Author: Tom Babin (Page 1 of 4)

Here’s why people ride their bike to work

On Bike to Work Day, I asked people a couple of straightforward questions about their chosen commuting mode. Here’s what they said. Take note of how many who said they ride for environmental reasons, for ideology, or because they hate cars (hint: none). 

 

Increasing number of dead pedestrians are a reminder that bike lanes matter

A reader recently asked a question recently that got me thinking: If conditions are ripe for cycling, why bother adding bike infrastructure?

The question came out of my recent post from Yellowknife in which I mused about the city’s potential as a great bike town thanks to its wide streets, slow traffic and hearty residents. If all those qualities already exist, she asked, why the hell would it need bike lanes?

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I was pondering that question when a few pieces of news dropped recently related to pedestrians.

First was a new report that found the number of pedestrians being killed by cars has grown in recent years. The counter-intuitive nature of this assured it a place in the news: As technology makes motor vehicles safer – especially with the promise of self-driving cars on the horizon – we are somehow managing to kill increasing numbers of people simply walking down the street (and don’t go blaming “distracted pedestrians,” the report made a point of sharing blame with excessive motor vehicle speed and distracted drivers).

I was ready to lump this statistic into my repository of horrific-yet-underappreciated news about car culture when I came across another stat that was new (to me): a report that laid even more bare the shocking nature of those pedestrian-fatality statistics. The number of people who are walking on city streets in North America has been on a 30-year decline (the study found the much heralded 70 per cent decrease in child pedestrian fatalities since 1969 also corresponded with a 67 per cent decrease in the number of kids walking to school). Which means we’re killing pedestrians at increasing rates, even as the number of pedestrians is small and falling.

This is yet another example of the mind-boggling apathy we have toward the carnage of motor vehicles, but what does it have to do with bikes? One word: Perceptions.

Despite the seemingly dire situation we are putting pedestrians in, most people, I’m willing to bet, would classify walking down the street as something safe. Sure, everybody acknowledges that getting hit by a bus can happen at any time (hell, we even have an expression about the rarity of “getting hit by a bus”), but rare is the person who would choose to avoid sidewalks out of fear of their safety.

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Similarly, the risks of driving a car are also accepted as part of life by most urban dwellers, even though driving comes with risk. Rare too are those who refuse to drive because of the danger.

Yet when it comes to cycling, masses of people still refuse to ride in urban settings because they fear for their safety, even though statistics prove that riding a bike is about equal in risk to walking down the street.

I’ll leave it to the psychologists to unpack the reasons behind our fear of riding a bike, but this fear helps explain, at least a little bit, both the success, and need, for safe and protected bike infrastructure.

Bike lanes, when well built, usually reduce the number of collisions between bikes and cars (they also, as a side benefit, tend to decrease collisions between drivers and pedestrians, and drivers and other drivers too). But that only goes so far in explaining why they also tend to draw out more people on bikes. The other reason is that protected bike lanes simply feel safer. In this case, the perception of safety may be just as important as safety itself.

So, sure, you could argue there’s little added safety benefit to spending tax dollars on bike infrastructure in a small city like Yellowknife that is already pretty bike friendly. But I’m willing to bet that a minimum grid of well-built bike infrastructure would encourage more tentative cyclists to ride regularly simply because it makes them feel good.

With all the added benefits that come with cycling – healthier people, more efficient transportation system, better street life – that feeling alone may be worth the price of the investment.

 

Do bike lanes marginalize people in the suburbs?

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“Big grocery.”

That is a slightly tongue-in-cheek suggestion about how to make cities more bike friendly by Ontarian Lana Stewart, who speaks and writes thoughtfully about the fixation of urban cycling advocates on commuters, despite statistics showing that a huge percentage of car trips are elsewhere, such as running errands, shuffling kids to activities and, yes, getting groceries.

In the shadow of “big commute,” she suggests more attention be given to “big grocery.”

Stewart’s is a rather colourful way of drawing attention to the fact that suburbs often get overlooked in discussions about urban cycling. This has deeper ramifications than just inconvenience. In the changing nature of cities, suburbanites are often home to people who can’t afford inner-city living, which means those who could most benefit from improvements to cycling (one of the more affordable transportation modes available), are often left out of the conversation.

IMG_3504Darnel Harris, another Ontario advocate, takes the argument even farther, saying those who live in the suburbs can be marginalized by bike infrastructure in a couple of ways. Conversations about urban cycling often denigrate the ‘burbs, making people feel shame in their communities. And bike lanes often are precursors (or symptoms of) gentrification, which can push low-income residents out of their own neighbourhoods. There have even been protestations against bike lanes in some communities, based not on the usual anti-bike ignorance, but from those afraid that bike lanes will drive out the poor.

