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Love that frozen water

FALLING THROUGH THE ICE, CHARLES RIVER

Lucas Brunelle is part of a small (very small) fraternity of people who try to bike on the Charles River in the winter. Yesterday, he got out on the ice in Brighton and pretty promptly fell through thin ice and into the water.

Today, more people joined him on the river, but on two feet and further downstream by the Esplanade. Thanks to the folks who sent us photos and comments if for no other reason that we now know there are two divergent schools of thought about people who go out on the Charles on days like today:

  1. They are complete morons who are going to fall through the ice and drown and then the local fire departments are going to have to waste valuable resources fishing out their bodies.
  2. They are fine. Stop being such a joykiller.
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Comments

What could it have possibly done to deserve that!?

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misery loves company? If you're going to ride on the river, feels like a 25' rope and some microspikes would be a good plan vs. er, also falling into the river like a total idiot. Anyways, I'm glad no taxpayer dollars or people were lost in the frozen waters.

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If you can't check the ice, don't go out.

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Are these guys strong swimmers? I presume the answer is, yes. But I have no first hand confirmation.

Are these guys using well-prepped bikes? Check their tires, they're steel studded, so that's all squared away.

Are they proficient bicyclists? Goes without saying.

Did they carry sufficient tools to extricate if in case they broke through? Of course, yes.

Did they have a spotter who took the less ambitious route when the other went a little further in? Sure thing!

Did they ask for anyone else's help? Not that I am aware.

Are these smart blokes? I'll leave that to your judgement.

Would this inspire other less-prepared wanna-bes? Sure thing. Ill-prepared people get killed swinging around arches in Utah; inebriated people drive all the time. Do tell, what's there to do about one-up-manship?

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I'm just glad that we, as a commenter group, have moved on from reflexively bashing cyclists for acting poorly.

[Googles Lucas Brunelle]

Oh, he injured a pedestrian when running a red light in Boston a few years back? Bash away - this is one of the actual bad cyclists who tars the reputation of the other 95% in the city. Now I wish he had lost his bike.

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How many drivers have done the same in that time period?

Good thing he doesn't pilot a much more massive vehicle with his attitude. (and if he does, he should get the same penalties as those drivers did - a tsk tsk!)

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it's fine to point out that this guy is, in fact, one of the much rumored and rare negligent cyclists who gives a bad rap to the rest of the Boston cycling population. He's an asshole it would seem, regardless of vehicle choice. His whole lifework appears to be based on that 'edginess', although one wonders if his Vineyard upbringing is an indicator of generational wealth which might insulate him from having to earn an honest living.

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He should get the same TSK TSK that pilots of far more lethal vehicles do.

Including those who speed around being "edgy" in their far more lethal vehicles.

Isn't that enough for you?

that no amount of swimming proficiency will save you if you fall through the ice. The Charles is 34 degrees under that ice; once you're in the water, you've got less than five minutes before hypothermia starts setting in. And something tells me that anyone idiotic enough to be out riding a bike on an estuary when it's been above freezing for the last few days is also not the kind of person who's carrying the gear needed to get himself out of the water.

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Furthermore, swimming proficiency is irrelevant when you have layers of winter clothes on that suddenly suck up all the water and become both super heavy and a drag on movement. This would be true even in clear, calm 72F water.

All those TV shows/movies where people jump into water fully clothed and maneuver efficiently and save a distressed individual? Pure fiction. If you are going to enter the water* to save someone’s life—and most of us shouldn’t—it is worth taking the time to strip down. Use your shirt as a way to reach out the the person in need.

(*I don’t know about the frozen Charles; ice rescue is a different skill.)

I swam competitively for 10 years. Played water polo for more, worked as a lifeguard, too. I can swim very well.

But I do not go out in my kayak in freezing conditions (lakes, rivers, sometimes near shore inlets) without a wetsuit and neoprene booties, a dry top, pfd, and a neoprene spray skirt.

Not only comfortable but would buy me enough time to get myself out of trouble and swim to shore if something went wrong.

Even that gear would only buy me so much - I don't go out on the open ocean in the dead of winter or when water temps are low and tempt fate, either.

A little story about swimming ability not meaning anything in extreme water temperature:
My crew shell got swamped by wind one March day when I was in college. The air temp was near 70 but the water temp was 38. We abandoned ship and I helped the stroke who barely passed the small boats test in a pool, then went back for the coxswain, bundled in her thick cotton sweatsuit and struggling. By the time we made the dock the other crews hauled us out of the water into blankets, carried us upstairs, and put us in the therapy pool while they discussed calling for an ambulance. My legs were rubber and I felt totally drunk/wasted to the point of not really grasping the danger. The two of us were even laughing about it - it just seemed so funny at the time.

Now I can’t sleep! What is wrong with people?

Dude's the classic textbook definition of a spoiled rich kid. He's a 70 year old child.

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As stupid does

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in Buzzards Bay. Freeze/melt point is going to be lower than fresh river water.

It is fresh water.

Cranberry bog skating rules; Bog OK - It is only 3 feet deep. Reservoir which feeds bog is deeper - do not skate on it.

