The Ottawa Citizen: More cyclists brave elements to commute year-round
Bike stores see jump in sales of winter gear
BY CHRISTIAN BERGMEISTER , THE OTTAWA CITIZEN JANUARY 21, 2010
OTTAWA — Through ice, wind, and snow, an increasing number of Ottawans are braving the elements and using an alternative mode of transportation: winter cycling.
Pete Hickey is one of those winter cyclists, and for the past 25 years, he has been commuting year-round on his bike from his home in Hull to the University of Ottawa.
Hickey, 56, who works for network security at the university, makes the 12-kilometre trip on an old 12-speed Velosport road bicycle.
While the number of winter cyclists on roads and pathways is still relatively low, Hickey says that he has seen a change over the years.
“When I first started in the winter, occasionally I would see bike tracks in the snow on the bridge, so I would know there is somebody out there sometimes. And then just gradually I started to see more and more people on bicycles, and now, I don’t go a day, no matter how bad the weather, without seeing at least one other bicycle, and usually like five to 10 bicycles,” said Hickey.
Hickey says that as the number of winter cyclists increases, so does the number of people it inspires.
“People started seeing more people doing it and said ‘Hey, I’ve got to try that’.”
He says that the improvements in cycling gear have also made a difference.
Dave Macki, co-owner of Phat Moose Cycles in Ottawa, agrees and says that there is one piece of equipment in particular that makes winter cycling more comfortable and safe.
“The big thing for us is studded tires,” said Macki. “If your front washes out, you go down. Once you get a studded tired on, you have traction on ice.”
Macki says there was a big jump in winter cycling equipment sales during the OC Transpo strike in 2009. Winter cycling is just as popular this year, says Macki, who used to commute year-round on his bicycle.
From a safety standpoint, Zlatko Krstulich, president of Citizens for Safe Cycling Ottawa, says there are two things winter cyclists need to keep in mind: be visible and be predictable. Using a bike light at night and making sure vehicles are aware of where bicycles are on the road is something all winter cyclists need to keep in mind, he says.
Krstulich, a winter cyclist himself, says that the goal of the CFSC is to improve and maintain cycling facilities throughout the city. In the wintertime, snow removal is particularly important for cyclists.
Together with Kitchissippi Ward Councillor Christine Leadman, Krstulich says the CFSC is working toward improving snow removal on roads and pathways frequently used by cyclists, trying to ensure corridors are as clean as possible.
“The more comfortable and safe the bicyclists feel, the more riders there will be,” said Leadman.
For Hickey, comfort is the key to winter cycling. Bundled up in winter clothing, he says he feels safer on a bicycle than he does in a car because the snow causes him to reduce his speed and cushions him if he falls. He’s never had serious injury while biking in the winter.
For those interested in winter cycling, Hickey has these words:
“Start on the days that are nicer. You start in the fall and you have some warm days, cold days, and you get used to the temperature. Go on a day where there is a light snow, and then you can get comfortable. Once you’re comfortable, you’ll know what you want. You have to go and see for yourself, try it.”
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