A Thunder Bay man who cycles year-round, says people who choose to ride during the winter have to be more responsible for their safety, particularly because Thunder Bay's bike lanes are closed for the season.

Farzam Etemadi has been riding his bike year-round for almost 30 years. While a lot of people cycle in the winter, very few take the necessary precautions, he noted.

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Farzam Etemadi is a long-time cyclist who works at Petrie's Cycle and Sport, a bike shop in Thunder Bay. He said most cyclists aren't adequately prepared to cycle in wintery weather. (Matt Prokopchuk/CBC)

"You have to have good traction," he said. "Hardly any of the bikes on the road have studded tires.  [The] majority of the bikes that are on the road are bare minimum bikes that barely survive the summer, and [it's a] sheer stroke of luck that they survive the winter."

Surviving the season also means putting on the appropriate clothing and shoes, he said.

"So it's more time consuming … rest assured that 90 per cent of the people that ride are not well equipped to ride at winter time."

Since Thunder Bay officially closed its bike lanes earlier this month, road crews will not plow and sand them. Cyclists who choose to use them do so at their own risk.

Bike lanes not widely accepted

In Edmonton, bike lanes remain open year-round as part of the city’s push to encourage alternative forms of transportation.

"I think it's essential to having these viable options all year-round," said Tyler Golly, Edmonton’s general supervisor of sustainable transportation.

Winter cycling tips

  • Use a helmet designed for cold temperatures.
  • Use eyewear to protect against blowing snow, and slush kicked up from vehicles.
  • Wear apparel that’s warm enough to keep feet and hands warm in case the bike breaks down and you're forced to walk.
  • Use studded tires.
  • Ensure you and your bike are well-lit.

"I think, if the roads are cleared, and the bike lanes are cleared, I think that provides people with an opportunity."

But Thunder Bay hasn't accepted bike lanes as part of the city's physical infrastructure, according to Adam Krupper, the city's active transportation co-ordinator.

"And until, as a community, we've accepted them and embraced them, we have to ask the question: Is the community willing to put a considerable amount of money into maintaining them?" he said.

Krupper said the city has no plans to examine maintaining bike lanes year-round.The department's main concern, he said, is working out a north-south corridor for bikes.