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I've noticed that several towns lower the water level in popular water bodies so that the worst you might get is wet ankles. Easier to see just how frozen it is, too.

Arlington Reservoir at least used to do this. Brooks Pond in Medford is shallow, as are any number of little vernal pools in the Fells. Riding a bike on those would look very impressive, but represent lower risk than this jackassery.

and you're fine. (Also, sounds like a party.)

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Wasn't that a scene in "Pulp Fiction"?

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"Were extreme, Bro. You wouldn't get it."

"Plus the ice is thick, and even if it isnt and we fall in, our parents will just sue the DCR for failing to put up signs because we're man-children who have never faced any consequences in our extreme bro lives."

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Ticketed for cycling on I-93 in 2011.

I recall him also being involved in a violent incident where he appeared to be at fault, but UHub doesn't seem to be where I learned of it.

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He records himself doing jackass type things with a bike. I don't wish him harm but will be glad when he gets another hobby.

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Now that’s a name I haven’t heard in 20 years, since my time at IBC Brighton! And some things never change.

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I hope this video has been submitted to The Dawin Awards Committee.

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Failure to complete.

Although "freezing his balls off" might qualify.

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for an Honorable Mention. Most deliberate acts of stupidity don't meet the requirements for a true Darwin Award.

It's about not reproducing - removal from the gene pool.

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removing themselves from the gene pool, whether or not they die (although most people do). And it's one thing to call someone a Darwin Award candidate in jest. It's another thing all together (It's another thing) to say that the incident should be submitted to the official Darwin Awards Committee - yes, there is such a thing - https://darwinawards.com/ as anon suggested - this is what I was responding to in my comment.

There are a whole myriad of YouTubers out there who post videos under the title of 'Darwin Award Winners - (insert any year or category here) '. With a handful of exceptions, none of these people have officially won either an award or an honorable mention, nor would their act be seriously considered by the Darwin Awards Committee for an award.

Can't wait for Marty to address this at a press conference.

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Second reaction: you kind of have to admire the singleminded purpose it takes to FIRST pull your bicycle out of the freezing water before you rescue yourself.

Save the bike first. :-)

Probably not, he sounds like the type who goes hiking at the White Mountains in November with a bottle of water and an energy bar and gets lost.

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No mention of Lucas Brunelle and biking on the frozen Charles is complete without this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoSbyT6dO0U

Glad everyone got out safely.

riding a rail bike through the Green Line tunnels.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSL50S66Oe8

Very disappointed that your link is just some dude in the woods and not you rail-biking the Green Line.

What's the exit plan if his forward momentum and the current carry him under the ice? Can't be easy to find the hole and swim back against the current while wearing a baggy drysuit, helmet, backpack, etc. all while trying to untangle yourself from your bike- with clip-in pedals, no less.

What's the exit plan if his forward momentum and the current carry him under the ice?

Ain't no plan. This isn't about competence, it's about bravado.

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And they never should have been out there, and I say this as a dyed-in-the-wool Charles ice evangelist when it's reasonably safe (these guys did bring their ice picks so … that's some preparation). Their video from 2004? Pretty darned safe. 2015? Pretty darned safe. (But remember, no ice is 100% safe.) This video, with lots of gray and white ice and what appeared to be open water and also an area with slightly more current? Good lord that's dumb.

This guy may well have also hit an area weakened by a sewer outfall, where flowing water enters the river. This is why any liquid precipitation can dramatically weaken the ice. And we had a rainstorm (shuffles papers) a couple days ago.

Let's review the conditions you want for ice on the Charles:

1. Ice formation. Ice formation needs to take place without snow or slush mixing in. Best are a couple of calm, cold days and nights. This creates "black" or "clear" ice which is much stronger than "white" or "gray" ice which has been mixed with snowfall (slush on the surface) or freeze-thaw cycles.

2. Minimal liquid inputs. The Charles is a lake but it is a lake which has a level which can fluctuate. The Army Corps will draw it down a foot or two in advance of incoming weather when they expect to need to be able to store runoff. These changes in water levels can dramatically weaken the ice. So if there's been any rainfall or snow melt since the ice formation, stay away.

3. Not too much snow on weak ice, as snow can insulate the ice. If it's cold enough for long enough, however, cold can get through the snow (see 2015). Snow can be good if you have skis because it distributes your weight into

4. Cold weather. A few days in the teens overnight doesn't make good ice. Some days down near 0 will do better. You definitely want temperatures, in Dec-Jan-Feb, well below average (see here). Jan 2004 was a good ice year. Jan-Feb '15 was a good year but only because the ice was fully formed and covered before the big snow.

If these four conditions are met, then you can think about going onto the ice. The lagoons on the Storrow side freeze more easily because they are so shallow and are probably safer-ish (one was originally a skating pavilion and wouldn't it be nice if DCR provided that to the public, safely, by vetting ice thickness?).

But the main part of the river? It only gets properly frozen about once every ten years. And this year is not one of those years!

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What a dumb ass