Winter Biking

picture-3No, I don’t use my bicycle in the winter.
No way.

Why not? Well, I look at the dudes on their bikes, huffing and puffing on clear-road days, wearing a mixture of Mountain Equipment Co-op gear with a hodge-podge of knitted hats and scarves or balaclavas with mismatched gloves…and they look like they had to spend 20 minutes getting dressed for their ride. Also, some folks have these super-pants (all I can think to call them) with seemingly light jackets. They look like they’re going to freeze. But likely, their jacket is some sort of ultra dense polymer-mix weather-resistant beast that MUST’VE cost a fortune.

So I have to either look like a Value Village on two wheels or pay through the nose to justify riding my bike 20km every work day.

Well, I began feeling like both of these two options is totally worth it. Worth the money or worth the look.
Last night, reading some older issues of Spacing Magazine, I was dumbfounded by some of the statistics about cars. Not the pollution. Forget that for a second. Just the space these things need is silly. Parking where you live, parking where you shop, parking where you’re going, and almost for FREE.
The author of one of the article postulated that raising the cost for parking WAY UP would only serve to discourage car rides when walking or biking is a doable option. I kind of love this idea. A lot (pardon the pun – hahaha). If you live in Boston and you want to go downtown, you may pay $50 for a day of parking. I can already hear the conversations of people anticipating this cost, “Screw that! Let’s take the subway, or the bus.”

Yes, Windsor would need a respectable transit force before any of this was possible, but I like the idea of discouraging car use by intimidating the wallets of the users. Should NO ONE have cars? No. I don’t think that. In fact, the idea of car-sharing in Toronto and New York, and other cities is hugely intriguing too. The bummer of car sharing, and many of these forward thinking shifts in transportation ar that they have to start in MAJOR urban centres…unlike Windsor. We get to sit around and wait for these initiatives to get used, proven, popular, and then passed on…

Parking is such a stupid thing, when it’s examined in terms of space. I fully plan on mapping all the parking downtown on a Google Map. All of the dead, mostly unused or underused space. I always hear that there’s no parking downtown from people, especially in the Windsor Star Letters to the Editor, but what they mean is that there’s not enough FREE parking. Like at Devonshire Mall. They want downtown to be a mall. FREE!! Well, the mall wants you to drive from the moon and back to get their stuff. I think the goal of urban retail and entertainment spaces should be to expect fewer cars and less traffic in areas of retail. I mean, I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but it has been proven to improve business when traffic is significantly lowered in urban areas.

I digress. I wanted to look at something I seem to remember from when we first opened Phog Lounge. There was a discussion about paying for parking, as a business owner, for any parking space that we, the business, could not provide to the customer. If we didn’t have a huge lot attached to us, we would (supposedly) pay for enough spots, corresponding to our capacity. How in the hell is this making sense? The business owner is being penalized because of the HUGE space-gobbling vehicles that people drive to their business? And for me, I have tons of customers who WALK, drive scooters and bikes, and don’t USE parking spaces on the street, in the lot, or anywhere. I think this kind of gouging for the city to offset infrastructure costs is just dumb. If they want to discourage cars from overloading downtown or their BIA, don’t charge the small-business owner, charge the person who chooses to drive alone in a car designed to tow, pull, carry way more than it is ever used to do.

Which brings me back to the bike thing. I just keep realizing how dumb cars are, in the capacity that they are currently used. They don’t get to use their speed (congested traffic), space (single drivers are rampant), power (moving one person only and almost never transporting goods), and are becoming more and more silly. They are, obviously, way more of a status symbol and inhibitor of exercise and connecting to the environment around us.

Jane Jacobs has suggested that as people think trucks get in the way, it is in fact cars that are in the way of trucks. Trucks employ people, they move goods, and they are economic pluses. Cars are buzzing around, taking up WAY more space than needed (which is extraordinarily expensive), and they are not contributing financially the way trucks do. If trucks were the road owners, and loads of cars left the roads, it would actually improve environmental situations with fewer vehicles on the road (less congestion, less idling). Which would beg the question…if we were a city who thought progressively, and we raised prices for parking, reduced car use, implemented a solid transit system, and consolidated our interests in a less-sprawling nature, and trucks were the kings of the road (the few bits and pieces that would still be in use), where in the heck would the next bridge crossing go? What would be made of the DRIC/Greenlink stuff? Where would it make sense to put it then? Hmmmm….

As for biking…I am anticipating warm weather LIKE CRAZY so I can bike to work every day. But should I wait? How much will I have to pay to outfit myself with warm gear that will keep me dry? Where would I buy this stuff? Why isn’t there a bigger bicycle persona in this area? I know lots of cyclists who tell me about all these other HUGE cycling enthusiasts and bike shop owners, but they’re almost invisible when it comes to encouraging new riders, bike education (like what the hell to wear in the winter), etc. Maybe it’s just me, but I had to almost fall into this biking thing by watching Phog customers biking and praising it. Where are the leaders of Windsor’s bike movement hiding? They should be prominent, respected, and referred to when discussing city planning and other such important issues.

