BOW VALLEY – Just because the snow has started to fly, doesn’t mean it’s time to put your bike in storage.
Community Cruisers’ Bike All Winter program is aiming to provide free, or substantially subsidized equipment, training and mentorship, for those interested in bicycling throughout the winter months.
“This is a program we have been wanting to do for a while now,” said Jen Tweddell, Community Cruisers’ board chair. “Our bike sales were the highest we have ever had, so we finally had the funding to be able to implement this program.”
The program is based on a model that started successfully in Peterborough, Ont., four years ago. The aim is to increase the number of people using bikes to get around safely during winter by targeting people who need help addressing some of the barriers.
Tweddell said some of the equipment the program will offer include lights, fenders and also winter tires, which could include studded tires.
“A lot of the riding in the winter months, because the days are so short, takes place when it is dark – so it is really important to be seen. When slush and snow are flying up, it’s not really great to be covered in slush, so fenders are a great piece of equipment too.”
The Traffic Safety Act in Alberta requires cyclists to have a white front light and a red rear light on their bike when they are travelling in the dark.
Bike All Winter applications will be accepted until Oct. 23, and those selected for the program will be notified Oct. 30. The program will run from November 2020 until April 2021.
In addition to the equipment, participants will also receive mentorship and training. Tweddell said it is important to be able to speak with and learn from someone who routinely gets around in winter by bike.
Cycling in the winter offers a unique set of challenges like battling the elements. Maintenance is critical when dealing with road salt, and learning how to dress are also important factors when it comes to winter biking.
On the flip side, cycling in the winter offers rides a chance to fight the winter blues. Cycling is a good way to combat this because the exercise releases natural antidepressants in the brain, gets you out and about to reduce isolation, and helps you stay motivated for fitness.
Cycling also benefits the community in terms of local air pollution, noise pollution, its more affordable and it slows people down, which in turn benefits local businesses.
“People that slow down and move through the community slower than they would in a car are more likely to frequent local businesses. I think we have seen great success this summer with Main Street and Banff Avenue being closed to vehicles.”
Additionally, more cyclists mean more parking spaces, more traffic flow for those that need to take cars.
Community Cruisers is encouraging everyone to apply. The programs wants to select a broad range of bikers.
“We are looking for those selected for the program will become ambassadors for biking in winter. We want to share their stories to inspire others to bike in the winter.”
Community Cruisers has been active in the Bow Valley since 2007 and has previously held winter biking workshops, but never been able to offer such a comprehensive program.
In addition to the participants, the program is also looking for winter commuting veterans to assist with providing mentorship.
Visit communitycruisers.ca to register or volunteer as a mentor.