A Guide to Winter Biking
St. Paul, Minn. — If you have the desire to keep up biking as the snow flies, then perhaps you're ready for a few pointers from those who do it now. These folks from our Public Insight Network talk about how they navigate the frigid cold, the ice and snow -- and still manage to enjoy it.
If your regular route to work is not plowed try to find another route. Don't take unnecessary risks such as riding too close to traffic. Make sure that you have bright lights and reflective material. Make sure your brakes are operating properly and can stop you efficiently. Dress warmly. It isn't hard to get hypothermia in a Minnesota winter. Make sure you bring more clothes than you think you need. Wind covers for your shoes help a lot and warm gloves are a must.
Stefan Saravia - Minneapolis
A person on a bike should be courteous to drivers. But a person on a bike should claim his or her lane. You're more likely to be sideswiped by a car if you're hugging the edge of the lane, than if the driver knows that he or she has to change lanes to pass, or wait until you move out of the way.
Katherine DuGarm - St. Paul, Minn.
Lights on the front and back of the bike are vital, a day glow yellow reflective vest is also vital for other drivers to see me on the shoulder.
Chris Pokladnik - Fridley, Minn.
It's important to keep space between riders at night more so than during the day. Keep your pace slow enough so you have time to dodge obstructions such as potholes or recessed manholes when your light reveals them. We had many serious accidents in our club this summer in spite of people being careful riders. So, these things can't be emphasized enough. All of our accidents happened because someone did something that they knew was unsafe and took a chance or forgot.
Mary Miller - Columbia Heights, Minn.
See and be seen! I have reflectors and lights all over my bike, and I wear a reflective vest, and of course a helmet. No motorist that hits me will be able to say he or she didn't see me! Ninety percent of the winter I get along just fine on my regular bike. But when the ice is bad, I throw on a pair of studded tires. I'll never forget trying them out for the first time. They grip like heavy duty Velcro to sheer ice!
Joshua Houdek - Minneapolis
I would only ride with studded tires because I want the stability and safety. I wear two lights, a reflector vest and bright yellow (clothing). I choose my routes very carefully. I am constantly irritated and disappointed at how poorly the cities clear bike lanes of snow and ice. This is the biggest safety hazard of winter cycling. Most drivers are moving more slowly so I am less concerned about being hit and more concerned about falling on debris that hasn't been cleared from bike lanes.
Alice Tibbetts - St. Paul, Minn.
Bicyclists need good lights. I use two red blinkers in the back, a white blinker in front and a powerful headlight to see the road. The most important thing is to be seen by motorists. Nevertheless, bicyclists need to be very defensive and always assume that drivers do not see them. Drivers need to respect the right of cyclists to be on the road. They need to be aware that bicycles are around and they should drive carefully and accordingly. Drivers also need to obey traffic laws, especially speeding and running red lights -- two common and very dangerous violations. Cyclists also need to obey traffic laws, but of course it should also be recognized that cyclists generally don't create so much of a hazard to others as do cars when they operate unlawfully.
Greg Pratt - Minneapolis
Be conservative. Allow more space between car and biker, obey all traffic signs, and don't bike if it is icy. For bikers, wear layers of clothes, protect your face and make sure you have on a bright, reflective jacket. It is better to be alive that to be right. Obey traffic signs, be aware of traffic, look twice at every stop sign and street light. Lots of colorful lights on your bike and body help motorists see you.
Gary Balas - St. Paul, Minn.
Wear bright colors, use flashing lights, take time to break, get good weatherproof gloves. Since the roads tend to get cluttered with snow on the sides, the road becomes more narrow and striped lanes become harder to follow. (Winter biking) is really just like cross country skiing -- dress fairly light with good wind protection. My winter riding coat, good to about minus 5 degrees, is a fleece sweater and a windbreaker. I wish that bike fashion was more focused on safety. How many bright orange reflective tights do you see? They are almost all black.
Andy Ihlenfeldt - St. Paul, Minn.