The Mystery of the Bike in the Snow

I bike in the snow.

Cue the shock. Cue the awe.

“But how?” you ask, “isn’t it cold? Isn’t it dangerous?”

No, it’s not that cold. Biking in the winter is just like any other outdoor winter activity, like skating, or skiing, or snow-ball fighting.

Once your blood is pumping, you often find yourself getting too warm. Keeping your fingers and toes warm can be a challenge, but that’s nothing new for us northern folk. That’s what funny mitts and woolly socks and ugly boots are for. If you want some good advice on biking in the cold, check out these winter riding tips from Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto.

Onto the second point – honestly, yes, it can be dangerous. But it shouldn’t be.

“Of course it’s dangerous, you whacko! You’re biking in the snow! Your wheels are going to slide all over the place! You might hit a patch of ice! You’re crazy!”

But don’t you think it’s crazy to fly down a highway at 120 kilometres per hour in a two-ton steel box with a bazillion parts that can freeze and thousands of other people whizzing by you, spraying snow and ice on your windshield? That sounds pretty crazy, but we do it all the time. From that perspective, we might instead ask whether it can really be that hard to make it safe for people to pedal along at 15 kilometres per hour on a 20 pound bike.

For anyone who is wondering, I will solve the mystery for you. If you want people to be safe biking in the snow, do the following:

Plough it.
(Check out snow removal in Oulu, Finland)

Grit it.
(Check out salt alternatives)

Light it.
(Check out the Netherlands glow in the dark cycle path)

In other words, treat your bike lanes (hopefully they are physically separated from the main roads) like you would a car lane. That’s what they do in Copenhagen and they have 70% of people biking year-round. Here in North America, it’s less than 10% in most cities.
If we can make it safe for cars, we can make it safe for bikes. Mystery solved.

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