Next week, February 14, 2014 is Winter Bike to Work Day. It is a day to celebrate winter cycling worldwide. Winter cycling is easier said than done as cycling in winter requires some preparation. If you haven’t biked in winter -and I mean serious winter, as in -20C to -30C (-4to -22F) sans wind chill, not those -2C Copenhagen ‘
winters‘ extended autumns, you are likely thinking that winter cycling is a crazy thing to do.
Not really. But you need a well equipped bike, a few extra layers of clothes and serious maintenance on your bike.
It is not the cold
Ask someone who cycles throughout the winter and she’ll tell you that it is not the cold that bothers her. (OK, a bit). It is the maintenance of the road. Unlike some Nordic countries, Canada doesn’t do much in terms of winter clearing for cyclists. Yes, the side walks are maintained (until there is a thaw and then frost again) but cyclists are not supposed to cycle on the sidewalk.
The remaining choice would be the Multi Use Paths, but they are rarely maintained, or the road, where the 2 feet that is set aside for cyclists is usually used for snow storage. None of the options are ideal for us winter heros.
Despite all that, winter cycling is gaining in popularity. People discover that those 15 freezing minutes at the bus stop could have brought them half way to work by bike already. They notice that it is not snowing the entire winter. They discover that many of the downtown bigger roads are cleared fairly quickly. They discover you stay warmer on a bike than at a bus stop.
That doesn’t help the majority of us, who live farther away from work. My own neighbourhood is very icy and once I leave the neighbourhood, I end up at Baseline, not a great route either; not so much for the traffic, but more for the slush. But if the roads are dry, I do take the bike to work: a refreshing 8 km ride from Fisher Heights to down town along Baseline, Prince of Wales (large shoulder) , Preston and some side streets to the Laurier Bike Lane. I think my record was -29C.
Sometimes though, I park the bike at the Hartwell Locks or Dow’s Lake and I skate into work , a 7 km skate on the canal in just under 30 minutes. At the down town side I get off the ice and walk the last kilometer to work in 12 minutes. That is my little commutethon: bike, skate and walk. Before work no less. In the evening, I skate the opposite direction, pick up the bike and cycle home. Another fun thing to do to embrace the winter. Let me tell you , my Dutch friends are jealous. Who can claim he bikes to a frozen lake and skates into work on 60 cm thick ice?
Sign me up
Here are the stats for the Winter Bike to Work Day 2013. You can put your name in in the international winter bike ride to work form here: Winter Bike to Work Day 2014 And don’t forget to winter bike to work on the 14th. If you can’t wait that long, join the 3rd Anual Family Winter Bike Parade in Ottawa, Saturday February 8. See www.safecycling.ca