Thursday, October 28, 2010

Winter cycling?

Most people, including avid cyclists, seem to think cycling is impossible in Ottawa in the winter. I agree, but not because of the weather. Poor winter maintenance of what little cycling infrastructure we do have is the reason. Several years ago the NCC bike path along the canal was a treacherous place to be a pedestrian. As a long distance runner with little choice but to run in the winter, the canal pathway was usually a reasonably safe alternative to running on sidewalks, or worse, the road. However, it usually ended up as a single narrow goat path. The last few years have seen a huge improvement and the pathway is plowed fairly well and, indeed, cyclists have started using it frequently. So the real reason, aside from storms and ice, is the lack of maintenance on the cycle paths. As excited as I am to hear about the proposed (and promised by the new mayor) east/west route down Somerset Street it will be for nothing if it is not maintained in the winter. It needs to be completely segregated and plowed and not be at the bottom of the city's priority even pedestrians are these days. 
So can we cycle in winter if we have the infrastructure and the maintenance? Well, interestingly, Finnish cycling advocate Timo Perälä will be in Ottawa on November 2nd to talk about cycling in the winter in Finland. If they can do it in Finland then surely we can here as well. The talk starts at 7:00 p.m. at the Tom Brown Arena. It is presented by the Ottawa chapter of Citizens for Safe Cycling.


  1. Winter cycling is not at all difficult to do in Ottawa. I've been doing it for years, downtown and in the suburbs.

    You just can't think you can ride the same way you do in the summer. Even with segregated bike lanes, and plowed paths, you still have to deal with snow, ice, slush, and motor vehicles.

    The important thing is to not stop cycling regularly, and to give yourself lots of time to adjust to cycling in winter. Slow down, and learn to handle your bike in the cold. There are plenty of resources to learn best practices.

  2. Thanks Charles! I have made my initial winter foray on bike and I have one snowy/icy ride under me and I am actually looking forward to some light snow to try it again.