This is a horrific situation considering affordability should be one of the key benefits of using a bike. In fact, one of the great success stories of urban cycling is the way bike lanes help better integrate poor residents into cities. Urban cycling hero Enrique Penalosa, former mayor of Bogota, Colombia, once said that bike lanes show that “a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally important to one in a $30,000 car.”

There’s no easy to solution to all of this. Retrofitting suburbs to be more friendly to active transportation in a way that doesn’t lead to gentrification would be the ultimate answer, but it’s expensive, slow and difficult. But there are some other good ideas circulating. Harris, for one, is pushing a project to bring cargo bikes to the ‘burbs, based on the idea that people will be better able to capitalize on their utilitarian nature without having to wait for expensive infrastructure improvements that could change their neighbourhood. 

It’s an intriguing idea, and at least gets the conversation started on ways of becoming more inclusive while those long-term retrofits finally make their way outside of expensive urban areas. 

My perfect winter bike really exists, and I just bought it

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The Priority Continuum, the perfect winter bike for my commute?

For years, I’ve ridden the same winter commuting bike, which I affectionately, but sometimes derisively, refer to as my p.o.s.: a crappy 20-year-old mountain bike whose best days were in the last century.

Finally got my new (to me) ride on the road for the season. #yycbike

I converted this 20-year-old Specialized to a single-speed in an attempt to avoid rust.

While I do have a soft spot in my heart for this bike, that spot often grows hard. The machine is an entirely practical choice: after the salty slush of my commute destroyed an older, beloved bike, I turned to this one begrudgingly. With minimal components and a frequently replaced chain, it does the job. It also, however, clicks when I pedal, has untrustworthy brakes, can’t take a bike rack, lacks the components for proper fenders, and often rides like it has a deflated soul.

Which leaves me wondering why I have never seen a bike specially made for winter commutes. I know what I would like: aluminum frame to resist rust, good fenders, a strong rack for waterproof panniers, disk brakes that work in the cold, internal gear hubs that keep out moisture, studded tires, and either a belt drive or some kind of chain guard to keep the drivetrain clean and dry. All at a price reasonable enough to remain practical. In other words: a practical, low-maintenance, affordable, rust-resistant bike. That bike may exist somewhere in the world, but it always felt as accessible as a mermaid.

I’ve long felt like this was a failure of the bike industry. Obsessed with selling high-end performance bikes, the fact that a winter commuter wasn’t readily available seemed like another miss by an industry that is only starting to catch on to the idea of bikes as a form of urban transportation.

But then, my own busty fish-damsel emerged from the sea in the form of a smiling dude named David standing in the lobby of a bike-industry event beside a rather plain looking bike. Something about that machine caught my eye, and I went in for a closer look. My heart skipped a beat. My knees weakened. Was this my dream winter bike?

Priority Continuum

My mermaid was David Weiner, founder of Priority Bicycles, a New York-based online retailer that specializes in practical, low-stress urban bikes. And he was hawking the Continuum under the idea that it was a four-season commuter bike. While I was skeptical at first, I quickly found the machine was like the Millennium Falcon in that she may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts:

Priority Continuum

Aluminum frame (to resist rust)? Check.

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Belt drive and internally geared hub (to resist rust)? Check.

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Decent fenders (to keep my ass dry)? Check.

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Hydraulic disc brakes (for cold-weather stopping power)? Check.

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Twist shifter (for use with warm mittens)? Check.

In fact, Weiner told me the Continuum was built specifically with year-round commuters in mind.

“Simply, I wanted to build bikes that my friends could ride year round without worrying about maintenance, and at an affordable price,” Weiner told me via email. “When we launched the EIGHT last year we were surprised with how well it sold in the winter season and how many customers were coming to us telling us that it was their winter commuter of choice. This of course made sense due to the rust/grease-free drivetrain.

“However, one complaint we had was that the hub could freeze in extreme temperatures.  We started to think that there must be a better solution… Hence we worked on upgrading the EIGHT with a NuVinci hub (ideal for sub-freezing weather and the ultimate in no maintenance) and some incredibly durable fenders.”

I was convinced. I pulled out my credit card and my order was placed within the week. A few days later, a big box arrived containing the first new bike I’ve ever purchased exclusively for use in winter. Just in time for a cold snap.

