canada / Cycling / ottawa / winter

Winter cycling: inconceivably normal

Winter is very much upon us in our Ottawa office. Many Canadian cities enjoy seasonally winter conditions for four or more months a year. As a country with a rich winter heritage: hockey, skating, skiing & ice fishing, are all activities that many associate with a typical Canadian winter. So why is it that many Canadians hang up their bikes for the winter months?

A recent tragic fatality of a cyclist in Ottawa really brought this question to the front of mind. The conditions on that particular day weren’t even particularly wintery, but yet there seemed to be a general sentiment in the public discourse that this event was somehow an inevitable result of cycling in winter. So perhaps more importantly than why people stop riding, is why many view winter cycling as out of place?

Having a culture that is so intertwined with winter activity means we are no strangers to the demands of being outside in the cold and snowy weather. We know it can be slippery, we know to dress appropriately, how is cycling different? Inevitably the answer must be that it isn’t. Cycling can be normal, even in the winter. Snow and ice can be slippery, which is why we do our best to remove it from our roads, sidewalks, and increasingly our bike facilities. Ottawa has a winter maintained network of cycling facilities of over 40km and growing. We shouldn’t expect people to abandon their bikes in the winter, the same way we don’t expect them to abandon the rest of their daily life.

We get it, it’s cold and snowy out, sometimes REALLY cold, but it’s part of living in a winter city. A cheesy seasonal meme came across our desk recently that had a message that rung quite true:

If you choose not to find joy in the snow, you will have less joy in your life but just as much snow.

So get out there, ride your bike. Enjoy winter. It’s not that bad. We promise.

Justin Goulding

‘Transportation systems should be designed to help create the places we want, rather than forcing places to respond to the transportation system we have.’

Integrated Mobility Consultant