Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Are we safe? Please read and pass along.

Good evening everyone. I am writing to get some input from everyone out there who is still riding their bike.

I pose a simple question, do you feel safe riding in the winter? Personally, I feel like even in the perfect weather of summer that there is certain risk involved with riding in bike lanes or on roads without. Now that winter is here I feel I'm taking even more risk. Granted, I don't feel that it is so much risk that it's overly dangerous, but I do feel that I would like to try to do something to help all winter riders.

My plan:
I plan to contact local media to ask them to do a story on winter bicyclists. I want to point out the fact that even though it's winter and there is snow on the roads people still commute (and recreate) on bike- crazy as it seems. I've already contacted one tv station, WDIO, here in Duluth but have not heard back yet. I let them know I would post asking for some comments from those of us who are still out there.

The help I need:
I would like each of you who are still riding to do three things.

1) Answer these 4 questions
Where do you live (City / State)
Why do you ride (environmental, exercises, etc...)
Do you feel less safe in winter and if so, how much (percentage will do)
What do you feel is the biggest danger riding in the winter (bad drivers, worse conditions, etc)

2) Pass this post to everyone you know who is still biking and ask them to comment answering the above three questions.

The result:
I hope to take the results of the comments and come up with some info to pass along to the news agencies and hopefully make people open their eyes a bit more to see us out there.

If you have any comments you would like to add regarding personal stories of close calls or accidents involving you or someone you know, please add that into your comment.

Thanks everyone for helping with this. I would love to see hundreds of comments from people all over the U.S. so I can get some really good data on the number of people still riding their bikes!

(Image above from

Ride Safe!



Jeff C. said...

Duluth, Minnesota
For the environment, to save money, health benefits
Not particularly- I'd say 30% less safe at least.
I get quite mad when drivers buzz past me and don't even have their windows (including the front one) cleared off. You just know they don't see you.

Reflector Collector said...

I live in the Twin Cities, MN. I have been riding every day.

There are truly varieties of reasons why I ride, enjoyment, challenge, accomplishment, economics, sanity, exercise.

I do feel less safe (50%) riding during the winter primarily due to diminished roadway space. People who do not move cars off of the street for the plow creates a narrow roadway making the side of the street an unattractive space to ride. People who feel the need to shovel the snow from the apron of a driveway into the street.

Beware of “Tanks;” cars or trucks driven by owners too lazy to clear all of the snow/ice/frost from windows.

Ed W said...

I live just north of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Mostly, I commute for exercise and fun, plus it save the family a little bit of money.

Winter riding is different. I feel safer in one sense, because I wear more clothing and I'm better protected in a fall. Since about 80% of all cycling injuries are simple falls, the extra clothing is certainly welcome.

I have two basic concerns about riding in winter here. First, since my morning commute is before dawn, I have to be hyper-aware of patches of ice on the roadway. Oklahoma gets more ice storms than snow storms, it seems. I don't mind riding on occasional patches of ice or snow (I grew up in Pennsylvania, after all) but when our roads are snow covered or solidly covered with ice, I won't ride. That's not because I'm unskilled or fearful. It's because OK motorists don't see enough of those conditions to learn to drive safely. It's like the first snowfall up north catching everyone unaware. Fender benders are so common that the police will not respond unless there's an injury.

But that said, it's fun to ride on hard-packed snow or even on ice when it's cold enough for good traction. People go skiing in those conditions. Why shouldn't we be out there on a bike?

What do you feel is the biggest danger riding in the winter (bad drivers, worse conditions, etc)

Bob said...

Duluth, ride for fun, health, save money and gas, I guess that counts for the enviornment. I think the main streets are much less safe in the winter. I don't think motorists are expecting to see bicyclists in the winter, plus the slop pulls you unexpectantly.

bikingbrady said...

Kevin in Vermillion, SD
I bike mainly because I live in a small enough town (~10K) that there is no place I can't get to by bike in (almost) any weather. As a University town there are a number of bikes on the road so for the most part it's safe. When the snow/ice are in play, like now, I probably only feel 40-50% as safe as I try to stay in the dry areas of the road, leaving me a little more exposed. Once in awhile I'll get buzzed pretty close by a driver because of it, but it's better that than being on the ice and falling in front of them.

Biggest safety thing for me is to use my blinky lights (front and back) to make sure that I can always be seen in the winter. Buy at least semi-decent lights so you can be seen. I think (at least I hope) it buys you a little more respect with drivers as well.

SD_pedalpower said...

1. Sioux Falls, SD, commute to save gas/money and get some excersize. Do club rides for socializing. I feel just as safe in winter as summer. I don't see issues of danger other than making sure you dress warm enough and have layers to put on and off.

I've had more crashes in summer because I ride a lot faster and hammer on a road bike vs. winter with the MB.

Holak Highlights! said...

