Winter Bike Commuting

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The weather outside is frightful… yet there are still bike commuters out on the streets of Central Oregon. What possesses these people to bike commute in winter? Traveling by bike can still be a viable option in winter for many commuters, once a few precautions are taken.

Jeff Monson, executive director of Commute Options, bikes to his office in downtown Bend most days through the winter. He cites several reasons why winter bike commuting works for him. “Basically, bike commuting is free,” says Monson, adding, “Biking to work throughout the year saves on wear and tear on my car as well as gas money. I don’t have to pay for parking; in fact, it’s not even a hassle to find parking when I’m on my bike. Besides, it’s become a habit for me.”

Add the economic benefits to the obvious health and environmental benefits, and you’ve got a good, solid case for winter bike commuting. But there are some safety and comfort considerations to keep in mind. Here are some tips to make your winter bicycle commuting successful:
Wear the right clothes, including:
• A good wind jacket over layers of clothing;
• A pair of wind pants or long underwear;
• Windproof mittens over insulating liners or gloves on milder days;
• A neck gaiter and warm hat under your bicycle helmet; or
• A helmet cover with an ear band.

Use the right equipment, such as:
• A mountain bike with sturdy tires;
• A set of fenders;
• In icy conditions, studded bicycle tires;
• A bright halogen light on the front of your bike and a red light on the back;
• A reflective vest and reflective tape on your helmet and elsewhere.
Comfort and warmth are important for the winter bike commuter. “Make sure you bring your helmet and winter gloves inside during winter, so you’re not putting them on cold,” says Monson. “To stay extra toasty, you can even warm your helmet on the heater or by the fireplace before heading out to work in the morning.”

“A bicycle is a vehicle,” says Monson, “so remember that and take the same types of precautions in winter driving conditions that you would take in your car.” This might include changing your route to travel on streets that have less traffic, or where the bike lanes are not blocked by snow. “Plan ahead, and pick a route to work that’s safe,” says Monson. “Beware, especially, of shady areas that may be icy.”

Though Monson advocates winter bike commuting, he does not recommend bicycling in deep snow or blizzards or on icy roads. “If the weather or road conditions are really nasty,” says Monson, “take the bus, or telework if your job permits it.”

Commute Options promotes choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information about Commute Options, contact Jeff Monson, Executive Director of Commute Options at 541/330-2647 or visit www.commuteoptions.org.

Annissa Anderson is a freelance writer and PR consultant in Bend.

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