It’s that cold, grey time of year again; it’s the time of year where I shelter myself in my room, pull out the knitting needles, cocoon myself in my blankets, and watch too many seasons of television. I suppose I could venture out of my fortress of warmth, but I don’t. Would there be a point? I wouldn’t leave the house anyway. I don’t really want to go anywhere, couldn’t be bothered with the effort if I did. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to go anywhere during winter either if you had to bike to get there. When biking is your go-to mode of transportation, leaving the house is a seasonal thing.
Don’t be mistaken – I’m probably be one of the biggest advocates for biking, as a mode of transportation, you’ll ever meet: I bike to school when I miss the bus, I bike to the town library during the summer, I bike to shops when running errands, I bike everywhere. I learned to bike when I was seven, grew up in very bike friendly areas, and I’ve been biking as a mode of transportation since I was ten. If this means biking on roads with cars (oh, the horror), so be it. I haven’t been hit by a car yet, and I intend to keep it this way, by being safety conscious. Which means not biking during the winter season. For me, this means a loss of freedom and independence, but we Americans value life and liberty, and not just liberty, no?
Winter is a sad time for bicyclists. The days are shorter, and darkness eats away at the safe, daylight hours. Even in the brightest of winter times, lighting is never good: a perpetual miserable grey. As a mode of transportation, bike safety decreases even more. Cars just don’t expect a cyclist pedaling around during the winter months. Befuddling, I know, but true. (It actually is to me. I lived in Belgium for a large duration of my childhood. It is a very bike-friendly country, and I remember bike paths were sometimes cleared of snow before roads were!) This makes the visibility of the cyclist to motorists (car-people!) even more important This means bicycle lights and the dreaded neon yellow, reflective “safety” vest are necessary evils to ensure that the car-people will notice the lonely cyclist. (Seriously, public humiliation is not a fate worse than death – nor the tongue lashing from the parental figures for reckless endangerment. Be visible, stay safe.) Of course – and perhaps most importantly – scientists have proven that in the northern hemisphere, it’s cold during the winter season. It’s freezing! While this is an easy fix in a car, my vehicle of choice (the bicycle, in case you forgot!) doesn’t quite come with heated seats. The frigid temperatures are only relieved wearing more layers of clothes, gloves, scarves, and hats. Don’t even get me started on the horrors of biking when it’s raining or snowing, or any other form of precipitation, as well!
My message is: biking is a great method of transportation, one that I would recommend for any teenager and adult, as long as one is taking the appropriate safety precautions. Wearing a helmet, watching coming and going cars, navigating predictably, indicating intent (hand signals), and proper visibility to car-people, and following traffic laws are the basic ideas. And, for the sensible cyclist, taking the proper safety precautions means not biking in the winter. So don’t pump up your bike wheels and start pedaling just yet, but maybe keep your bike in mind when making those New Year’s Resolutions this year, yeah?