Why I don't ride in the rain
“C'mon, we’re not made of sugar” is the cutesy cry I hear most often, jovially directed at those who choose not to commute by bike on rainy days.
And I agree, we’re not, and the rain in and of itself is not the issue. Especially when you live maybe 10-15km away from work, on mostly flat suburban streets.
And manufacturers of gorgeous bike clothes are keen as to sell you their gorgeous riding apparel made specifically with rainy days in mind. I love it all. You look fabulous. If I still lived in the inner city, I’d be just like you. I want to own all the cute rain things.
It will do me no good whatsoever.
The problem is in (drum roll please) our infrastructure, or criminal lack thereof.
A 30+ km commute in the rain on safe, separated bike lanes or tracks would be fine.
But I have to come in via a 6-lane highway, The Pacific Highway (winner for the 20th year running of the “most ironically named street” award) I am in the lane next to convoys of semi-trailers and busses and trucks and private cars and motorbikes, and there is nothing, NOTHING between me and them but a strip of paint, which in typical roads department bastardry become even more slippery and less safe in the rain.
One bad steering decision, one slurry of rain obscuring my vision, hell one patch of slippery wet leaves or a fallen tree branch under my wheels, and I am bike-blogger pate under the wheels of any vehicle in the adjoining lane.
When you fall off a bike, you don’t fall in a tidy heap; you are flung metres, sprawling, and you skid along the wet roadway. There’s no law of physics keeping your momentum tidily within your own lane.
And it doesn’t even matter how careful or slow I am. It’s what you’re doing as well. Are you looking away from the road to see who’s calling you? Are you switching radio stations, reaching for a piece of toast, your coffee mug, did you spill hot coffee on yourself and swear, and hastily brush away the burning droplets, and for just a second, because that’s all it takes at 70km/h did you drift into my lane? Did you brake suddenly and skid just a little bit, and bump another car into me ?
Every driver cutting into my lane too close or following too closely behind me is a potential killer of me; and I am exceptionally fond of me, I like me to be alive and well. After all these years of haircare and skincare, I have a vested interest in me surviving, and would like to be around still on my bike when Sprocketman and I are 104.
On a rainy day, your bad decisions will cost you some paintwork, and potentially kill me.
And this is something we face every day. It’s just that the rain makes everything more slippery, grates, manholes covers, even just bare concrete patches on the roadways itself, are traps for the unwary and slim of tyre. Jesus, don’t get me started about some of the hills I have to descend.
So, most reluctantly, I don’t ride in the rain. I walk to the station and catch the train. And I sit there in the steaming fug, resenting every minute I take up a seat when I could and should be out on my bike.
How many extra of us are crammed onto already overcrowded trains instead of where we want to be, in the safe, separated bike lanes, which my taxes could so easily pay for if my atrocious lying and flat-out incompetent government weren’t hung up on backward thinking like the Westconnex and NorthConnex abominations of urban planning.
Falling off a bike is usually painful. Falling off in traffic is the stuff of our nightmares.
And yet we still want to ride.
So what does that tell you about how wonderful it is to commute by bike?