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In preparation for the Winter Cycling Congress, we’re busting some of the myths that have been holding back year-round cycling for too long.
In cities around the world, people are waking up from a long winter slumber and embracing this dreaded season by hopping on their bikes. Some of these winter cycling enthusiasts will be gathering in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, from February 10 to 12, 2015, for the 3rd international Winter Cycling Congress. In preparation for the congress, we’re busting some of the myths that have been holding back year-round cycling for too long.
1 It’s too cold!
A recent survey of cyclists in one of North America’s coldest metropolitan areas, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, MN, revealed that 75 percent found bad road/ trail conditions a greater deterrent to winter cycling than they did bad weather. What’s more, 20 percent of cyclists in the Twin Cities keep riding all year, and they are not the only ones. Tom Babin of the Calgary Herald recently reported that an estimated 25 percent of Calgary, AB, cyclists ride year-round and in Ottawa, ON, the number is around 20 percent. Chances are that if you live in a cold climate you are hearty, or you would have already moved to Hawaii, as Anders Swanson, organizer of Winter Cycling Congress Winnipeg pointed out recently.
2 It’s too expensive.
Cities are building bike infrastructure in response to public demand. Maintaining it, so that it can be used year-round, maximizes these investments and supports public transportation, as bikes can be first-mile and last-miles solutions. Winter cities already own snow clearance equipment, and parks departments often have small-scale equipment that can be used for protected bike lanes. Mikael Colville-Andersen, CEO of Copenhagenize, makes the point that this snow clearing equipment sits unused for half the year and yet no one questions its necessity.
3 It’s an extreme sport.
In Oulu, Finland, half of all 13-17-year-olds ride their bikes year-round. In the Netherlands, Dutch children cycle 2.5 billion miles per year. In Denmark, even 90-year-olds are up for bike trips. People of all ages and abilities use bikes to make everyday trips when quality infrastructure exists and it is maintained (and even when it is not). Michael Napiorkowski and Maayke Schurer – the creative minds behind The Ottawa Bicycle Lanes Project – transport their two children by bike year-round in Canada’s capital city.
While winter cycling may never be universally practiced by everyone, it is clear that there is growing demand for year-round cycling. Accommodating these riders can benefit everyone, including the people who will never ride a bike in winter as there will be fewer drivers to compete with.
If you can’t make it to Leeuwarden, visit wintercyclingblog.org for more stories about winter cities and cyclists.