A Winter’s Ride: Encouraging Year-Round Bicycling

Bike Share, Northwest

by Jocelyn Gaudi, Marketing Coordinator at Alta Bicycle Share

Jocelyn riding in the snow in Boston

Jocelyn riding in the snow in Boston

Aside from the rare polar vortex event, it’s completely feasible to ride bicycles throughout the winter season. Many bike share systems in North America are continuing operations during the harsh weather months, challenging the majority opinion that bike rides are best saved for mild and sunny days. Usage data suggests, however, that opinion may be shifting with the increased convenience and accessibility of bike share. Despite a low of only 4 degrees in New York City on January 8, 2014, a total of 6,669 trips were completed on Citi Bikes!

I’ve been commuting by bike year-round for nearly a decade, in both Boston, MA and Portland, OR. Admittedly, my first year in Boston proved a tough training ground for this native Texan– it snowed before Halloween! I had group of riding friends to show me the ropes and teach me winter riding essentials and skills, and I eventually grew to love the challenge and reward in commuting through any weather conditions.

For each of Alta’s bike share systems, we know that empowering riders to saddle up comfortably and ride safely regardless of frigid temperatures starts with education. A few careful decisions can make a big difference for an urban cyclist riding through the winter, and we are working to share helpful hints with our rider base across the country. Here are a few invaluable lessons to learn before pedaling off for a cold weather ride:

  1. Consider your clothing – Winter riding doesn’t require expensive, specific gear. Dressing in layers provides riders with flexibility and adjustment options for changing conditions. It’s important to keep the head and the hands covered, and a solid pair of boots helps to keep toes warm and dry.
  2. Increase visibility and decrease speed – Shorter days and foggy conditions require all road users to slow down and proceed with increased caution. Cyclists should always assure their bikes have bright lights (bike share bicycles have always-on front and rear lights), and reflective or light-colored clothing is additionally helpful. Riders always should be aware of their surroundings – keeping eyes and ears alert while on shared streets and pathways.
  3. Respect yourself – It’s important for riders decide for themselves when they’re comfortable riding and when they’re not. It is always a good idea to have a plan B before setting off in the case that the weather deteriorates after you’ve left home. If the conditions push a cyclist past their comfort level, they should stop riding and determine other means to continue, utilizing mass transit or waiting for the worst of the rain or snow to pass over.

Winter riding can be a wonderfully rewarding experience. With a bit of patience and preparedness, riders can be ready to tackle even the toughest conditions on two wheels.

Nicole Guernsey

About Nicole Guernsey

Nicole studied at the University of California, Santa Barbara and received her B.A. in both English and History in 2009. After taking a couple of years off from school to ruminate on her future (and deciding not to teach) she got accepted to Portland State University’s Book Publishing program. She completed her MA in Writing: Book Publishing in June of 2013. During her time in the program, Nicole interned with Ooligan Press as a Project Manager for Write to Publish, and has since been hired as Alta Planning + Design’s Marketing and Production Coordinator.
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