How to Keep Active Transportation Going in Winter

Woman riding bike on a cold day in Kamloops
Ministry staffer Alysha Piccini bikes to our district office in Kamloops each day… yep, even in winter.

According to a general population survey, bad weather is the top reason people choose not to travel to work, school or other activities using active transportation (that’s travelling by bike, on foot, wheelchair, skateboard, skis… the list goes on). And so it’s no surprise the number of people fuelled by their own power drops with the mercury each winter.

It doesn’t have to be that way. And remember, the benefits are worth it! We end up spending so much time indoors in winter. Making active transportation a part of your regular routine gives you much-needed fresh air to combat the winter blues. It also…

  • Increases your physical health and fitness
  • Reduces your environmental footprint
  • Saves you money: no gas, no pay parking

With a little preparation, you can reduce your dependence on motor vehicles year-round.

First off, it’s important to remember winter is more a season than it is a specific condition. What we mean by that is the active transportation experience in the Lower Mainland – “Raincouver,” for example – is going to be different than places in the north or interior. That said, the general approach is the same… plan ahead and adapt to your surroundings.

Woman cycling with car passing
Thank you to this driver for giving space while passing.

Prepare Yourself

We’re referring to both the preparation of the mind and the body here.

Mind

  • Map out the safest route, and have alternatives if conditions prove challenging (for example, winter maintenance priorities differ depending on route classification).
  • Test and practise routes to build confidence. Weekends are best, rather than during rush hour or when you’re in a time crunch.
  • Leave plenty of time to reach your destination.
  • Have an emergency kit with first aid supplies and basic repair tools on your bike or person.
  • Bring a backup bus ticket or bus fare just in case you decide conditions are too severe.

Body

  • Dress with layers. Being able to shed layers is important as your body temperature can increase during exercise.
  • Wear a waterproof and/or windproof outer shell to keep you dry and warm.
  • Wear gloves to protect your hands from cold and precipitation.
  • Have a hat and/or ear covers to help prevent body heat loss.
  • Wear warm socks to keep feet and toes insulated.
  • Put on winter boots or warm, waterproof shoes to combat any cold air or moisture.
  • Wear eye protection to shield from rain, snow and other debris.

Wide bike tire

Prepare Your Equipment

Depending on conditions, some equipment is easier to prepare for winter than others. Longboarding in the snow? That’ll be tough. Bikes, on the other hand, can be modified to better handle snow and ice.

Tires and Fenders

  • Lower air pressure to increase traction in cold, snow and ice. Lowering aire pressure allows the tires to contact more of the surface. Check the recommended pressure range on the sidewall and inflate at the lower end.
  • Go big to get home. Not everyone can have a winter-specific fat bike like that pictured above, but you can use wider tires with more aggressive tread (or even studded tires).
  • Block the spray. A front fender prevents water and muck from flying into your face (both annoying and dangerous); a rear fender keeps your behind clean and dry (no rooster tail!).

Stay Tuned… Up!

  • Check your components regularly to ensure they’re in good working order, especially your brakes and pads.
  • Keep bike parts like your chain clean and well lubricated.
  • Wipe down your bike after each rainy/snowy ride to prevent rust.

Be Visible (this goes for everyone)

  • Place reflectors on your bike, scooter or person.
  • Install a front (white) light and a rear (red) light on bikes, scooters or other mobility devices.
Red rear light on bike
Front and rear lights are essential for others to see you.

Now that you’re all fired up to keep active transportation alive through the winter, be smart when it comes to taking on severe conditions. There may be weather that is simply too much to take on, and getting a lift or using public transit is a better option. DriveBC is a good place to find road condition and weather previews.

And to all those who choose to drive through the winter… that’s OK, too. But please keep an extra lookout for cyclists, pedestrians, and other active transportation users. It’s dark these days. Be sure to clean off your entire vehicle, including windows and mirrors, and triple check before turning, changing lanes, or making other maneuvers.

Woman walking bike
Refreshed and ready to start a day at the ministry’s Kamloops office after a good ride! Daily exercise… check.

Interested in reading more about active transportation in BC? Check out the following blogs:

>> Why You Should Bike to Work (and School)

>> Behind the Scenes: Traffic Planning for Major Athletic Events

Got a winter active transportation tip? Let us know in the comments below!

4 comments on “How to Keep Active Transportation Going in Winter”

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  1. Hi
    ghway 3 in very bad condition
    Thick Ice RUTS
    both directions through Hope/ Princeton
    Totally unacceptable for today’s weather conditions
    Should have been winter conditions with compact snow
    Instead THICK stretches
    Like driving over an icy thick cattle guard for KM’s at a time
    Obviously not being properly cleared
    Have experience driving Highway 5/ Highway 1/97 . Highway 24 as well as Highway 3
    Have never seen a highway so
    Bad
    What you would expect on a side road off of a secondary highway
    TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE for a major highway

    Reply
  2. This is great, please keep building cycling trails separate from other vehicular traffic.
    The most dangerous part is the slide as any sized four wheelers are far greater forces than the lowly cyclist.

    Reply