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Winter Biking Terrifies Me! Here’s Why by Calvin Eaton
If you’ve followed my blogs recently then you know that I am approaching my second year of being a car-free professional in Rochester (read more here and here). Way back in June 2018 when I sold my car I was filled to the brim with the idealism and optimism of being a “hipster” millennial biker that traversed the City on two wheels for personal and professional exploits, not only during the spring and summer but during the depths of Rochester’s winter. I knew that giving up my car would immediately catapult me into a “year round” biker. Yet here I am many months later having traveled very little on my bike during fair weather and feeling utterly terrified to even attempt to take a ride when the sidewalks are covered with snow and ice. There are many reasons why biking (in general) has eluded me and I’ll dive into those later in this post. But none of those other reasons make me as fearful as does the thought of biking through the City streets during the winter months. Here’s why:
Biking infrastructure in Rochester is lackluster (to say the least)
Rochester is making strides in creating a City and infrastructure that is less car-centric but there is still a long long way to go.
- Bike lanes are often filled with idle and/or parked cars
- We do not have protected bikes lanes
- People feel like their car is king and find cyclists as an annoyance that needs to move out of the way
This stigma around cycling and the anecdotal conversations that I have with even the most seasoned cyclists in our City make a novice like me extremely intimated in the best circumstances and feeling like biking on the roads in the winter is simply out of the question. Just listen to the experience of WXXI News reporter Brett Dahlberg who biked to work consistently for eight weeks earlier this year.
Walking in the winter scares me, why would I bike?
The winter solstice was just a few days ago but already Rochester has seen its snowiest December ever and this is all before the season officially begins. Snowy weather means snow-covered sidewalks and icy walkways that are treacherous enough for me to navigate as I walk from bus to bus in my daily travels. Walking in many cases has been dangerous for me and many others during the roughest winter days and I haven’t built up the courage to add biking in these conditions to the mix. What if I fall? Walking in the elements on many occasions makes me feel vulnerable enough and biking in the best of conditions is for me allowing myself to be very vulnerable. My fellow Rochesterians have enough trouble remembering how to drive in the winter and I simply do not trust myself (or others) to bike on the road when the road conditions are less than ideal. Thinking about all of this along with the slew of recent car related fatalities where the weather was perfect and pedestrians were killed by cars while walking on the sidewalk is just the leverage I need to say no to winter biking.
I hate Rochester winter. (period)
This last reason is not a fear but the sheer disdain that I have raises to a level that’s close enough to being afraid. The less time and thinking that I have to devote to getting from point A to point B is less time that I have to spend in the bitter cold. Biking in the winter requires planning, thought, time, and energy that I just have not been fully invested in making the commitment to doing. There are days when someone couldn’t pay me to ride my bike during the winter. Honestly. Truly.
Most days I walk to the nearest bus stop and make my way downtown to the transit center. On the worst of days I open up my Lyft app. This is a privilege I recognize not everyone has and I am working really hard on pushing myself to better understand the realities of our most vulnerable community members that bike year round not by choice, but by necessity.
“There are days when someone couldn’t pay me to take a bike”
Other reasons why biking is not my primary source of transportation:
- I live with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition
- This means that some days getting out of the house is enough of a challenge and riding a bike is out of the question
- I have not committed to biking enough to fully feel comfortable at any time of the year
A Work in Progress
However all is not lost. Admitting my fear is the first step. I am slowly working through reading more articles about safe winter cycling. I listen to active cyclists like Rochester’s very own Arian Horbovetz (The Urban Phoenix) who blogs and podcasts about his experiences as a multi-modal transiter to give me the confidence I need. And I am having conversations with members of Reconnect Rochester’s team Jesse Peers. My goal is to bike at least once this winter and it will most likely be a very curated experience with a friend who has significant more experience than me. The more we share and talk about biking and active transit the better and this is the first step in a ongoing conversation.😉
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- Shovel, scrape, repeat: This season is one of the snowiest ever in Rochester, Democrat & Chronicle
- The Safe Way to Ride Your Bike in Winter, Citylab
- Novelty or Legitimacy? The Bike Lane Dilemma In Rochester, The Urban Phoenix
- Brighton student, babysitter die after being struck by car, 13 WHAM
- Accident report shows driver in fatal Parsells Ave. crash cooperated with police, 13 WHAM
- Why do we forget how to drive in winter?, Democrat & Chronicle
- Connections: Discussing Rochester’s bike lane problem, and the benefits of active transportation, WXXI News
About Calvin Eaton
(he/his/him) Calvin Eaton is a community educator, digital content creator, and social entrepreneur, whose area of expertise includes antiracism, inclusion, equity, curriculum writing, and higher education.
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