My wife and I are seriously considering getting rid of a car from this two-car, two-person household. Save money, get healthy, get connected to the environment. Anyone want to help? I just feel so stupid rolling around in a car these days.

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7 responses to “Winter Biking

  1. when i ride in winter, i’m rarely cold. especially if it’s windy out. it takes so much effort to ride that you get hot and the main problem with riding in winter is finding that balance where you can keep from sweating and still keep warm. it takes a lot of technical gear i’ve found.

    for me it’s a good goretex shell that’s what i wore for the big walk. just a single layer of material but it helps keep the wind out and helps my body breathe through it. if i wore a typical winter jacket i would start to hold moisture in and then that sweat would chill my body. so wearing fleece is good for insulation under the shell.

    i bought my jacket years ago though and my goretex cycling pants. they were expensive but have lasted me over 15 years now. they’re part of a system that works though.

    parking a bike downtown still isn’t fun though. there isn’t a lot of places to lock a bike that are safe. that’s one thing that bugs me a lot.

    i hear you about the local cycling community though. it’s why i registered a new domain to start a site for the cycling community here, but then i wonder why haven’t they done it already? i know they’re out there. i gave up on the idea since i know it would take a lot of my time and maybe that’s why they don’t want to bother as well. since they would rather be biking. : ) so would i.

    i know the local shops don’t like MEC but it’s hard to beat the selection and price. i buy my gear at a mix of local and MEC online.

    riding in summer is just as hard though when it comes to gear. my winter goretex shell is better suited for winter, but i got one this year that’s good for winter and summer i think. it’s that red one you’ve seen me in. it’s not goretex though but some other water/wind proof material. i’m not sure if it breathes though since that is so important.

    looking forward to talking more if you still have a bike night coming up.

  2. hey tom, anastasia and i have been contemplating getting rid of our second car as well. would love the idea of setting up a coop with respect to having a vehicle available to a large group of people and booking it when needed. we should look into it.

  3. I ride to work often in the spring, summer, and fall, but I haven’t found a way to do it in the winter. A problem I have is being able to look clean and presentable in an office setting. I could take a week’s worth of clothes in on Monday – like I could ever get than organized!

    Anyway, you got some good arguments here, and maybe you’ve inspired me to give winter riding another try.

  4. that’s the problem i find too dan. some employers in toronto from what i’ve seen on tv actually have showers and lockers for their employees and places to lock their bikes inside even. when riding in winter you usually have to dress technical in a way, and if i’m going out i know i will stick out once i get there.

  5. In Athens GA the street parking downtown costs 25 cents an hour and if you get a ticket for exceeding your time on the metre, your ticket is $3 a day. So of course everyone drives and parks and it’s a nightmare of cars trawling slowly along streets looking for a spot. People who work on the university campus will drive downtown for lunch every day even though campus abuts downtown. It’s a joke.

    When I was in grad school there I biked year round, but the coldest it ever got was about -2C some mornings (and even on those days it would climb to +6 or 7C by afternoon). I was that ragamuffin rider with all the trailing bits of scarf and mixed-up layered cardigans. Since returning home I haven’t worked up to being able to ride in winter yet, partly because of cost (but that’s mostly because my bike doesn’t have lights and I don’t want to fork out for winter tires and panniers and stuff; Darren’s right that you get pretty hot and just shed all that warm gear after a few minutes of riding anyway).

    Windsor people have a crazily inflated idea of how bad traffic is here; it’s like they’ve never driven in a real city or something. Take the distance from downtown Windsor to the mall and drive that same distance anywhere in London and it’ll take you three times as long. When we drive downtown we never have a problem finding parking, for free (after 6), within a block or two (at the most!) of Phog. People just don’t want to walk any distance from their car, which makes me wonder if hiking the cost of downtown parking would actually encourage most Windsorites to bike or use the bus or if they’d just skip downtown altogether and go to some place on the edge of town that has a big parking lot instead. Still, maybe parking could be hiked and the city could use the extra revenue to subsidize small business owners like yourself to put in nice big secure bike racks out front.

  6. It’s all about layering, Tom. A wickable synthetic base layer (NOT cotton), fleece, then a shell is all I really wore when I rode in the winter. I never had any problems with my legs getting cold, so I just wore thermal undies and “track”-style pants over them. I could never find a decent shell for my legs that I didn’t overheat in. That’s probably just me, though.

    I feel everyones pain about a good, organized cycling lobby group here in the city. The Windsor bicycling Committee is an official advisory committee to council, but they don’t have any balls and shy away from anything too political. That is the reason one of our ScaleDown writers started the site http://www.embracethebike.org so the cycling community could build a home of their own. I urge everyone interested in cycling to go there and get involved. Keep in mind that its still in its newborn stage and there’s not a lot of content there yet.

    Here’s a decent link for winter cycling tips

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