Braving the winter on two wheels
Cycling: It's not just for summers in Vancouver.
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Black ice, dark commutes and sudden downpours: winter cycling certainly has its challenges. But in a city as mild as Vancouver, hibernal riding also offers up some sweet rewards. More and more cyclists are braving the weather and reaping the rewards of this environmentally friendly transportation mode.
Lisa Corriveau, a local blogger, cycling advocate, HUB instructor and mother of two, cycles year-round regardless of weather, usually with kids in tow.
“Though sometimes I will take the bus or carshare if I don't feel like getting soaked, I mostly ride my Bakfiets long front loading cargo bike, which carries my children, groceries, etc.,” she said.
One of the benefits of winter cycling, Corriveau noted, is that “holiday season bike parking is particularly awesome. Whether I'm going to a busy store or a popular special event, parking is free, easy & usually right near the entrance."
Corriveau’s winter biking gear is “basically the same as I'd wear for walking in the winter, nothing too technical or bike-specific.
"I layer up, then I wear a long down jacket under a trench coat, and always gloves.”
During heavy rain or snow, she dons rain pants and rubber boots. After last year's months of icy roads, she opted to buy studded winter bike tires, “though I haven't needed them yet this year.”
Besides being a great way to save money, Corriveau said it’s also the perfect way to “squeeze more exercise into your day, which means now you can eat more holiday treats!”
“Those benefits really add up if you ride all year. Plus, since fewer people ride, you'll have the seawall or bike lanes almost to yourself.”
As Jel Kocmaruk, a bike education co-ordinator with HUB noted, winter riding gear is “as unique as all the folks that choose to bike during this season.”
She suggests layers, gloves, and waterproofing a pair of boots, or getting covers for your shoes. She also encourages people to prioritize what is most important for them.
"For example, some of our cycling instructors want to stay dry but value being able to move in their rain gear, so some of them opt for rain capes over rain jackets.”
Winter cyclists can stay safe by taking certain precautions. First of all, slowing down is key.
“It takes longer to stop in wet, slippery conditions. We encourage people to brake early, and practice feathering their brakes —gently squeezing them in rapid intervals, “ suggested Kocmaruk.
In HUB courses, they teach people to maintain a safe following distance of two to three seconds between themselves so they can react to winter conditions.
They also recommend practicing the emergency stop, which entails, “firmly squeezing both brakes, shifting your weight backward and keeping pedals parallel to the ground to be prepared for unexpected situations. “
Another key to safe winter rides is making sure cyclists are visible to other road users.
In fact, Kocmaruk pointed out that keeping their white front light and red rear light charged and on can cut the risk of collisions by 47 per cent. She also explained that, “Now is a good time to add an extra strip of reflective tape to regular cycling clothing.”
Vancouver’s year-round cycling allure stems from its relatively temperate winters where the main environmental factor is usually rain and the fact bikes can also be carried on public transit, offering the convenience of multi-modal transportation.
Kocmaruk bikes throughout the winter and noted that the benefits include, “Building exercise into my daily commute, arriving energized, and staying out of rush hour traffic.
"Plus, cycling year-round means that I experience the changing of the seasons in full colour.”