I've noticed something over the last couple days. And the local news stories I've read tend to corroborate my hunch: automobiles are not a good way to get around the city right now.
We got enough snow over the weekend that even our formidable army of plows hasn't been able to properly dig us out yet. The average city street is at least a lane narrower than normal, the road surface is bumpy, slippery, packed snow and there are odd drifts and piles all over the place. Arterial roads are in no better shape than side streets. Traffic in the downtown core is a tangled parking lot.
Enter the bicycle. Down the middle of every multilane street (between lanes going the same direction, I mean) there is a precise bicycle-size gap that stretches like a secret back-alley through the labyrinth of idling motor vehicles. Coming home yesterday during evening rush hour, I had the surreal experience of pedaling for over a mile through a corridor of immobile cars, their taillights lending an eerie red glow to the curtain of exhaust plumes.
It felt a little like the System was breaking down. And I felt a little like I was outside the system, still able to do my thing in spite of the quiet chaos surrounding me and my bicycle. It was tranquil, that back-alley down the middle of Washington Avenue. Tranquil even though I could sense the frustration of the drivers who saw me flash past, using a part of the road that for them didn't exist.
If nothing else, maybe it changed their understanding of the phrase, share the road. For me it was, after all that, just another ride home.