Winter cycling

A common pushback against safe cycling infrastructure is that it will only be used during the “fair-weather” and like half or 2/3 of the year. However, this is often based on a huge exaggeration.

First, in most places, extreme temperatures, ice, snowstorms are rare. The days where it is almost impossible or too dangerous to bike only adds up to a few weeks even in some of the colder countries like Canada.

Second, maybe even more importantly, such extreme weather conditions do not only affect cycling but also driving. If it’s cold enough or snowy enough to prevent cycling, it’s likely that it is also difficult for cars. Why Winter Cities Need to Reconsider Car Dependence by Oh The Urbanity argues this bias favoring cars very well.

Third, this argument also ignores the fact that a lot of money and resource are used to plow and clean roads for cars, while not so much for cycling infrastructure. Cars can travel after a snowstorm only because the roads are plowed. If cycling infrastructure gets the same treatment, cycling is not that different from driving.

Fourth, it is not as unpleasant to bike in the winter as what some people might depict. As shown in the video about Oulu, Finland by Not Just Bikes, just wearing what people would wear when they go outside is usually enough for cycling1.

Why Canadians Can’t Bike in the Winter (but Finnish people can) by Not Just Bikes highlights the story of Oulu in Finland where a large fraction of the population cycles all around the year even with temperature frequently going down below -20 celcius. He cites the study about temperature and cycling, which showed that there is no correlation between winter temperature and cycling population. But it is all about whether the city has proper, well-maintained Infrastructure or not. Oulu has great infrastructure and plows the bike path very well. As a result, a substantial fraction of the population cycles throughout the whole year. Why Cycling Critics Are Wrong About Winter by Oh The Urbanity also explains these points well.

For more information is an organization that advocates winter cycling.

Shifter talks about winter cycling often in his channel. He also has a book about winter cycling: Frostbike.

  1. You probably need more protection for hands and feet due to the windchill. But you will ride slower in the winter at the same time.