This winter is the first one that I’ve bicycled to work. Other winters would see me retire the bike or run commute in favour of the car in October-ish.
I was really nervous about the winter commute before I started. Like most, my memory of winter automobile commuting is about shoveling the driveway before work and sliding around unplowed streets. These are exceptions not the norm though, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from winter biking.
Probably a bit better than mid-way through my first winter of biking and this is what I wished I knew before I started. It wouldn’t change my mind though, just relieved some of my anxiety.
- This is Waterloo specific. Your commute is going to be much, much easier if you are travelling north-south in Waterloo. There is no decent bike infrastructure linking east and west. If you’re going N-S, you have the Iron Horse trail.
- Not everyday is an icy slippery mess. You’ll have some days like this. They actually stretch out for several days after a good snowfall (due to point 3). But for the most part, winter here is dry and the roads are made of salt.
- Snow clearing from bike lanes is only priority on paper. Again, maybe specific to Waterloo only. After a snowfall, you can expect to stay out of the bike lanes for a good while. Some roads are excepted. Bridge St. Seems to have bike lanes cleared quickly, but Columbia St. was a mess for months.
- People will think you are impoverished. There’s a great many trail blazers at my office who have broken the stereotype before I took up winter cycling. But in my other person interactions, there’s a fair amount of pity that I pick up on when I say I bike to work. I don’t usually try to correct their perceptions. It’s easier to be the object of pity.
- Don’t be timid about biking in traffic. I ranted a bit against vehicular cycling last year. I still think that VC isn’t necessary if decent infrastructure is provided and maintained. However, in the winter months, you can expect to assert your right to the road more often. Or, bike in the snowbank. Make sure to stay out of partially cleared bike lanes, they make you unpredictable to motorists.
- Motorists are not out to get you. They are mostly courteous and allow me lots of space. Some come too close and honk for no reason. I prefer to think of them as ignorant, not malevolent. This dispelled a bit of a paranoid fantasy I had about winter biking. If you share it, you can relax, drivers are good if ignorant.
As I write the list, I realize I could go on and on about what I know now. Might be fun if there’s a collaborative list going in the comments section though. If you’re reading, you should feel compelled to add to it.