Winter Is Coming. How to Ride Your Bike in It.

CC BY 2.0. Lloyd Alter's ride

Over the years TreeHugger has run a number of stories about riding your bike all winter, by myself, April and Yvonne Bambrick. However none of these are as thorough as Hilary Angus's coverage of the issue in Momentum Magazine. I particularly like how she frames the not always pleasant cycling in winter in relation to the alternatives:

I would argue that driving in the winter is infinitely more terrifying than riding around on a bike, and you also have to deal with shovelling your car out, scraping the windows, and occasionally having the car just not start at all because you decided to settle in Winnipeg. There’s the bus, which requires standing out in the whipping, frostbitten wind waiting 15 minutes for a bus which always runs behind schedule because of all the snow, only for it to arrive and to have to crowd in to its wet, slushy interior packed full of sniffling, sneezing, de-frosting people.

This is very true; all modes of transport are a pain, "Yet for some reason winter biking is the one mode cast as the domain of only the particularly hardcore."

She then goes on to cover many of the points we have in our previous posts, but has some specific points that are new:

Plan ahead
Many cities are now beginning to plow bike lanes. Find out which bike lanes are plowed, and plan your route accordingly. If there are no bike routes, take traffic-calmed back streets where you’re most likely to have the road to yourself.

Some cities, like Toronto, are using cycling apps to determine where the highest cycling volumes are, and are ploughing the bike lanes accordingly. They should do all of them, but it's a start. Another point that Hilary makes is that you have to ride differently:

Adjust your braking
Similar to when driving, you don’t want to slam on the brakes while biking on icy roads. Brake slowly to prevent spinouts, and brake more on the rear wheel. Give yourself twice the amount of time to come to a stop as you would in the summer.

And here is a very important one, that I think about constantly:

Expect to fall
You probably will. Ride slowly and anticipate a slip or two.

That also means you have to anticipate how much traffic is going to be around you and how dangerous it will be when you fall. I try to avoid the busy streets, particularly the ones with streetcar tracks. And I will admit that after a few near misses two winters ago when there was a serious amount of snow and ice, I started taking the subway to my teaching gig instead of the bike.

Too many people in North America believe that winter biking is something other people can do, something younger or fitter people can do, or something only crazy people do. In reality, all it takes is the right attitude and a bit of warm clothing. Riding through the winter is a great accomplishment, sure, but it isn’t out of reach for anyone. By choosing to ride through the snow, we remind ourselves and others of what we can achieve with our bodies if we choose to use them. We reconnect with our environment by refusing to hide from winter, and instead embrace all it has to offer. Because winter is beautiful, and biking is just one of the many ways we can enjoy it while getting ourselves around town in the process. So now we’re ready, bring on the snow!