As far as cyclists go, I’m not much of a gear-head. While I perform basic bike maintenance myself, one of my ultimate goals in a winter commuter is to reduce maintenance. My big enemy in this fight has always been rust. In my icy, slushy city, salt is my Moriarty. And simply hosing off a bike after a commute is not an option in a city where hoses quickly freeze and stay frozen.

So riding my Continuum through the tail end of a Canadian winter has been a test. We’ve had a few bitingly cold days, a bit of late-season snow, and a whole lot of slush, ice and salt as we lurch into spring and the snow melts.

As you can see, rust can be relentless. It’s already hit some components.

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Rust is already gathering on some parts of the bike, after only a few weeks of use.

But on the important parts, the Continuum is riding smooth and rust-free. The best part? I have spent almost no time thinking about the bike. I’m not worried about the chain, or the brakes or anything else. It just works.

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The drive-train, thanks to the belt-drive and internal gears, is free of rust.

Is this the ultimate winter bike? I’m not quite ready to declare that (ask me in the middle of next February), but it’s been holding up very well for me. The NuVinci hub has withstood the cold, the belt drive has stayed smooth in the ice and snow, and the fenders have been keeping my ass dry.

I’m not yet ready to give up my old mantra that the ultimate winter bike is the one that works for you. But perhaps what’s more important is that the bike industry is finally coming around to the idea that people are riding bikes all year round in cities. Thanks Priority. It’s about time.

 

Here’s why people are riding bikes in one of the world’s coldest cities

“Postholing” is a new cycling verb I learned this week, defined to me as I lay prone in three feet of light powder at -26 C in the sub-Arctic taiga of northern Canada.

For the record, the word describes what happens when your foot sinks deep into snow, as any showshoer (sans snowshoe) knows. When it comes to fatbiking, however, it tends to occur along a packed trail when you slow to a stop and place a foot down into the adjacent powder that looks only a few centimeters deep, but is, in actuality, up to your crotch. Your foot sinks deep into what now looks like a hole dug for a fence post, and the rest of your body follows, sprawling into the powder. Laughter, usually, ensues.

That was only one of the things I learned on a recent trip to Yellowknife, the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories, a city of 20,000 that hugs the shores of the massive, frozen (at least it was when I was there) Great Slave Lake. I was invited by David Stephens or Boralis Bike Tours Unlimited (go book a guided fat-bike trip with him right now, especially if you want to take the last-ever trip down the ice road to Arctic coast) to speak about winter cycling, but it’s entirely possible I learned more from Yellowknifers than I could ever hope to teach them.

Yellowknife is an idiosyncratic, oft-overlooked, and completely charming, aberration. Outsiders may think this place shouldn’t exist, with its harsh weather, unforgiving environment, and isolation, but that shows what outsiders know. Yellowknife is a vibrant, diverse, endlessly surprising place. Lured by the promise of adventure, people from all over the world make their homes here, giving life to heritage shacks built into ancient bedrock and houseboats socked in by ice for half the year.

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And even in mid-March, when a temperature of -15 C was greeted as a heat wave, there are people everywhere outdoors enjoying the season, even on bicycles.

Yes, even here, perhaps the least likely place in the world to think about riding a bike, people have found that two wheels can be a key to a better life. In fact, Yellowknife has some qualities that make it a great place for bikes. Here’s a list I’ve been keeping:

  • The city is small, meaning distances are short and easy to ride. As Stephens told me before I arrived: It’s possible to ride your bike to your destination in the same time it takes to simply warm up your car. Speed limits are slow, and car traffic is light.
  • The snow is uniquely favourable to bikes. With the cold temperatures, there’s little of the freeze-melt ice cycle that bedevils other cities. The snow that gets packed offers good traction in most places.
  • It’s too cold here for salt to be effective as an ice-melter, so it’s rarely used. That means you’re not risking rust every time you take your bike into the streets. It also helps keep the city nice and white for most of the winter, rather than the snirty brown of other places.
  • This place is awesome for fatbiking. Stephens guided me through some glorious trails that spread in and around the city. Ample snowfall in evergreen forests is quickly packed down by snowmobiles, which creates ideal tracks for fatbikes that are ringed with delightful powder (as evidenced by the aforementioned post-holing).
  • Once the lake freezes, roads are plowed on the ice, which create nice shortcuts for bikes, especially after a stabilizing layer of packed snow lays down (and imagine riding a fat bike beneath the northern lights on an ice highway. Go ahead, imagine it.)

