One picture on the web illustrating our blizzard was a bicycle chained to a post, picturesquely covered with snow. Each spoke on the wheels, the chain and chainring, pedals, frame and seat, all had soft powder white highlighting. Got me to wondering where it might be today: buried under frozen snowplow slush, safely relocated by a protective owner to a dry hallway or basement, or still there, with or without damage? The other day, after our two small storms but before this doozy, I saw a fairly nice bike chained to a street sign at a corner in Georgetown. It was covered with salt-laced street slush to an extent that indicated it had been there through both storms and their aftermath. Now it was slowly corroding in the chemical wet. Why, I wondered, would a rider care enough about a bike to chain it up, yet leave it to the mercy of the toxic elements, rather like Andromeda awaiting her sea monster.
On the Georgetown campus all sorts of cycles—the good, the bad, and the ugly—have permanent outside parking. It’s actually quite heartening to see how many students ride to and around campus, with their steeds left in large herds around bike racks and singly wherever a sign, railing, or parking meter allows safe storage. The demand is so great that the University ought to think about more stalls for these beasts of burden. Some students are rather more cavalier than I would be about leaving them unlocked, and others don’t seem to know much about theft-proof techniques for locking up a bike. But I rarely see any signs of pilferage in the form of missing seats, front wheels locked to a rack, or the like. The one exception seems to be mass vandalism, when all at once every front wheel of bikes locked in a certain area is hopelessly bent. What a rash and nasty thing to do! The bike’s completely incapacitated, and wheels are expensive.
Sitting in the Intercultural Center atrium before class, I see a number of employees walking their bikes out at the end of the regular work day. These folks are seriously dressed to ride, and as I observe them in transit on my drive in they’re good riders. Many are heading into Virginia over Key Bridge along the sidewalks, sharing space with pedestrians in what appears to be an uneasy truce. I saw one last week making for home in a light snow and thought he was lucky to have beaten the storm. Out there in the subfreezing night, he still gets props from me.
My bikes are garaged, never suffer bad weather, rust only from my sweat dripping on them during hot rides, and generally lead a pampered life. So do I, though I’d like to have a soigneur to massage my muscles after every ride. But I’m going to have to settle for the more modest goal of staying out of the weather, like my bikes.
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2010