1. Duluth, MN
2. Environmental, save money on gas, exercise
3. Yes, I feel less safe in winter. Probably about 50% less safe.
4. The biggest danger is probably that there are no bike lanes in Duluth which means in winter there isn't any room at all for bikes to ride safely out of traffic. Biking in Duluth any time of year is unsafe because of the lack of bike lanes. Also, the icy surface and snowy conditions and iced up windows of drivers make it less safe to ride in Duluth.

To be completely honest, I don't really commute at all in the winter on my bike primarily for the above reasons. I take the bus and drive to work in the winter.

samh said...

I live in Duluth, MN

I ride my bike because I don't own a car, live close to work and don't like wasting fossil fuel

I feel slightly less safe because of the shortened daylight hours and lack of properly plowed sides of roads.

The biggest danger of riding in the winter is ice, less daylight and (not just winter) stupid people in stupid cars.

Tone Coughlin said...

Jeff, this is your neighbor Tone (5211). I found your blog through an email from Andy Holak.

Duluth, MN (Lakeside). Exercise, training, and environmental.

This will be my 10 season of winter riding, I do not feel less safe in the winter, because it comes whether we like it or not. I just prepare myself to ride on roads that are more safe (residential areas, country roads) with wider shoulders, take alternate routes, and ride on the trails. However, I do remember how tough it was without the proper equipment, riding on roads that I usually take in the summer, and dealing with bad and angry drivers.

I think the biggest danger of riding in the winter is ice, it hits you hard and fast and you don't realize it until you eat wet brown snow.

Good luck with the survey. We might head out for a trail ride this weekend if you are interested.

Jeff C. said...

Tone, sure, just let me know when. Shoot me another comment or e-mail- email and I'll send you my phone or if I see you outside.
u j j c 0 0 1 a t c h a r t e r d o t n e t

Tim Ek said...

1. Duluth, Minnesota
2. I ride to be environmentally intact, fitness and I love it.
3. I haven't driven a car to work in over 5 years. I consider myself a commuter and I feel in tune with all the nuances of drivers in cars. That is to say I know how to look into their eyes to read what they might be up to and how to stay alive in this town. Believe me it is not always a friendly place to ride (city). I would say that a resounding "yes" would be the answer to this question. I feel much LESS safe in winter. My finding and impression is that people/drivers fear what they don't understand. They often don't understand me riding down the side of the road while there is snow on the ground. I have been yelled at, swerved at, purposefully startled and even had things thrown at me. I have seen drivers begin to panic at the sight of a bicycle in the winter, thus I get concerned with their reactions in slippery conditions. My biggest fear is the drivers throwing their cars into a spin in front of me because they are freaked out by a bike and snow at the same time. My answer to this question is 80% less safe, especially in fresh snow or slippery conditions.
4. Other drivers are by far and away the biggest danger.

Tim Ek

Grady Larimer said...

Grady - Dulunatic - Minnesota

I ride year around for the requisite health and enviro reasons but also for social reasons: to allow more people here to SEE bicyclists more and to encourage more riders to do their collective good work, and of course the political reason: Screw Big Oil!

Safety - yup, got to be more creative on routes, time of day, visibility (lights, reflectors, visible clothing), etc. But I do not think it is any more difficult riding thru the winter here. Riding here demands strong skills but man, this town is full of athletes and many are completely capable of such required effort. More riders will allow more people (motorists) to see cyclists on 'their' roads, for example. That can't be bad at all. We do have climate and geology against us, as well as historic and narrow streets but it is a college town and that tends to breed acceptance and more liberal worldviews.

Biggest danger? NOT riding! We can all adapt to the given conditions on a given day, and sure the roads are narrow and slick sometimes...

Again, the more riders year around, the more riders! The more riders the more City Officials and City Engineers and infrastructure designers pay attention, and that citizens and groups like DATA and COGGS further encourage the City to continue to seriously look at the issue of alternative transportation in Duluth.

Crazy Eddy said...

I bike in Duluth, MN, and I rode until Nov. 30th this year. When the snow fell I stopped for safety reasons. I ride a 4 lane busy highway-like street with no shoulder and feel 100% less safe in the winter. I loved it right up to the end of the season for me, and found the challenge extremely rewarding. I ride for several reasons: economic, exercise, challenge, environment.

lyndsay said...

I don't commute in the winter particularly because of cold, but also because of safety. The traffic in Duluth is so unpredictable and often inconsiderate of bikers that I would rather not risk being killed. The summer commute is scary enough with people being completely unaware of bikers, but in the winter the awareness level drops to nothing and biking becomes a sport for those into reckless endangerment.

Monty and Molly said...

1.Bend, OR
Duluth, MN
2. Love to ride!, for the environment, for exercise, Commute Options incentive(work based), get to feel the weather instead of see it!
3.I ride to work all year round be it in Duluth or Bend. I don't particularly feel less safe riding my bike in winter I am just more concerned about bad drivers, keeps you on your toes though!