Friday, January 27, 2012

The winter cycling myth that Canadians hold so dear

We often hear the detractors of cycling in Ottawa say that few people cycle and that it's impossible to cycle in Ottawa in the winter. And though we Canadians like to take pride in being hardy survivors of winter we could take a lesson from others. It seems you can live in snowy climates and still cycle in the winter as is evident in these pictures taken by Marie in Uppsala, Sweden. It looks like winter to me.

Uppsala 2

Uppsala 1

It's really not about the weather.


Photos by Marie Clausén, taken in Uppsala, Sweden

9 comments:

  1. Gorgeous photos! Talking about winter cycling, did you hear the one about the cyclist that drove his bike happily past two ice fishermen yesterday on Wood Lake in the Okanagan and promptly thereafter disappeared beneath the ice for ever?

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  2. Oh my! That's terrible! I really have no idea why people ever trust lake ice.

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  3. Not to be a naysayer, but if you research the climate of Uppsala vs. that of Ottawa, there is quite the difference in temperature. January/February average lows there would be -5 or -6, highs about -1. Also, in recent years, snowfall has been quite variable in that part of Sweden, with often prolonged periods of little to no snow cover (although I think the last couple of winters have been quite cold and snowy). I think the heavy snowfalls of 20 or 30 cm might be less common there, too. Moscow might be a more apt comparison: winter similar to Ottawa's, and winter cycling is probably not quite as common as in Sweden.

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  4. Well, there is a city in northern Finland called Oulu. It is several hundred kilometres north of Helsinki and it receives more snow annually than does Ottawa. They have a very high modal share for bikes even in the winter...though it does drop in the winter. But there winter share is higher than our summer on. They plow bike lanes before streets and before sidewalks. Cycling is huge there. So, it really isn't about weather (at least when you are seeking modest cycling growth) but it's more about infrastructure and maintenance. As we saw in Ottawa this winter, more people used the bike lane than before because it was plowed and it's maintenance was a city priority.

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  5. Great article. And you're right its not about the weather, as a keen cyclist from England I go out biking in the rain a LOT, if I didn't well I wouldn't get out at all!! Very good post I agree highly.

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  6. Nope. It's really not about the winter, it's about our culture here in Canada. I spent 18 months in Sweden, 4 of which were in the UK and rode my bike throughout the 18 months. The problem with Canada (and North America as a whole) is that we're driven by consumption and comfort. People here drive their cars from one side of the parking lot to the other.

    In my opinion, it's about education. Of course we can't ask Canadian citizens to ride their bikes when it hits -40. But with the help of the city's government we could make a change. If other capitals and large cities in 1st world nations can do it (ie. Stockholm, Amsterdam, Copenhagen etc) then why can't we? Even our friendly neighbours in Montreal are getting the hang of it. Canada is too American in that sense, we're driven by consumption and comfort.

    @ Urban Neurotic have you ever lived in place as cold as Ottawa and Upsala while living a cycle culture? If you have then I'm sure you can at least agree that cycling is a very healthy way of life, and it's also good for the environment.

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  7. @Sthephany, thanks. I agree totally. It's really about education and infrastructure. However, Ottawa is getting better at providing cycle lanes. A new segregated lane will be built on Churchill shortly and the plans are for more. The Laurier SBL 2 year study will be over next July and the stats say it's been a big success.

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  8. That's great to hear! I've recently moved back to Ottawa and was a little surprised to see more bike lanes than I remember. Hopefully, we can get more bikes lanes built in this great city of ours. Currently, I think Ottawa is great for biking for leisure, but not for transportation. With the right infrastructure I'm sure we can increase the use of bikes!

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