So, still think you can get through a Toronto winter without snow tires?
Friday's storm was no surprise - it was all over the news Thursday.
So how come so many people were not prepared?
I pretty much blanketed the GTA Friday. I live about 50 km west of The Big Smoke. I had to drop off some calendars in Brampton. Do a test-car swap (about which, more anon) in Markham. Pay a bill in deepest Scarborough. Head back to Oakville for Number Three daughter's birthday celebration dinner and theatre show. Then drive two other sprogs back into the Danforth-Warden and Avenue Road-St. Clair areas respectively. Then head back home.
Not much of the region I didn't drive through today.
Now, visibility on the 400 north towards Major Mac got dicey thanks to whiteouts, so I bailed on that route in mid-afternoon, which forced me to postpone a few errands.
But I can assure you, there were no traction difficulties whatsoever, anywhere
Snow, yes. Some ice, yes. And a hint of a high-centre on a snow plow spoor coming out of the theatre parking lot.
But with proper equipment and preparation, I had no problems whatsoever getting where I needed to go.
Except where idiots without either got in my way.
About the car swap - I started the day in a Suzuki SX4 hatchback, with automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. Very nice little car. This is essentially a transverse-engined front-wheel drive car with an electrically-activated system that allows either automatic engagement of the rear wheels if the fronts start to slip, or locked four-wheel drive for the heavy going. I confess I didn't check the type of tires, but I suspect they were all-, i.e., no-seasons.
I changed that for another SX4, this one a European-spec Diesel with a five-speed manual gearbox, front-drive only and winter tires.
Both vehicles chugged their way through the snow, slush, snowplow trails, icy patches, with ridiculous ease.
So why were these other idiots getting in my way?
Mainly, because they didn't have proper winter tires on their cars.
Toronto is a city of ravines, which means fairly steep hills on many of our major arterial roads. People too lazy, too stupid or too cheap to properly equip their cars end up costing the rest of us valuable time, not to mention money, missed appointments or flights, because they can't get their damned cars up the bleedin' hills.
Maybe Quebec has the right idea about making winter tires mandatory.
Second on the list of idiocy reasons was the massive, blazing incompetence you see behind the wheel in this city. Some people, foot to the floor, wheels spinning wildly. Folks, if the wheels are spinning, you've got no grip, and spinning them faster isn't gonna help.
I didn't see many people driving 'way too fast for conditions today, interestingly enough. Most people were going slow.
Still, their lane discipline was even worse than usual. The Jim-only (i.e., right-most) lane was almost always wide open, even if it typically had more snow on it than the other lanes. So, despite the pixel board signs warning that "Express and Collectors Moving Slowly Beyond Next Transfer", it was the fastest rush-hour commute I think I have ever experienced. I phoned She Who Must Be Obeyed at about 5:15 p.m. from Markham Road and 401; by 6:15 I was joining the rest of the family in Rocco's in Oakville.
And rather fun too.
Why so many people were bashing into guardrails remains a mystery.
Um, perhaps they should learn how to drive?
The day also afforded me the interesting opportunity to compare basically the same vehicle with and without four-wheel drive under more-or-less identical conditions.
I didn't really feel much difference between the automatically-engaging and locked 4WD settings in the first Suzi, but either gave better straight-ahead traction than shutting it off, or the FWD/winter-tire car.
But I must say, for overall driving, I preferred the FWD car. One of the issues with four-wheel drive is that the car tends to understeer - when you turn the wheel under power, it wants to go straight ahead.
The FWD car does too, but when you lift, it seemed to me that the nose tucked in and the car came around more nimbly than the 4WD car did, so it was more easily controllable. Mind you, to do a true comparison, it would have been better to have the same engine - the heavier Diesel might have given more front-wheel grip than the gas-engined car; the same transmission - the manual gives the driver more options; and probably most important, the same tires on both cars.
But this conclusion is similar to what I've discovered in the past - with decent winter tires, traction control, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control (my cars were three for four; no ESC) you seldom really need four-wheel drive in urban use, even under conditions as allegedly severe as today's were.
Oh, did I mention, learn how to drive?