmental concerns getting more news coverage and fluctuating fuel prices, people are getting less freaked out about it.
That is, until winter arrives.
Most winters, I can honestly say, I’ve been a wimp. I put the bike away and take the bus or walk to my destination. Last winter was the first time I ever rode a bicycle in the snow to get to the store. It was surprisingly easy, but I didn’t really have a bike in condition to do it on a regular basis – so I filed it away in the back of my mind.
Over the course of the summer of 2008, I collected a few bicycle frames, wheels, parts and whatever bicycle related items I could scavenge when people cleaned out their garages. I found a fairly intact department store mountain bike – I’m usually fairly picky about these because of their low-quality manufacturing and questionable design decisions. This one I saved with the intent of putting it on the heavily salted roads in Ottawa. It’s a bike that I can get to the store with, but can leave covered in slush outside without concern about how badly the water and salt are corroding the parts.
Here we are, part way into January and I’m still riding it nearly every day. I even took it out twice yesterday during the massive snow fall we had, just for kicks. I’ve discovered not only is it a great workout, it’s fun and easy! The roads are usually kept clear for the cars, so riding on those is not much different from riding in the rain. The snow, when it’s powdery presents little challenge to cut through in a low gear.
I guess people just aren’t used to the idea – I wasn’t until recently, so I guess I can’t blame them. These same people would likely go skating or skiing in the same weather however, so the name calling is a little undeserved. I think the neighbor that called me ‘brave’ was really only searching for a polite term because I’d shoveled her walkway that day.