Cyclists take their ‘coldest day of the year’ ride on record-warm Jan. 30
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Joey Schwartz wore shorts. That usually doesn’t happen in winter cycling.
“Last year’s wasn’t that cold, either; it was -2,” said Schwartz, as cyclists gathered behind Toronto City Hall for the “coldest day of the year ride” on Wednesday.
Cycle Toronto plans the annual event for Jan. 30, a day organizers say is statistically the coldest in Toronto.
That it happened to be the warmest Jan. 30 on record (hitting a high of 14C by 8 a.m.) — well, that was “kind of a downer,” said organizer Jared Kolb.
“But on the other hand, look at this fantastic turnout,” he said as a group of 75 cyclists began pedalling away.
The idea, as explained to Councillor John Parker, is that “the depths of winter, that’s not going to stop us,” he relayed, wearing only a sweater vest and suit jacket.
“See the cute hat they gave me?” Parker — who describes himself as a recreational cyclist — said to Councillor Mary Fragedekis, enthusiastic about the helmet on loan from Bixi.
Kolb noted they’d maybe have to look at the Jan. 30 calculation again. But Dave Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada, said the mark isn’t far off. While he wouldn’t call Jan. 30 precisely the coldest day, it does mark the end of the “coldest week on average in Toronto,” or the “bottom” of winter.
Kolb said only 10 per cent of Toronto cyclists continue to ride through the winter, and Cycle Toronto is trying to encourage people to keep cycling. He told the crowd that better winter maintenance of bike lanes, more bike lanes, promotion and education will help keep people on the roads year-round.
“This is not so much the exception, really, for cycling in Toronto, but the norm,” he said, noting the April-like conditions. “We took a look at the days of January, and concluded 75 per cent of the days were easily bikeable — cycling is a four-season activity. Today is so much a celebration of that.”
This January, in particular, has had two thawing periods, Phillips said — and thaws are quite normal.
Connor Gregory, who kept his gloves in his pockets and not on his hands, said that “On the way here, another cyclist and me were like, ‘No gloves!’ and we high-fived.”
Councillor Mike Layton prepared his speech for a more traditional Jan. 30 — “I wanted to warm us up by having a little humour,” he said before launching into a game of “Have you ever?” to determine “how hardcore” the crowd was about winter cycling.
“Have you ever worn ski goggles to protect your eyes from freezing?”
Bike bells and horns answered with a yes.
“Have you ever been doored by a snow plow?”
A lone, somewhat horrified guffaw. Silence.
“No one? No one? That’s good.”
“Have you ever worn gloves instead of mittens just so you could single-finger salute those impatient motorists?”
More bells and applause.
“That’s too many. Come on, folks. We’re sharing the road!”