If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may remember that back in October, we had a post where one of Shakespeare’s famous speeches from the Merchant of Venice was re-worked to reflect the conflict between cyclists and drivers. One of the reasons Shakespeare has endured over the centuries is that his plays reflect universal themes – love, conflict, ambition – which might be why they are so easily adaptable to other subjects – such as cycling.
Keeping this in mind, it’s time to revisit another Shakespearean classic: Hamlet. Or as we may think of the cycling-themed version of the play, Helmet. While there is debate about how to interpret the soliloquy from Act III, scene i in the original play, Hamlet seems to be weighing the relative merits of suicide against life, action vs. inaction. In the cycling version of the play, our protagonist is trying to decide how to commute in the winter: will he ride his bike or drive a car? Or will he just stay home? The theme of action vs. inaction remains.
To bike, or not to bike, that is the question:
is it better for my health to ride
in the wet and cold of wint’ry mix,
or to take the car in inclement weather,
and not worry about it? The commute, the drive,
no bike; and by driving, we say that we have ended
the inconvenience and discomfort
inherent in the winter commute: if only
it were so simple. The commute, the drive,
the drive to ride my bike – yes, there it is again:
for on the way to work, what delays may come,
when I have shuffled off this morning into traffic,
must give me pause – there’s the respect
that makes the rush hour commute so long.
For who can stand sitting in a long line of cars,
the high price of gas, the extra time it takes,
the lack of parking spots, the ads on the radio,
the back-ups at red lights, and the drivers
who do not clear the intersection,
when you can just avoid it all
by bike commuting? Who would rather wait in
stop-and-go, bumper-to-bumper traffic,
except that it can be so hard to ride in the winter,
the unpredictable weather whose fickle nature
no commuter escapes, puzzles the forecasters,
and makes us rather bear these auto-imposed conditions
than ride in those forced upon us from the outside?
Thus winter can make telecommuters of us all,
and thus our normal means of transportation
Are frozen out by ice and wind and snow,
and even the fastest, most efficient commute,
with this regard hardly seems worth the effort,
and loses whatever it has going for it.
A Winter’s Tale…
I originally wrote this right after the first snowstorm we had in Boston this winter, which was actually back around Hallowe’en. But ever since then, it’s been remarkably mild – today is the first day there was snow on the ground in the city, probably since last March. Granted, there wasn’t much snow on the roads this morning, so I didn’t have to agonize about how I was getting to work, but there are certainly places where winter cycling and bike commuting are not for the faint of heart.
Do you ride your bike all winter long? Do you make any changes to your regular riding set-up, route, or clothing? Do you share Hamlet…er…Helmet’s ambivalence about winter commuting? Or do you embrace the cold and snow and everything that comes with it?