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Winter weather shouldn't deter riding, says Bicycle Nova Scotia

Cycling throughout winter can benefit people's mental and physical well-being but active transportation planner Meghan Doucette says steps should be taken to ensure safety
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(stock photo)

With the onset of January comes some of the most extreme weather of the year and while many people see winter as a time to pack away the pedals, true cyclists stick to the streets.

“I’d say that the biggest misconception is that it is dangerous,” says Bicycle Nova Scotia’s Meghan Doucette about cycling in the wintertime.

The non-profit organization’s active transportation planner, Doucette adds that Nova Scotia’s winters are actually quite moderate, making year-round cycling possible.

“People just think about winter and they think about snow and ice and (wonder) how can you possibly stay upright on your bicycle (but) for the most part, the roads are very clear and so that danger isn’t really present and there are ways to reduce those risks even further.”

While Doucette notes that cyclists should be extra cautious during the winter months, she says that after about ten years of riding bikes as her main mode of transportation, her experience has proven that two wheels are still a great way to travel all year round — as long as people take the right steps.

In addition to being mentally prepared for possible icy conditions, cyclists who take to the streets in the height of winter should take heed of some of the key elements to safe active transportation during January and February.

The Wheels

Riding conditions are certainly more challenging during the winter so cyclists should ensure their bikes are in optimal shape for the road. Doucette says that in addition to making sure bike brakes are in good condition, many safe cyclists may want to consider winter-specific tires for better grip on those wintery roads.

“Studded tires can add that element of security for people,” adds Doucette.

Dress Up or Down

Since the weather in Nova Scotia can fluctuate, cyclists should layer up in order to ensure they don’t get too hot or too cold and outer layers should be waterproof and breathable.  At the same time, it’s important to cover up skin as cold wind can impact your ride.

“The extremities can get a bit cool so I have really good gloves or mittens that are waterproof,” adds Doucette, noting hands are especially vulnerable since they are exposed on handlebars.

Safe and Secure

Perhaps the most important factor in winter cycling is reacquainting yourself with the rules of the road.  After all, if road conditions are more challenging so too is ensuring you are taking safety seriously.

“Bicycle Nova Scotia also has rider’s insurance with our memberships,” adds Doucette, who notes that a bit of piece of mind goes a long way for building confidence on winter roads. “That also covers people riding anywhere in Canada so if someone does have a fall and an injury, they have insurance to help with that.” 

In addition to having access to insurance or winter cycling tips, Doucette notes that there are many other benefits to being part of the more than 1,700-member organization dedicated to promoting cycling culture in Nova Scotia.

“Being a member of Bicycle Nova Scotia really supports all of our programs and initiatives that we work on throughout the year,” says Doucette, noting those programs include Women on Wheels, a program geared at inclusiveness and the social aspect of cycling.

“We also have competitive cycling (and) a youth cycling program called HopOn so that’s kind of education for youth so there’s quite a range of programs that we offer.”

For more information on year-round road safety, visit Bicycle Nova Scotia’s website.

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