But what I found most inspiring here was the way Yellowknifers deal with winter. Unlike farther south, I rarely heard people complain about the winter. Some have simply accepted it as a reality of life in the north, but most people I encountered told me they actually enjoy it. They were quick to offer tips about staying warm, they showed off clothing and tricks that I had never encountered before, and the city is full of fun events to get people enjoying winter. 

Stephens even organized my speaking engagement in the great hall of the Snowking’s snow castle, an amazing structure built of packed snow (don’t you dare call it an “ice” castle) that is the locus of a month-long winter festival. So, in other words, I delivered my speech in a snow castle on a frozen lake, which I feel confident saying would not happen anywhere else.

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This is the kind of attitude that primes a community to year-round cycling. There’s a core group of people in town who have already seen the benefits, but I’m willing to bet a little nudge would encourage a whole raft of other people to give it a try. Some safe bike infrastructure, a commitment to maintaining bike routes all year, some reliable bike parking locations and even some support of the local fatbiking community would go a long way.

After all, people who have verb to describe a specific way of falling into the snow are probably well on their way to a more bike-friendly life already.

Why boring old unsexy plows are the key to urban cycling in winter

Back in 2013, after seeing the Finnish city of Oulu for the first time, I wrote a post called Never Mind the Plows. The idea was to focus on things that can improve winter cycling beyond the basics. Any by basics, I meant plowing.

Well, five years later, as much of the winter world has seen the benefits of encouraging people to ride in winter, like they do in Oulu, it’s even more clear now that perhaps nothing is as important to the adoption of winter cycling than plain, boring, overlooked, unsexy, plows. (Or brushes. Or shovels. Or whatever gets rid of the snow efficiently).

In Calgary, where I live, the snow clearing of downtown bicycle lanes has been (much to the consternation of professional complainers) pretty great over the last few years. With an ever-expanding network of bike paths being cleared, the city’s efforts in winter have resulted in a growth in the number of people riding in winter that has kept pace with the growth of those riding in summer.

At the city’s Peace Bridge, one of the busiest bike spots in the city, for example, the growth in cyclists from 2014 to 2016 in the summer was about 27.2%, according to publicly available bike counts. In winter over the same period, that growth was 25.4%. The number of people riding in winter is obviously smaller (about 35% of summer numbers), but fact that that growth is consistent across seasons is some evidence, I’d argue, that clearing bike lanes works. It means there is growth potential in winter.

Just ask Montreal. This city, the most bike-friendly on the continent, in my humble opinion, has, for years, taken literally that old headline of mine. Rather than bike lanes free of snow, many of those routes were actually closed for winter. The traffic poles that separated bike lanes from car lanes were removed, and the space was given back to cars. For people who rely on bikes for transportation, this was a gigantic, demoralizing sigh, and it was reflected in a smaller proportion of people riding year-round.

But even in Montreal, where snow removal may be an even bigger political headache than it is elsewhere (and, make no mistake, it is everywhere), that idea is finally being rethought. More and more bike routes are being kept opened in winter, and the city has officially committed to making all bike routes accessible in winter eventually. City officials have even agreed to look at ways of keeping a crucial bike route across the St. Lawrence River open year-round, including exploring the possibility of in-ground heating to keep the route ice-free.

Talking about it, however, is the easy part. Doing it is hard. During a recent trip to Montreal, the city was digging out from a series of snowfalls compounded by an ice storm that left many streets and sidewalks slick as a skating pond. As news spread that city officials were vowing to keep more routes open in winter, cyclists took to Twitter to, ahem, politely advise them to figure out how to keep their current commitments before adding new ones. Indeed, news about opening the bridge in winter only came after years of pleas from cyclists and a protest campaign.

Those tweeters aren’t wrong. This city, so lovely to pedal through in summer, has some work ahead of it before it becomes just as good in the winter. It will be interesting to watch in the coming years how this new approach impacts the number of people riding.

But let’s face it: Keeping bike routes free of snow is tough. It takes commitment, ingenuity and, most importantly, money. It will never be easy, and it may always be a political hot button (hell, even after 80 years of plowing roads for cars, it’s still a hot button). But the upside is worth the investment and risk. Just ask the growing number of people who ride year round.

This simple idea may be the best way to encourage more winter cyclists

Timo Perälä, the Finnish visionary of the Winter Cycling Congress, has done more to spread the gospel of winter cycling around the world than perhaps any other person. But back in his home city of Oulu, he’s still experimenting with new ways of encouraging people to ride, despite living in what may already be the most bike-friendly winter city in the world.

