Fix Biking 7: 4+4 Essentials for Winter Cycling
4 things cities can do for winter cycling. And 4 things for cyclists to be successful.
This is the seventh in a series of common sense solutions for building a better city for biking.
Winter cycling, for more than just the die hards, is fairly new to North America.
But it’s starting to take hold.
Every trip by bike means one less by car, bus or foot. That means less congestion for other drivers. Fewer emissions released into the atmosphere.
What cities can do
So how do cities create the conditions for more winter cycling? Start with these 4 priorities.
1. Focus on fully separated lanes
Snow on the ground means everyone loses traction. Pedestrians, bikes, cars, trucks. Most cyclists are just not comfortable next to cars in those conditions. So build a winter cycling network focused on the bike lanes that are physically separated from car traffic.
2. Keep those lanes clear of snow
Maintain it and they will come. If those separated lanes are cleared of snow, cyclists will use them. It won’t be the same volume of bikes as in summer, but every year, more and more people will try riding their bike in winter.
3. Create a winter map and promote it
Sometimes cities forget to tell people about the services they are providing. Create a map of the winter network, and let people know that you’re serious about maintaining that network.
4. Keep the bike racks on your buses
Most cyclists have a shorter range in winter, or would need to travel on roads they are only comfortable using in summer. To accommodate shorter winter rides, keep the bike racks on buses throughout the winter.
What about for cyclists?
If you are new to winter cycling, start with these 4 points.
1. Use studded tires
Studded tires are a MUST for winter cycling (unless you are on a fat bike). The stability you have on ice and snow is night and day between regular and studded tires. With studs, slipping on ice stops being a significant worry.
2. Get ready to clean your bike
If you are in a snowy city where salt is used to keep ice off the roads, that salt will be tough on your bike. Spray an anti-corrosion film, such as Muc-Off, all over the lower part of your bike every few weeks (everywhere except on disc brakes, and e-bikes may have different requirements). And wash your bike from time to time, if you have the facilities and the energy.
Most winter cyclists seem to have a second bike for winter. Corrosion is hard to fight, so think long and hard about whether you are ready to take out a good bike.
3. Dress for success
Lots of layers is the secret to keeping warm and enjoying your winter rides. Once you’re moving, if you have enough layers on, you’ll be plenty warm.
4. There will be days where the snow is too much
It’s no fun cycling in a heavy snowfall. But the number of days over the winter where a snowfall interferes with your ride is surprisingly low. And it’s ok to take those days off.