Winter is almost over, and I rode my bike (almost) every day of the old year (from Ottobrunn to Unterhaching and back, and on several other roads south of Munich).

This year, the Weather God meant well for us cyclists. In the southern suburbs of Munich, there was hardly any snow before New Year’s Eve during the winter of 2008. Even on the roads where no winter service is scheduled (like the area of the former military airport in Neubiberg or the way along the pipeline for the Unterhaching Geothermostatic site) it was always possible to ride a bike without a problem.

On the paved cyclists’ path along the connecting road between Ottobrunn and Unterhaching, the winter service is always at its best when there is no snow. Consequently, salt has been strewn in masses during the last few weeks. Salt on the roads is something I do not appreciate at all, because salt is poison for bikes. These days, cars are built so well that salt cannot harm them, but even high-quality bikes have not yet reached that standard. Riding just a few times on salty roads gives even the most expensive luxury bike clearly visible rust and wear and tear. Thus, I always use my vintage bike in winter time and still suffer as I see the oldie falling more and more victim to rust.

Mind you, I am as happy as everybody else about cyclists’ paths where the snow has been ploughed, and I absolutely agree that dangerous points like bends and bridges should be made safer through gravel. But when, during a definite high-pressure phase in the climate without any rain or snow, the cyclists’ paths are white with salt so that even the tires get white and the salt jumps against my bumpers, I get annoyed. Not to mention that, when the chaotic snowfalls come in February, the cyclists’ paths will not be serviced at all during the first few days.

Salt is also poisonous for the environment. Allegedly, there are still areas where countries and townships get a real winter and still do not use salt on the streets. Why not in our country? All cars are equipped with winter tires these days. If you go a little slower, you can get along just fine, even in winter.

I often get the impression that modern individualized traffic is a lot more sensitive to wintry street conditions than it used to be. When I drove a 34-PS beetle, I never had a problem going through snow. The big cruisers with ESP and electronic aids seem to have far more problems. Maybe they are too heavy and have too many PS?

Being a biker, I have another advantage: I can use spikes. Then even acute winter conditions will not do me any harm. And, as opposed to the outlawed car spikes, the bike spikes will not damage the roads, so there is no need for me to have a bad conscience. A bike does weigh considerably less than a car, even with a heavy passenger, and we seldom use our breaks to slow down from extremely high speeds.

I guess using salt on streets could easily be totally abolished. But maybe the salt producers must be subsidized, lest this industrial branch, too, breaks down. In the face of the world- wide financial crises, the environment no longer seems to be important.

RMD

P.S.

🙂 In the late 60ies in Augsburg, our chess club had a highly respected sponsor. His name was Horst G., and he did a lot for the club. He was a salt merchant. Horst always gave us five Deutsche Mark for using the public phone booths (cell phones were not yet invented at the time), dialling a certain number, and complaining about not enough salt on the icy roads.

(tranlated by Evelyn Gemkow)

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