One of the most efficient ways to do so, he thought, is to convert more summer cyclists into year-round cyclists. It’s the low-hanging fruit theory, and it makes sense. But how to do so? For starters, when he did some research, he found that men and women tend to report different reasons for stopping their riding in winter.

Perälä says most men tend to stop because they perceive winter cycling as too much work. “Most are being basically lazy,” he said recently, with typical Nordic bluntness. “Most of the time they just need some serious ass kicking.”

Women, however, report different feelings. They tend to avoid winter cycling because they are afraid of slipping and falling. Their safety is at stake.

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Knowing the best way to stay upright in snow and ice in cities is a simple studded bike tire, Perälä came up with a deceptively easy idea to get more women to try riding in winter: Just give them a studded tire. For free. For added confidence, he decided to throw in a helmet too.

With some funding, Perälä got a good bulk deal on tires and helmets and started giving them away to women interested in giving winter cycling a shot. The only catch? They had to promise to ride at least three times a week.

Since he started the program a few years ago, he’s developed a few additions to further incentivize participants, such as incorporating fitness tracking, creating a scorecard to keep them motivated, and developing several bike events through the winter to keep things fun. But the basics remain the same: Give tentative riders some equipment to make them feel confident.

He says the results are positive. Many participants become hooked and keep riding long after their commitment has been completed.

There’s a simple genius is this plan. Not only does it remove the fear of riding in winter, it also gets around the obstacle of cost, which can deter many people from investing in winter-bike gear. And knowing that people who choose to ride a bike for transportation in summer already understand the benefits, a little nudge like this can do wonders.

But for Perälä, something else was the most satisfying for him.

“For me, the best thing is that people really feel it was good for their health,” he said.

 

Here’s how North America’s best bike city is finally improving winter cycling

Montreal, perhaps North America’s most bike-friendly big city, is finally looking at ways of making it easier for people to ride a bike through the winter. Here’s what we learned on a recent trip.

This is how you stage a winter bike party

So you think your city would benefit from more people riding bikes year-round? You want to encourage them to try riding in winter by staging an awesome mass event, full of fun and frivolity that shows people riding in winter can be enjoyable, safe and sane? And you like parties?

Then here’s some lessons for you, courtesy of the Lune D’Hiver, or Winter Moon ride, staged this week in Montreal by Velo Quebec. I was invited to take part in the event, and came away with a few ideas from a city that excels at hosting mass bike parties. Here are a few.

Lesson 1: Prepare.

Montreal Winter Cycling Congress 2017

Those massive fields of ice aren’t going to clear themselves.

Sure, you could just throw a bunch of people onto the streets with their bikes and have a ball. Or you could get serious and close streets, encourage people of all types to take part, advertise weeks in advance and, most importantly, make sure the streets are cleared of snow and ice.

Granted, Montreal has its share of problems when it comes to plowing, but after a week of snow and ice storms, look at the mess city workers had to clear early in the day to prepare for Lune D’Hiver. Your city has no excuse.

Lesson 2. Bling is good.

A video posted by Tom Babin (@tombabin) on

 

If it’s winter, and it’s night, you need lights. Encourage participants to light up the night, with their bodies and bikes. This sweet number was just the loaner I was given for the event, and even it was blinking like a kid at the optometrist. Other participants had their entire bikes bedecked as rolling beacons of light.
Montreal Winter Cycling Congress 2017

Yeah, that’s a Christmas tree. And it’s February.

A video posted by Tom Babin (@tombabin) on

Lesson 3: Invite all kinds of people

The last thing you want at a winter-bike event is to have in comprised completely of a bunch of people who fit the stereotype of a winter cyclist: young(ish), athletic(ish) men who define themselves as winter cyclists. In other words: dudes like me. Nobody wants that.

To make your event a success, make sure you get everybody else to take part: Young, old, children, the elderly. All genders and colours. Diversity is the key to a good event, and to a healthy population of winter cyclists.

Lesson 4: Make sure the die-hards are out in force.

OK, now that Lesson 3 is out of the way, don’t forget to appeal to those die-hards who have pioneering winter cycling for years, and who rode without the benefit of things like bike lanes, snow removal and fun mass rides. Guys like my new friend Claude. These guys rule.

Lesson 4: Involve artists.

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Because you can’t have a fun event if its organized by a bunch of urban planners and traffic engineers.

Montreal Winter Cycling Congress 2017

Lesson 5: Make sure the after-party is good.

