Embracing the Winter

Three days ago, Indiana University saw its first snowflakes of the season.  They may not have accumulated or given us a snow day, but for many people they were definitely a reality check.  No longer can we pretend that we might live in San Diego and Welcome Week weather is our norm.  Nope – we live in the heart of the Midwest and Bloomington is known for competing with the best of them when it comes to winter weather conditions.

So what happens to our bikes?  As the Bicycle Friendly Initiatives intern, I’ve found that most people subscribe to the notion that once scarf season comes around, the bike goes home to the parents.  This practice, however, is completely unneeded and takes away a vital option of transportation for students, faculty, and staff.  Biking in winter is completely possible once it’s learned to do properly and safely.  The Bike Winter organization in Chicago has provided a full website of tips and how-tos related to winter biking.  And if they can do it in Chicago, we can definitely do it here in Bloomington.

The two main concerns with winter biking are staying warm and safety.  In order to stay warm, it’s smart to wear multiple layers on your legs and midsection.  Gloves and mittens will keep your hands warm – just remember to test out your ability to steer and brake before taking your first trip.  And if you wear glasses, a cheap and effective trick to avoid fogging is to rub a slight amount of gel toothpaste on the lenses.  Finally, most people’s concern is in keeping their head warm.  Here, you have two options: first, wrapping a scarf securely around sensitive areas of your face such as your ears and nose will help a great deal.  Second, wearing a face mask (also known as a balaclava) will completely ensure that every part of your face is covered, plus there is no risk of it falling off during the ride.

Also, if it has snowed, staying safe on the road is still completely possible.  Remember to always ride slower and pump your brakes instead of applying them abruptly.  Avoid known slick spots such as manholes and metal bridges.  When it has just begun to snow, biking is most hazardous and it is advisable to wait until snow plows have cleared the road or cars have created paths with traction to use in the snow.   Above all, know your usual route and any alternative route so you can easily take detours in the case of an impassable road.

Most people who commute to Indiana University are lucky enough that the distance between their home and their destination is under two miles. By taking simple preparation steps for winter biking, you can still use your bicycle and also avoid long walks in the cold or prolonged waits at the bus stop.  Planning and safety are your greatest priorities and they will create a successful and enjoyable winter bike ride.

Please find more information at: http://bikewinter.org/

Written by Hannah Hunt, Bicycle Friendly Campus Initiatives Intern

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