Things are cooling down around the upper Midwest, and winter is here. Unfortunately, the arrival of winter is often associated with a decrease in the amount of time spent outside being active.
We all know why this happens. It’s cold, dark, windy, icy, and snowy. I am guessing that some of you felt negative emotions and maybe even had a physical reaction while reading those wintry adjectives.
Like Brussels sprouts, winter has a highly undeserved bad reputation, but winter and Brussel sprouts happen to be a couple of my favorite things. Both just need to be approached with a positive lens and the right kind of preparation (for example, I like my Brussels sprouts with bacon!).
For me, the best way to maintain a positive lens on this quintessential Minnesota season is to continue doing what I love best: riding bikes and being outside. Read below for my top 5 reasons to bike commute year-round, even in winter.
1. More Time Outside
By using a bike as a mode of transportation, I automatically add about two more hours outside each work day than if I were to drive or take a bus. The shorter, colder days of winter make it hard to find time to soak up what little sunshine we receive, but bike commuting allows me to experience a little more of that sweet vitamin D.
2. A More Memorable Commute
My favorite bike rides have some sort of adventure involved, whether that is a camping destination, singletrack mountain bike trail, or … any ride in the winter! I am not saying that every winter ride is as adventurous as a mountain bike ride or as fun as a bike camping trip, but winter biking almost always brings a smile to my face.
Some of my most memorable winter bike commuting experiences include:
- Riding across a frozen Silver Lake to get to Silverwood Park.
- Watching and listening to coyotes on the Cedar Lake LRT Regional Trail.
- Navigating snowy stairs on a fat bike to get to the trails in North Mississippi Regional Park on my way to Mississippi Gateway Regional Park.
3. A Stronger Connection to My Community
I have learned a lot about and have a stronger connection to my community by moving through it on two wheels instead of four. There is a camaraderie shared outside, especially in the winter.
While cars isolate us, being outside brings us together. I can say “hello” to or smile at mail carriers, folks waiting for the bus, dog walkers, construction workers, urban cross-country skiers, people shoveling, and fellow bikers; when do we find ourselves feeling giddy or saying “hi” to strangers when driving?
Some may argue that biking in the winter is inconvenient, but I could make the opposite argument. When it is snowy or icy, the amount of time a bike commute takes is far more predictable (and not much longer than a typical bike commute) compared to a car commute in the same conditions.
Part of this is because bike trails are oftentimes first to get plowed — hooray for the communities and agencies that make this possible! Furthermore, bikes don’t have windshields to scrape (a big time-saver on a busy morning!) or get stuck in snow banks.
5. A Better Me
Riding a bike makes me the best version of myself and it is not something I want to give up simply because the weather changes. I have gained skills from winter bike commuting that make me a stronger mountain biker, and commuting on below-zero days and during big snowfalls give me a sense of accomplishment. Starting my day outside wakes me up and ending my day outside helps me leave work at work. I haven’t even touched on the health (or environmental) benefits of biking, but I don’t think I need to.
Challenge Yourself This Winter
We are so fortunate to live where biking is fairly easy, even when the temperature drops and the snow falls. I challenge you to consider biking as an enjoyable, affordable, active, healthy, empowering, and sustainable option for both recreation and transportation this winter. Even if it is only one time to the grocery store.
If we make an effort to choose bike commuting and other green transportation more often, we will be better ambassadors for our beloved parks, trails, and natural spaces. Three Rivers Park District offers hundreds of miles of world-class trails (many that are maintained year-round by city partners) that connect to parks, popular retail destinations, and other trail networks. Hennepin County also provides an interactive map of all bikeways in the county to help plan your route.
In addition, some employers offer incentives if you bike commute; check with your human resources department to see if there are any perks for biking to work (and suggest they start a program if there aren’t!).
If you have hesitations or questions about biking during the winter, check out some tips and tricks for winter biking or feel free to email me.