This Friday is Winter Bike to Work Day, an initiative more than 10,000 people worldwide took part in last year, and cyclists throughout the Northern Hemisphere are invited to pledge to commute on two wheels that day, as well as sharing their stories online.
Founded in Canada by a group of cyclists including Winnipeg-based Anders Swanson who co-ordinates the initiative’s website, this year’s fourth edition on February 12 will coincide with the first Winter Bike to School Day, reports BikeBiz.
Last year saw 10,818 people participate – around 60 of those in the UK and Republic of Ireland – and this interactive map enables you to zoom in on individual ‘snowflakes’ and see exactly where they were, as well as learning what they “love most about riding a bicycle in the winter.”
Responses include a rider in Kent who says “if it snows the roads empty of traffic,” one in Gloucester who believes “it’s a great way to wake up,” a cyclist in Milton Keynes who finds “camaraderie in the cycle paths. Everyone says hello,” and a commuter from Edinburgh who appreciates the “cold crisp air and blue skies.”
The theme of this year’s snowflakes is to come up with reasons that “might inspire a kid to ride a bicycle to school in the winter.” A Cambridge cyclist says “because it’s fun!” while one from Birmingham says “cycling will make you feel like a superhero.”
Looking down the list, cities in countries that experience harsher winters than the UK dominate – Canada, Russia, Finland and Norway among them – though British interest is limited right now, with just a few dozen people promising to take part at the time of writing.
Swanson told BikeBiz that the experience of previous years is that interest builds the closer the date gets, and this year there will be the added impact of schools being involved.
“This year, we have people committing in more than 400 cities, each one acting as an ambassador to others nearby,” he said. “We are nearing 5,000 for 2016 as I answer this.
“Every year, the results changes by the minute right up until the final hour. The event tends to explode in the last week.
“Once the day nears and people really start to talk about it, commitments skyrocketing and our server starts to feel it. This event will never reflect the actual number of people riding in the winter.
“With schools involved this year, anything can happen. There are more kids under 16 riding to school in Finland this morning than the total of adults that have ever signed up to our little event over the years. Think about that for a second.”
“We are collecting really important data. And even schools without kids biking should sign up just to start collecting data. What is measured gets managed.”
As part of that, there’s a survey that assesses people’s experience of riding in the winter, such as how safe they feel it is and how satisfied they are with issues such as provision of cycle parking at workplaces, retail destinations and transport hubs, plus how good their local authorities are at clearing snow from cycle lanes and paths.
Swanson added: “People got tired of hearing that cycling in the winter was somehow inherently hard or abnormal or some reason not to create connected cycling networks everywhere.
“We knew that it was extremely common in a number of places, and perfectly normal in principle. What we saw was happening was simply that not every city ‘gets it’.
“We needed to dispel some myths and focus on doing the actual simple work of building year-round bike-friendly cities.”
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.