Snowpocalypse cripples Canada’s Caribbean

by Raymond Parker on February 23, 2011

in Cycling, News

Iced latte, anyone?

The big news in this balmy (some say “barmy”) corner of Canada is the dump of snow that finally this winter allows us to claim our place within the greater Great White North.

Of course, everything ground to halt, as the #yyj Twittersphere cried “snowpocalypse!” A state of emergency was declared, allowing Victorians to go about the important business of cappuccino tasting and other essentials of West Coast living, uninterrupted by other distractions. Those who lived close enough to walk to work could still excuse being late due to long line-ups at Starbucks.

Driving was a challenge on side roads. I heard via Twitter that a Hummer had to be extricated from a ditch. Just goes to show that vehicle size is no indicator of driving skill.

I did spy a few hardy cyclists out today, and experienced riders had no trouble on the main thoroughfares downtown. The problem here, as I have often pondered, is how long these conditions might last and if it’s worthwhile to invest in studded tires? Prognosticators say it’s going to freeze hard tonight, but warmer weather is expected by the weekend, and with it the more customary Cascadian form of precipitation.

In the meantime, we can fly the maple leaf with pride, build igloos in the back yard and take snapshots to send to Alberta (follow my drift)? Take care out there (watch out for over-confident SUV drivers).

Here’s a few winter cycling tips for the Arctic Cycling Brotherhood.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add your spin! }

Lynn February 24, 2011 at 10:05 am

I remember trying to deal with a 6″ snowfall near Sechelt in 1968 — the whole area was paralyzed.

However, experience here in Colorado, where winter actually happens every year, bears out your comment about Hummers: there are too many people who drive SUVs but have no idea how to drive in the snow. Makes for amusing, if somewhat white-knuckled, driving after many snowstorms.

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Raymond Parker February 24, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Lynn, you are lucky at least to have “real snow.” It must be acknowledged that the snowpack here at sea level tends to be particularly treacherous due to it’s high water content at near, but not too far below, freezing. The snow crystals associated with these conditions are not particularly “grippy.”

Just as blue, or even white, x-country ski wax is usual in the interior, the coast is the realm of gooey klister. I don’t know that they’ve come up with the equivalent for tires.

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Ryan February 26, 2011 at 10:46 am

Seems like the past couple of years the “wet coast” has become the “snow coast” :p
It usually around this time of year I hear all of you out there bragging about how the windows are open and the cherry blossoms are in bloom.

I live in one of the milder and drier parts of Ontario and we’ve had a pretty rough winter.
Cycling has been exceptionally difficult as bike lanes are seldom cleared and when they are they are 100% pure ice.

It bothers me when I see (on a near daily basis) SUV’s and pick-ups zooming up and down the streets, in some cases going over the speed limit (50km/h).
I hear the calls for banning winter cycling, however I see motorists not adjusting their speeds or driving habits…Who should be the ones banned then?

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Raymond Parker February 26, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Ryan, I think drivers who already wonder about the sanity of those who prefer fresh air to air-conditioned boxes really can’t get their heads around winter cycling.

Certainly clearing snow for cyclists is not on the radar for Canadian cities. Even Copenhagen is probably an anomaly in Europe.

I haven’t had the occasion to check during this snowy interlude, but Victoria’s Galloping Goose/Lochside Trail is usually left to the elements–closing a cycle route that hundreds of bike commuters rely on–until warm weather (and rain) return to clear it. This can mean weeks in an impassable state.

We know that many drivers, SUV and pickup drivers in particular, resent sharing “their” roads with cyclists and are doubly irritated when we occupy space on roads narrowed by snowbanks.

The question remains the same in all weather: what’s the big hurry?

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Ryan February 28, 2011 at 6:28 am

I heard that Vancouver’s new (separate) bike lanes are maintained before the snow even falls. I believe it’s a special salt that is sprayed on them.

Here in Niagara we have the Welland Canal trail. For St. Catharines it’s not much of a commuter route, however it’s great because it does connect many cities in the region, and it’s about 97% off road.
This time of year it is either closed or becomes a “use at own risk” trail unfortunately.

I think when you look at most of Europe where cycle paths are not maintained, people still respect and expect to see cyclists out there.

As for “what’s the big hurry?” People know they can get away with speeding. On Ontario highways people go 20-40 km/h OVER the speed limit and rarely are stopped. As matter of fact I don’t think we have enough provincial police to stop people.

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Raymond Parker February 28, 2011 at 11:38 am

Well, as predicted, our snow troubles are just a memory. The last 48 hours of rain, and now sun, have seen to that.

I guess that’s why we are regarded as one of Canada’s top bicycle Meccas.

Still, we still have a long way to go, to truly warrant that appellation.

Crude @ $98 PB today.

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