Thursday, November 25, 2010

Winter Cycling

You don’t have to step outside to recognise that winter has arrived in the Kelowna area. A quick glance through the window and the fresh coat of snow on the sidewalk gives you a strong hint as to the sudden change in season. For some of us, typically enthusiastic cyclists, our first instinct may be to lock the bike up in the shed for the winter and settle into a deep hibernation for the long, cold, dark days ahead. And, believe me, I have been there. I have succumbed to the seemingly irresistible urge to hunker down for the cold season. However, this year which has promised to be a cold and snowy winter, I have vowed to take a different path and this path cuts right through the ice and snow.

I love riding my bike, so why should I feel forced to put it away. It is great exercise, it’s an easy way to run a few errands, much more convenient than public transit and its a great way for me to reduce my ecological footprint. Driving a car is typically a person’s most polluting activity of the day. Still, most people can’t imagine cycling in the winter when they can hardly tolerate the frigged walk from house to car.

Growing up in rural Manitoba I loved the thrill of my short bike ride in minus 40 temperatures from my home to school and the notoriety it brought me among my classmates. Although it may be unusual, winter cycling should not be considered abnormal or deviant.

Having said that there are some special arrangements winter cyclists may want to consider. Route planning is important all year round, but maybe more important during the winter. In the summer I prefer to ride along quieter residential streets. When the snow comes, many of those favorite streets are not plowed and the bike lanes are hidden underneath piles of snow. So, choose your route carefully. There is no need for a cyclist to ride in the snow pack. You will be safest on the bare concrete where there is less risk of slipping. As much as possible choose a clear, ice and snow free path even if it means riding in the right hand driving lane. Good advice for motorists and cyclists alike is slow down and calm down. It is winter and the road conditions are often less than ideal.

Use bright lights and then add more lights. You will often be sharing the road with people who think that only crazies would be out on the road in the middle of winter and they are not in look out for us cyclists. Reflectors and the use of reflective clothing is should also be an essential.

Of course the obvious, dress for the weather. Dressing in layers is important with the base being a material that will draw sweat away from your skin followed by a long sleeve shirt and then your outdoor winter jacket. You can always add layers such as a vest or windbreaker for those extra cold days. A few of use have to travel up and down hills and this will likely make you feel warm on moment and cold the next. As soon as you feel yourself getting too warm unzip your jacket just enough to let some cool air in. When you feel a cool breeze zip it up again. When riding you should ideally feel just a little cool, but make sure your extremities are consistently warm.

Cycling through the winder is a good way to avert the doldrums that come with shorter days and colder temperatures. A little bit of physical activity can go a long way to making us happier throughout the year.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Bicycle Boulevard

Bicycle boulevards are local or residential streets that have been enhanced with specific traffic calming measures to facilitate convenient and safe cycling. These facilities are best deployed on roads or streets where traffic volume rarely exceed 50 vehicles per hour and the speed is generally limited to 60km per hour or less. The measures applied to create a bike boulevard are designed to make motorists more attentive to cyclists. The result is a street that is more favorable and safer to the cyclist and pedestrian. Bicycle boulevards are high on the hierarchy of provisions when considering bicycle infrastructure as they are relatively inexpensive to construct, accommodate a wide range of cyclist skill levels and they do not take space away from pedestrians.

Bicycle boulevards are often designed to be site specific and may be as simple as pavement markings for way-finding or as elaborate as physical traffic barriers and bicycle signal lights at major intersections. Another popular modification is to modify a street as a through street for bicycles while limiting vehicle access to local traffic only.

Portland's Bike Boulevards Become Neighborhood Greenways from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

Other design features include.
  • Traffic calming devices such as traffic circles and curb bulbouts;
  • Bicycle destination signage;
  • Bicycle-friendly signal preemption at high-volume signalized intersections;
  • Stop signs on streets crossing the bicycle boulevard.

For more information see the following link