03 February 2009

Foiled again? No, despite the ice

We got chucked out of work yesterday afternoon at 2pm. Rather dramatically, as we signed out, there were foil survival blankets (right) available for us to take home.

This presented something of a dilemma for a Yorkshireman. On the one hand, I couldn't do anything so self-pitying and wussy. The only survival bag you'd admit to having in God's country is a Spar carrier full of crisps and lager.

But on the other, it was free. And that trumped everything. So I took two, telling myself it was OK because I might be cycling somewhere really dangerous one day, like the Stelvio pass in winter, or the Norwegian arctic, or Middlesbrough.

Anyway, I got home OK. The way back was easier than the way in, with very little traffic. I got snowballed by a gang of teenage schoolkids off the leash in Cleaver Square. It was a bit intimidating at the time, though I can laugh about it now. I didn't engage with them because you never know, things might have got nasty, and I might have pulled a knife on them.

I cycled in to work again this morning. The side roads were as uncyclable as yesterday, caked in hard, uneven grey ice. I pushed. It was, in fact, like walking on a glacier. (I was surprised when walking in the Alps for the first time that glaciers are not silky-smooth and translucent blue like virgin mints, but are actually moon-rock dirty and cobblestone bumpy.)

The main roads were fine for cycling though, wet but melted of all ice and snow. In the sun, the tarmac looked sleek, warm and glossy. There was a hard shoulder of slush, ice and snow all the way along the side, though. Occasionally a taxi or bus passed too close, as if they thought I should be off 'their' bit of road and humping along the ice. Not without huskies I wasn't.

But those few impatient drivers notwithstanding, cycling across Waterloo Bridge (right, middle two pics) was elating. It was far preferable to walking on the pavement, which was still carapaced with acned ice and snow.

Tavistock St, running parallel with Euston Road just to its south, has a separated two-way cycle path. I'm getting less keen on using the separated path even in good weather, because it seems to create chaos rather than order at its many junctions. But using it today was out of the question anyway: while the road was fine, the cycle path (right, bottom) was icebound, impassable without crampons. Councils have a duty to keep roads roadworthy, but don't have to do anything about cycle paths, and it shows.

Still, on the way home, if I see any commuters slip and fall and need keeping warm while they wait for the ambulance, I'll be well equipped.

And if not... well, when summer comes, I've got a couple of insulating bags for keeping my beer cold.

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