So why are there so many cyclists out in this cold and snowy winter? Wouldn't they be better off driving or taking to the shelter of the T to get where they're going?
Well there are as many reasons for winter riding as there are cyclists who are doing it. For some it may be that they train year-round for events like the Pan Mass Challenge. For others cycling is the most affordable and practical form of transportation for living in one of the most expensive metro areas in the country. And for those of us who absolutely, positively have to be at work on time you just can't beat the reliability.
One of the things we like most about bikes is that more people riding them makes things work better for everyone using our roads—and that goes double in winter. With Medford instituting restrictions on overnight parking for the rest of the season so plows and emergency vehicles can get through fewer cars out there really helps.
So are you thinking this winter riding thing is a pretty good deal after all? It sure is, and we encourage you to do it, but our number one priority is that you to do it safely.
These warmer, longer days of late-winter can make riding more pleasant, but with them comes a special hazard—black ice. Here to tell you about it is Medford resident and triathlete David Altman.
David, what kind of riding to you do?
I train with the Wheelworks Multi-sport Triathalon Team and I commute by bike from West Medford to my job in the Technology and Innovation Development Office at Boston Children's Hospital in the Longwood Medical Area.
You are a pretty experienced rider, but you had an accident. Tell us what happened.
I was riding to work which takes me down Mass Av. to the bike path along the Charles and then over the BU Bridge. After the bridge I go straight across Comm Av. and onto neighborhood streets in Brookline. As I took a left turn on to Ivy St. my bike just went right out from under me and I went down. It was only then that I could see I had hit a sheet of black ice.
How seriously were you hurt?
I felt banged up. After about ten minutes I could tell there was something wrong with my wrist so I went to the emergency room to have it checked out. I was one of three cyclists who had fallen that morning and the ER staff told me that the week before they had treated a lot of people who had slipped on black ice while walking.
So those conditions are not just dangerous for cyclists?
No. When I finally got to work other people told me about how they had slipped while walking or had skidded while driving their cars. For cyclists riding at speed there is the potential to get hurt more seriously.
Are there any changes to the infrastructure on that route that would make it safer in the winter?
I ride on that street year round and I remember seeing ice on it before, but it totally slipped my mind that morning. The accident was purely due to the street condition. Maybe more road salt, but I don't think there are any changes that could be made otherwise.
What's your advice to other winter riders?
Ride slower and be extra cautious when making turns if you know conditions are icy. I will try studded tires too.
What's the prognosis on the wrist?
I can't put my full weight on it yet, but I'm back to riding on a trainer. Most likely it is a cartilage injury which may take a few months to completely heal. The cast comes off in a month and then my doctor will reevaluate it.
Your commute takes you to Boston, but what's your favorite place to ride in Medford?
I usually do a loop starting on Mystic River Road and around the Mystic Lakes through Winchester and Arlington. There's a nice hill near the Winchester Country Club for climbing and you can ride it in three or four variations.
What's the worst?
I haven't lived here long, so I haven't biked it yet, but I don't think I would enjoy riding through Medford Square. I would not ride around Wellington Circle. I think that area is the most dangerous place in town.
Thanks for sharing your story, David. We hope everything goes well with your recovery and we hope to see you riding around the Mystic Lakes soon.
Want to learn more? Check out our winter riding tips.