Frostbikers: Why these brave riders actually like to ride in winter

An 85-year-old cyclist remains in critical condition after being struck in a hit and run at Hale and Dundas Streets this week. London Morning gathered three winter cyclists to talk about how safe the roads are at this time of year.

Can drivers and cyclists share the road safely during the winter months?

Tara Mott is a year-round cyclist who works at Outspokin Cycles (Submitted by Tara Mott)

Winter cyclists are a tough-as-nails bunch. Some might say they're just plain crazy. So why do they brave the frigid cold and blowing snow to commute on two wheels?

"I think the why question is for all the same reasons you ride in the summer. It's healthy, it's good for the environment, it can save you money. There are social reasons around accessibility," said cycling advocate Daniel Hall, who rides to work in his wool jacket and button down shirt even when it's –15 C.

"Yes, it may look crazy. I don't think it's that crazy. I'm a cautious individual, I don't consider myself a risk-taker and I'm out there everyday."

"The benefits are still there, but the challenges are a bit higher in the winter," which Hall explained, is why you don't see as many cyclists during the winter.

Earlier this week, an 85-year-old cyclist was struck in a hit and run at Hale and Dundas Streets. He remains in critical condition.

Hall said he sticks to the side roads, but even that can be challenging at times. "The problem is that when I normally ride in the summer, I have a bike lane and that becomes the snow lane often in the winter," he said. "So that can be tricky where now I'm sort of squished in with the cars on my regular route."

Winter cyclists Daniel Hall, Becky Ellis and Tara Mott (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC News)

Year-round cyclist Tara Mott said her family has one vehicle.

"So I'm kind of forced into it. That being said, my vehicle does sit in the driveway regularly."

Mott's biggest piece of advice for cycling at this time of year? "Being seen is really important."

Mott admitted she uses sidewalks if necessary. She also cuts through parking lots and uses a cemetery as part of her daily commute.

Becky Ellis decided to take up winter cycling this year. 

"I want to see London become a city where people ride bikes as part of their everyday life and I think you really need to be visible then, and so I thought I'm a really avid cyclist so I need to be visible, and that includes riding in the winter."

Drivers though, are already operating vehicles on slippery and snow-covered roads. So how should they handle an encounter with a cyclist pedalling in those conditions? According to Ellis, the way she does when behind the wheel: "It's my job to look out for other people on the road. So it's my job to look out for pedestrians. It's my job to look out for cyclists and other car drivers. That's the responsibility that car drivers have."

Mott gives the city credit and said it's doing doing a great job of clearing streets and improving cycling infrastructure, and suggested there are always going to be challenges.

"When it comes to snow, it's very unpredictable. You can't be sending out plows constantly to be doing just the bike lanes. There's also a decreased number of people who are going to ride in the winter, so you're catering to those few people who are out there doing it. Hopefully we can increase those numbers over time."

About the Author

Rebecca Zandbergen

Host, London Morning

Rebecca Zandbergen is from Ottawa and has worked for CBC Radio across the country for more than 15 years, including stops in Iqaluit, Halifax, Windsor and Kelowna.