Winter cyclists defy the elements
You see them out on the coldest of days. They are the bundled-up cyclists who brave the elements to commute to work on two wheels.
And they beg the question, “Are you crazy?”
“I walked yesterday and I thought THAT was crazy,” laughs cyclist Lana Stewart. “It took me three times as long and I was really grumpy when I got to work.”
“Once you have the right gear it’s not too bad,” adds Erik deVries, who says he hasn’t missed a day of cycling in three years.
People who cycle 365 days a year say braving winter's cold isn’t that complicated. The first tip is that tried and true nugget of advice – dress in layers. “Right now I have five layers on,” says Eric Goodwin. “An undershirt, my work shirt, marino wool, a cotton hoodie, and then a wind-proof layer on top.”
Special care is also taken to cover the ears, face, and hands. You see a lot of neck warmers, balaclavas, and even ski goggles on winter cyclists. Goodwin has specially-designed bike handle covers that he can put his hands right inside.
As for the bike itself, the cyclists we spoke with highly recommend studded tires. “The days that we had a lot of ice on side roads there were cars sliding into ditches and I had no issues at all,” says Michael Napiorkowski.
Napiorkowski is part of the Ottawa Bicycle Lanes Project, advocating for more segregated bike lanes like the ones on Laurier Avenue.
Because a bigger issue than the cold, say winter cyclists, is snow. The Laurier bicycle lanes are kept relatively clear. But they can’t say the same for other bike paths in the city. And snowbanks often crowd bicycles and cars too close together on many roads. Says Napiorkowski, “What makes it dangerous is when you get into certain proximities with cars. Cars are the dangerous part.”
The cyclists say most drivers are careful and considerate in the winter, but not all. Some drivers want the bikes off the road in the wintertime. “It should be banned,” says one cabbie. Another driver adds “There’s ice. They fall. So I don’t think it should be allowed.”
But others are perfectly fine with their two-wheeled counterparts. “I think there’s nothing wrong with it,” says one driver. Another adds “I don’t think they should ban it, but maybe even take further steps to expand the winter cycling network.”
And there are some people who would take advantage of that all year round.