It is no secret that winter has come to Fort Collins. However, cold weather and short days don’t mean commuters need to put away their bicycles for the season.
While winter cycling may take a little extra preparation, it is well worth the effort. Proper clothing and accessories can make a world of difference in a bicyclist’s comfort level in cold weather.
Winter commuters also shouldn’t feel obligated to ride in all circumstances. The weather in Colorado is known to change quickly and drastically. Cyclists ought to create a backup plan in the case of detrimental weather, equipment failure or inadequate clothing. Riding the bus or carpooling can be a great alternative when riding conditions are dismal.
Bike commuters should check the city’s snow plow routes in order to determine a safe, feasible route where the bike lanes will be cleared of snow. The trail system is great to ride in the winter, as it is often free and clear of snow before the roadways are. Even though snow plows will clear the lanes, cars tend to push snow and debris back into the bike lane, making it unsafe for cyclists to navigate. Bicyclists are not expected or required to ride through hazards in the bike lane and may take the full travel lane in order to safely make their commute.
If a cyclist does encounter snow or ice on the commute, it is best to continue straight, tread lightly, and avoid swerving or braking too quickly. Fat-tired bikes will ride best in snowy, wet conditions. Cyclists can simply let out some air from their tires to gain more traction.
With the onset of winter also comes fewer hours of daylight. Bicycle commuters are more likely to be caught in the dark while riding during the winter months, so it is incredibly important to ride bright. Colorado law requires bicycles on the roadway to be equipped with a front white light, a red rear reflector and side reflectors so they can be seen from all angles. Neon clothing, reflective accessories and bright bike lights all help cyclists to be seen and share the road safely with other road users.
FC Bikes’ Bike Winter campaign, running through February, offers several opportunities for bicyclists who are interested in honing in on their winter cycling skills. Cyclists interested in learning more on how to ride safely and comfortably in the winter are invited to attend the Winter Cycling 101 course. For those looking for an opportunity to practice their winter riding skills and to build their confidence on a leisurely group ride, there are the Guided Winter Rides. Finally, at Light Up the Night stations, bicyclists in need will be provided with a bike light or replacement batteries.
For more information on the Bike Winter campaign, including Winter Bike to Work Day and the Bike Plan Release Celebration, please visit fcgov.com/bikewinter.
Becky Moriarty is the FC Bikes program specialist for the city of Fort Collins.