I know it’s asking a lot to plan your event so that it ends at an outdoor electronic music festival that is beloved by citizens, draws thousands of people, most of whom are young, attractive and dressed as if going to a rave in Reykjavik, offers warm drinks (and drinks to warm you), food trucks, light shows, an ice bar and more. Like Montreal’s Igloofest. But you could try.

Montreal Winter Cycling Congress 2017

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A video posted by Tom Babin (@tombabin) on

 

Montreal Winter Cycling Congress 2017

 

15 reasons I like riding a bike in winter

1. I like winter. I like the consciousness of it, how it demands attention. Everything else in our life is always being made more convenient. Not winter. Winter will not bow to your busyness.

2. I like being forced to slow down. In the summer, I always feel like I can never ride fast enough. In winter, whenever I go too fast, a patch of ice reminds me that, no matter where I’m going, arriving 30 seconds earlier will not improve my life meaningfully enough to accept the risk.

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3. I remember being at a house party late one night during a particularly brutal cold snap. As we opened the door and the cold slapped our faces, I remember thinking that, if we had chosen the wrong jacket, or took a wrong turn somewhere, we might die on the way home that night. It somehow made me feel closer to everyone else at the party. But I had been drinking whisky for several hours, and everyone looked at me funny when I told them. We decided to walk home.

4. I like the getting dressed for a winter bike ride. Remember that scene in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Commando, where he gears up to invade the island to rescue Alyssa Milano by applying black makeup to his biceps and jamming a knife into a scabbard? That’s how I feel, except with a toque I got for free from a hotel.

5. I like laying fresh tracks in snow. It feels like a base human instinct, something buried in the reptilian part of our brain. Sometimes I go out of my way to lay fresh tracks in snow, but it’s always worth it. Well, except when it makes me late for work.

6. On nights of fresh snowfall, street lights are reflected off the powder in a way that gives the city a warm orange glow. Snow muffles the sound. My pedalling keeps me warm, I can see my breath, and I cut fresh tracks in the powder. I love those moments, even with LED streetlights making the glow feel more blue than orange.

7. In the dark, which comes early in winter, it’s easier to see into the windows of the houses I pass. That sounds creepy, but I don’t mean it that way. Mostly, it’s just people watching TV. I like to see what they are watching. Usually, whatever they are watching makes me feel great because I’m outside enjoying my ride while they are indoors wasting their life. Unless they are watching Wipeout. Then I wish I was home watching it too.

8. The easiest part of winter cycling is staying warm. The hardest part is staying cool enough that you don’t sweat. Here’s where I go wrong: I worry about getting cold, so I dress in extra layers, which makes me too hot after I start pedalling, so I struggle to peel off layers and stuff them into my panniers without stopping because I don’t want to be late for work. Then, I arrive at work in a steaming T-shirt and a vow to stop overdressing. Repeat the next morning. Don’t be like me.

9. There was a time that I teased people who wore ski helmets while riding their bikes in the city. I thought they were being dramatic about the cold, and they looked ridiculous. Then, one morning, I tried it. I don’t tease them any more. 

10. One of the great joys of bicycle commuting is passing lines of cars stopped in traffic. I admit it’s a smug kind of pleasure. This is even more satisfying in winter because the tailpipe exhaust adds dramatic tension to the scene.

11. When I first started riding a bike on city streets, I worried about taking the lane, which is an expression that means riding in the middle of the road instead of near the curb. In winter, the curb lane is often filled with snow, so taking the lane is sometimes required. For a long time, I didn’t like doing this because I felt guilty for slowing the cars behind me. I no longer have that guilt. I don’t know why, but I like it.

12. People think you must be stout and hardy to ride a bike in winter. You don’t. I try to tell them that, but they think I’m being modest and self-deprecating. After this happens several times, I’ll agree with them and sarcastically exaggerate how difficult it is. They usually don’t recognize it as sarcasm, and instead walk away feeling satisfied that their world view has been confirmed.

13. If somebody tells me they hate winter, I often ask why. Frequently, they say they hate winter driving. Some say they feel trapped indoors. Car commuting exacerbates both of these problems. Riding a bike fixes them.

14. Science says being outside is good for your brain and body, even if you don’t particularly enjoy that outdoor time on a windy and cold winter day. Riding a bike makes your life better, even if it’s sometimes hard.

15. I like how riding a bike in winter has changed my perspective on winter. Before I rode regularly, fresh snowfall and cold weather made me shudder. Now, I look forward to those days because it means the city will be prettier and the odds of a passing car throwing salty mud onto my face are reduced.

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