By: Leila Kent
When you’re freezing your balls off waiting for the bus, watch me go whizzing past. Then ask me again why I’m bicycling all winter.
Though this is the Sustainability Committee blog, I want to give some reasons to cycle all winter that have nothing to do with environmentalism.
There are lots of strong reasons to not bicycle, like living far enough away from good bike infrastructure that it’s unfeasible, or living so close to school that it’s unneeded, or having strong personal reasons why biking just doesn’t work for you. If you cycle in warmer months though, why switch over? The most common complaints I hear are, in order of frequency:
“It’s easier to just take transit.”
(Seriously, even the third assertion is false. You are immortal.)
Let’s think about this one for a sec. If you’re a cyclist in the warmer months, what do you do when you put your bike away for the winter? You walk, ttc, or drive. Walking is cold, as is waiting for the bus/streetcar. Though it may seem strange, cycling in the winter is not cold.
Since we all have to go outside occasionally, so why not make those moments bearable – enjoyable, even? If you suffer from a lack of sunlight in the winter, you’ll catch more rays on a bike than you will in a bus.
For the busy student: combining your workout and transportation is a neat and efficient way to budget time. It ensures you get the exercise you need to stay mentally and physically sharp, and you cut down time spent slogging from class to class. Sure, you might arrive a bit sweaty to your destination, but you can bring a change of clothes if it’s an issue. Chances are your workplace or school has a washroom you can use for a couple minutes to straighten yourself out, and that will be that. As long as you don’t over-dress, your body heat and the outside air can be balanced pretty easily to keep you comfortable.
I’ve found that my ideal outfit for most winter days is a windbreaker, a light sweater, something to cover my ears (toque or muffs), waterproof mitts, sunglasses, and maybe an extra layer under my jeans for warmth. It’s when I’m not cycling that the wool sweaters and massive parka make an appearance – though even then, I’m better off than I would be during a non-cycling winter, since getting regular exercise keeps my metabolism in high gear.
I took the Bloor-Danforth subway twice a day in highschool and there were many times, especially at rush hour, when it was far from easy to get where I was going. First “We are currently experiencing a delay…” drones over the intercom. You grit your teeth as you watch the third loop of OneStop media headlines play across the information screen. Finally, a train arrives and you squeeze your sexy way in, MarinaAbramovic-style. Then TTC HQ giggles and and tells you all to get off because the train needs to be emptied of gravy. You curse the transit gods for trolling your ride, and trudge to the shuttle bus.
Not to say that the TTC isn’t a useful service. But for those as impatient as myself, it’s a wonderfully calming privilege to control the speed of your commute, if and when you can.
Anyways, it is a bit scary biking in the city. But it’s like that all year round. The roads don’t turn into the Rideau Canal come first frost and drivers don’t become orcs. Toronto has wonderfully tame weather, and the city salts the roads into sandpaper. Usually, cleaning salt residue off your bike is a more pressing chore than avoiding snow/ice patches in the street.
There are more hours of darkness, so you need to make sure you have plenty of lights and reflectors. There are a few days of serious snow when you don’t want to bike – and on those days, the cozy confines of the subway will be waiting for you with open doors (when they snap shut on your backpack, just remember to swear loudly and keep tugging). Side streets are best to avoid when there’s been some snow, but arterial routes generally remain comparable to their fall conditions. In case of slippery roads, just take extra caution, as you would hopefully do while walking/driving. Assume drivers will take longer to stop, and may miscalculate turns a bit. Usually though, when ice season hits, the sidewalks end up a lot slipperier than the streets.
Here’s hoping I’ll see you on two wheels before spring!
Great info on winter biking:
Image Source: http://www.fastcoexist.com/multisite_files/coexist/imagecache/960/poster/2012/10/1680792-poster-1280-heated-bike-lanes.jpg