With all of the ideas bouncing around in my head -All the jobs! Bike Co-op posts! Dating sucks! I love disc golf! Education on the Internet in the 21st century!- you’d think I’d settle onto one of them and write about it. But no. No, no, no. The only thing I want to write about is what is royally pissing me off right now. Which is all the effing snow in my effing neighborhood.
I live in one of the wealthiest places in the world, and one of the wealthiest places within that wealthiest place in the world. As a US citizen I enjoy privileges and freedoms that citizens of less-developed nations would find highly enviable, like clean drinking water, the ability to say and do pretty much whatever I want as long as I subscribe to a general colde of ethics like don’t kill other people etc. without fear of punishment or retribution from the government or the king or the military. I enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. And all of these amazing privileges and freedoms make it really, really easy for me to be pissed off about things like snow removal.
Welcome to Fort Collins, Colorado: home to Colorado State University, one of the leading schools in fields such as agriculture, engineering, veterinary medicice, music therapy and more. This is a city of wide streets, comfortable homes, gorgeous views of the Rocky Mountain foothills, a lovely little reservoir that parallels the town to its West and access to canyons and rivers and lots and lots of public parks, open space, artistic entertainment, fine dining, and an overwhelmingly charming downtown we call “Old Town”. Generally Fort Collins’ city services take great pride in maintaining this beautiful little city in Northern Colorado. As a commuter cyclist and employee of the Fort Collins Bicycle Cooperative I greatly enjoy the city’s fairly huge bike lanes, our vast network of bike paths and our Platinum rating from the League of American Bicyclists. The city is seriously considering the implementation of a “stop-as-yield” law for bicyclists, and the drivers here seem to be more considerate of cyclists than in many other places.
(You’re not completely off the hook here drivers: one of you cut me off so closely I hit you while I was going about 20mph a few months ago and I suffered a minor concussion as a result, and YOU DROVE AWAY!!; none of you stopped when I wiped out so hard at the corner of Taft Hill Road and Suffolk that my bag exploded and I was sitting there crying and gathering up my stuff as about 50 of you passed by with barely a glance in my direction, and I have been unjustly honked at, screamed at, given the finger and have had far too many “near-misses” but I’m not angry at you right now, so keep trying to be cool. Extra special thanks to the guy in the pickup truck at Elizabeth and City Park this evening who slowed to let me pass him before turning right; that was monstrously generous & most people would have just cut me off. So many thanks!!)
But. Mostly. Fort Collins drivers seem to be more conscientious than in many places about which I’ve heard horror stories, so I appreciate it. I think it’s probably because most of you are also cyclists. I don’t have a car, so I don’t have a choice about riding, and I really -REALLY!!- appreciate it when you DON’T hit me. Every. Single. Day.
So what is it with plowing neighborhoods? I have to consider that either:
1) The City doesn’t have the money to pay the plows to get the ‘hoods, so we are stuck with ice-covered nightmares for roads between October and May. Annually. Or…
2) The guys driving the plows are psychopathic lunatics who drive gas-guzzling Humvees when they aren’t driving plows and don’t care for cyclists OR smaller vehicles sliding every which way after every major storm until we -WHEW!- make it onto a main street, or…
3) I cannot ride my bike in the snow; I am a terrible embarrassment not only to myself as a commuter but my job at the co-op. I should just abandon the idea of riding and DEFINITELY my job at the co-op and curl up in a little ball and cry and cry and cry.
So I categorically refuse to accept any of these. Debunking time…
1) The City of Fort Collins has plenty of money. It can pay to have signs erected thanking its citizens for her tax dollars, a brand-new courthouse and city commerce center built, MAX transit for TransFort (our public transit system), and an entire department devoted to bicycling in Fort Collins. Which, may I remind you, is in NORTHERN COLORADO. We get snow fairly regularly from October to May and yet there’s enough of a budget to fund a full-time, year round City department devoted entirely to bicycling within our community. I say to you people: WHY AREN’T YOU GETTING THE NEIGHBORHOODS PLOWED?!?!?!
I’d also like to mention that Fort Collins is largely middle- to upper-middle class outside of the student community. (Actually, the student community is too, but I’m trying here.) We have numerous homeless, unemployed, lower income, yes, but we are largely a fairly middle-class community. This City isn’t suffering from bankruptcy or lack of resources. #1 debunked.
2) This is actually most plausible to me. Maybe because it is so ridiculous it shouldn’t even be considered or maybe because I cannot for the life of me figure out why the street outside of my house is a skating rink and the street three turns from here, which is a main road, is perfectly plowed. Why must I suffer pain and fear and awkward bruising in my own ‘hood? Snowplow drivers hate cyclists and small cars, and they sit atop their lofty machines reveling in our pain and suffering as they spray horrific chemicals on the main roads to clear them entirely. Ha! Ha! HAAAA!!
3) I really don’t want to consider this, but it might be true. I don’t have studded tires but I do have a damned nice mountain bike, dangit, and I put it to WORK for me on these roads. I never really learned to bike well in snow; perhaps I need some lessons in this. More than anything I hate when I get into slush and my wheels go all wonky and I can’t figure out how the mountain bike I was riding suddenly became a swing bike suffering from demon possession. And then I fall. Epically. Usually these days I pull into my ‘hood, cycle the half block that’s been worn to road by vehicle tires and then jump off and walk the next 3 blocks, cursing the City soundly with every step for not plowing my neighborhood.
I might be the worst damned cyclist in the snow, but in paying City taxes, working at local businesses & volunteering for community organizations I feel like I have the right to a relatively safe ride home. Why stop at the main streets? Why not plow the ‘hoods and increase safety? This makes no sense at all.
Fort Collins, could you please get your act together and plow our neighborhoods? Plow drivers could probably use the extra cash and/or more people could be employed by the city. Fewer accidents are had. Drivers aren’t as stressed, and neither are cyclists. What gets me most is that this pretty little City manages to plow the bike paths -the BIKE PATHS- often BEFORE even plowing the streets. And yet the neighborhoods are left untouched, glittering icepacks. The scariest skating rink ever: hard, polished and then suddenly slushy snowpile.
PLEASE plow our neighborhoods. Your residents would really appreciate it.