Dashing (or not) through the snow - John C. Kirk
Dec. 2nd, 2010
12:34 am - Dashing (or not) through the snow
As most people have noticed, it's been snowing in England recently. However, some local authorities and train companies handle this better than others.
Yesterday (Wednesday) I cycled to the station. I normally cycle to Norbury (zone 3), but this time I went for East Croydon (zone 5) because it was nearest. My basic mantra was "slow and steady": the roads had been gritted, so I got there fine. The same applied to the other end, going from Willesden Junction. I'm not sure which council that is: I think we're on the border of Brent and something else. Anyway, I cycled from the station to the office, then back again at the end of the day, without any mishaps. Even the minor roads had been gritted, with just the occasional icy patch. The important rule there is to keep going: don't use the brakes (which will make you skid), and don't try to steer. Instead, just stop pedalling and trundle along on momentum, so that the wheels keep turning slowly.
After that, things went a bit wonky. Trains between Willesden Junction and Clapham Junction (London Overground) were running on schedule. However, trains between Clapham Junction and East Croydon (Southern) were a bit frelled. Nothing ran on schedule, so I just had to wait and see what turned up, and the first 3 trains were completely crammed full, although bizarrely the 4th was almost empty. My cycling gear (lycra) is good while I'm moving, but it gets a bit chilly if I'm standing around for 30 minutes.
Once I came out of East Croydon, I saw that the road was covered in slush, so I didn't even attempt to cycle on it, particularly since my route starts with a downhill slope. Instead, I pushed the bike along in the hope that it would be better a bit further along. It wasn't, but I discovered a huge traffic jam; it took one of my friends 3h15m to drive 3½ miles! I wound up pushing my bike all the way home: it would normally take me 5 minutes to ride, or 20 minutes to walk, but in this case it was 30 minutes. My cycling shoes are "mountain bike style", so I can walk in them, but they don't have brilliant grips, so I went slowly to avoid slipping over. I noticed that the front wheel of my Brompton was turning normally but the back wheel was just sliding along, which also meant that it tended to slip to the side. I didn't figure out the cause until I got home: as the wheel turned, it picked up slush, and this had built up between the wheel and the mudguard to such an extent that it held the wheel still. I did see one guy go past on a unicycle, so I was very impressed by his balance! I was also quite impressed by the conduct of the drivers: it was almost eerily quiet in Croydon, with no blaring horns. The traffic barely moved, but people apparently understood that nobody could get out of the way.
Today (Thursday) I left the bike at home. This meant that I could wear extra layers and chunky boots (with decent grip). The roads were a bit clearer, but the pavements were still covered in snow, and all Southern trains were either delayed or cancelled. So, it took me a while to get to work, but I was amazed at the difference. Again, the Overground lines were fine, and the roads/pavements are almost completely clear. Apart from a few patches of snow/ice, you wouldn't even know that it had been snowing. Coming home in the evening involved more delays from Southern, and more snowdrifts in glorious Croydonia. According to the council, they've cleared entrances to stations, but there's no evidence of that at South Croydon. I'd expect snow to be worse as you head further north, so it's odd that Croydon are having so much trouble in south London.
Oh well, let us see what tomorrow brings.