I got my bicycle out this morning for a short ride to the grocery store, and that was a bit of a celebration for me. I had reluctantly put my bike away in early December, when roads were covered with snow and ice. Significant rain yesterday and today rinsed the majority of roads to clear pavement.
Who cares if it’s raining? I rode in the rain for decades while bike-commuting in western Washington locales such as Seattle and Snohomish. Our bodies are waterproof, though of course, clothing can get wet while riding. A short ride to the store means rain pants and a rain parka, equipment many of us have. Having my city bike outfitted with fenders really helps.
Arterial roads in town during December and January were covered in chemicals to keep the traveled lanes clear of snow and ice. But the bike lanes on those streets (Miller Avenue and Fifth Street as examples) were covered by a large berm of snow. Residential streets get no chemical treatment, so the traveled lanes were mostly covered in a combination of snow and ice.
I freely acknowledge that I could spend a bunch of bucks for an expensive fat-bike, which helps negotiate snow and ice with a lot more stability than my run-of-the-mill 1980s-style mountain bike. I could also consider changing over the bicycle to studded tires. But riding a bike in traffic and considering the possible impacts of going to the pavement from a slide on ice takes away my usual confidence of negotiating Wenatchee’s streets safely by bicycle.
How did I get around town for that period of December and January? I did use my motor vehicle for trips over to the swimming pool in East Wenatchee. But for most of my trips on this side of the river I chose walking. I work a short grocery list with a day pack by walking to either Safeway or Plaza SuperJet, both less than three-quarters of a mile from where I live near Columbia Elementary School. Trips to just about anywhere downtown involve about a mile or so roundtrip. Stan’s and Walgreen’s are both less than one and one-quarter mile from home. I walked down to the soon-to-be opened Riverfront Rock Gym a couple of times to check on progress there, a longer walk of two and one-quarter miles each way.
Some folks would think this inefficient, since more travel time is involved compared to motorized travel. I like the quality of life to walk on quiet streets parallel to arterials to get to places in Wenatchee. I like the slower pace in winter and enjoy walking. Seems like a lot of mileage to some folks? Maybe, but I choose to do day hikes in the mountains in the summer with mileages of 10-15 miles not uncommon. All that walking in the winter keeps the body in tune for longer hikes in the summer. Important to me, walking and bicycling are reflective of my concern about my carbon footprint.
If any of this dialogue gets people thinking about getting the bicycle out to do some errands, here are some suggestions: First Street is snow free and an easy ride to get downtown or to continue on to the Loop Trail. The Franklin/Emerson bike route is free of snow for trips to the medical community on Emerson. The Princeton bike route runs all the way from Home Depot to Wenatchee High School. It goes right by Wenatchee Valley Mall. The Fuller/Kittitas route allows access to places between Central Washington Hospital and Link Transit. For streets such as Miller and Fifth that have bike lanes, consider that riding those routes now would involve sharing the road that is narrower than usual with vehicular traffic. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
Weather in Wenatchee might ice up again, but for now there are some nice bicycling opportunities to get some exercise, do a few errands, and save some gas money. And if winter weather resumes, you can always walk to get to a lot of places.
Charles Hickenbottom has used a bicycle for commuting and shopping for 40 years. He has served on a local bicycle advisory board since 1996. He lives close to downtown Wenatchee in the Grandview Historic District.