Speaker at Winter Cycling Congress 2017: Montreal

A bike street in Utrecht, Netherlands running along the Rietveldhuis.
A bike street in Utrecht, Netherlands running along the Rietveldhuis.

The winter cycling congress in Montreal takes place on February 8-10/2017 I will participate this year.  Previous winter cycling congresses took place in Oulu (Finland), Winnipeg (Canada), Leeuwarden (Netherlands) and Minneapolis-St. Paul (USA). The congress switches between Europe and North America (looking forward to a winter cycling congress in Mexico one day). Update: the 2018 congress will take place in Moscow.

Conceived in Ottawa, Born in Oulu

The winter cycling congress is the brainchild of Timo Perälä from Finland. Did you know that he came up with the winter cycling congress after I had invited him to come and speak about winter cycling in Finland at our Citizens for Safe Cycling (@BikeOttawa) Annual General Meeting? I think that was in 2011. Timo stayed with me for a week so naturally we had lots of conversations about our respective winter issues.

"My winter cycling presentation in Ottawa, Canada inspired me to start the annual Winter Cycling Conference" - Timo Perälä
The Winter Cycling Congress was conceived in Ottawa

Black ice

In October last year, I was approached by Vélo-Québec’s Jean-François Pronovost, who suggested I should talk about winter cycling at the conference. I thought there wasn’t much to say about winter cycling in Ottawa anymore and there is little I can tell about winter cycling in the Netherlands, other than harking back to my childhood years.

The only thing I remember though is falling on black ice pretty badly, going around a corner on my way to high school when I was 12 years old (1975) back in Holland. The other memory I have is that there was so much black ice that we actually skated on the streets one winter. When I took my skates off at the toy store I nearly broke the shop window, hitting the window with the back of my skate. I remember a few colder winters with ice in the canals for a few days, but not much else.

intersection in Rotterdam
In the winter of 1975/76 I fell with my bike on black ice on this corner in the post war area hood of Schiebroek, part of Rotterdam on my way to high school. Perhaps it was the first time in my life I experienced black ice. The raised intersections didn’t exist. The houses are typical blue collar fifties townhouses. Note the manicured ligustrum hedge on the left.

But Jean-François insisted I should talk about winter cycling so I suggested I could probably talk about winter and the Dutch railways.

To the train by bike

The railways in Holland are notorious for messing everything up when it is -2C/28F only. But that is not what I am going to talk about. I am planning to give a bit of an intro (I only have 20 minutes and I will talk too fast) on how to build the perfect conditions to get people to the train stations by bike, even in winter.

A bike street in Utrecht, Netherlands running along the Rietveldhuis.
A bike street in Utrecht, Netherlands running along the Rietveldhuis.

I have one problem though. I don’t have photos of people cycling in winter in Holland. Of course, I could harvest pics from the Internet or ask @BicycleDutch or Mobycon for material but I prefer to use my own images. The few times I was in Holland in winter lately, it looked like mid October in Ottawa, with thousands of people still happily cycling around without gloves, under bare trees and on clean dry roads.

Apologize in advance

photo: Winter cyclist on Kent at Albert in 2011.
Winter cyclist on Kent at Albert in 2011.

So you have to excuse me for the somewhat summerlike take on winter cycling at the winter cycling congress: it is all Jean-François’ fault.

On the other hand, there are bound to be 99 other speakers with depressing gray and white photos of winter cycling, so a colourful presentation might save you from grabbing your anti-depressants half way the congress.

people falling asleep during powerpoint
photo credit: Attorney Marketing Center

The winter cycling congress has a packed program, with lots of speakers as well as mobile workshops and participatory workshops.

There will be lots of representation from Ottawa:

Alex deVries, Heather Shearer, Hans Moor – @BikeOttawa;
Lana Stewart – Militante et Specialiste des communications;
Elyse McCann and Jennifer Stelzer from Envirocentre;
Kate Whitfield from Parsons;
Karl Saidla – Municipality of Chelsea and Chelsea Trails; (OK, near Ottawa)
Adam Hortop – City of Ottawa;
Sean Ralph and Loïc Olivier – OMBA – Ottawa Mountain Bicycling Association

City councillors Tobi Nussbaum and Jeff Leiper

I am already regretting I signed up as I don’t know what to say, but I am in the program already now. You won’t see many winter pics, but mostly state of the art Dutch bike infrastructure and services to improve train usage, if you can bear that.

vision Dutch railways mobility - travelling without barriers
Sneak preview of my presentation in Montreal (NS = Netherlands Railways)

O sigh, what did I do to myself? I should never have invited Timo back in 2011.

Info on the Winter Cycling Congress

Interested in the congress? Increase your knowledge and meet lots of new people. The page opens a bit slow sometimes but once loaded scroll down a bit to the program. Lots of fun stuff to do.Use the hashtag #wcc17

Update after the conference. It was a great to participate. Finally met Tom Babin from Calgary. Saw a lot of winter maintenance ideas, met lots of people and my presentation went well. I managed to do the entire presentation within the allocated 20 minutes.

Read all my winter blog posts


  1. Will be delighted to meet you at #WCC17! Great you will cover the combination of cycling and public transport in the Netherlands.

    As funding for my participation at WCC arrived too late, I will not present any insights on (winter) cycling in the Netherlands this year. Maybe I can offer you some of my colourful pictures for your presentation?

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