14,292 cyclists were not just commuting by bike in winter, they had also registered for the 2018 International Winter Bike to Work day.
At almost exactly the same time, two researchers at Canada’s prestigious Ryerson University released a report on factors that contribute to commuting by bike in winter.
While we have had some chilly cycling weather, spare a thought for cyclists in Toronto where temperatures and the amounts of snow can be far more off-putting than this side of the Atlantic.
Tamara Naha, Urban and Regional Planning Master’s focussed her thesis on the factors that contribute to commuting by bike in winter. Her report was co-authored by Professor Raktim Mitra, at the TransForm Laboratory of Transportation and Land Use Planning at Ryerson. The lab explores how urban transportation systems and the built environment affect travel behaviour and health.
Understandably the number of cyclists declines in the winter months but does not go down to zero by any means – as the 14,292 cyclists mentioned above demonstrate. These were unlikely to have been anything more than a fraction of those who were commuting by bike in winter (and February 9th truly felt like winter across much of the UK and elsewhere in Europe!).
If cycling is perceived as a fair weather way to commute, local government is more likely to resist investment in cycling infrastructure because they argue that cycling is not a year-round means of transport.
The Ryerson study looked at whether three key factors have an effect on commuting by bike in winter: availability of bicycle infrastructure, the neighbourhood environment, and socio-demographic characteristics.
27% of Cyclists Were Commuting by Bike in Winter.
The researchers found that 27% of cyclists reported commuting by bike in winter. These were more likely to be students than staff, and less likely to be women or people with public transport permits.
A key result for advocates of cycling infrastructure was that cyclists were more likely to be commuting by bike in winter if there was on-street cycling infrastructure (cycle lanes and bike share docking stations) within 500 metres of their shortest route into the university. Nahal says that this clearly points to the need for improved cycling infrastructure in Toronto – and we would echo that sentiment, but for all our towns and cities.
Professor Mitra believes the findings indicate that municipal, grassroots and university-based programming could help specific demographic groups overcome physical and social barriers to winter cycling. Those groups include women, who may be more averse to the potential risks of commuting by bike in winter.
The Ryerson University website quotes Professor Mitra as saying “We want to address the gender gap and to place emphasis on women’s perceptions of winter cycling. Our findings will strengthen cycling advocacy in the city and the broader region for better infrastructure and programming. There are ways to reduce the seasonal gap in cycling rates.”
Ms Nahal presented the work at an international conference on Transport and Health in Barcelona and now works at SvN, an architectural and planning firm in Toronto.
International Winter Bike to Work Day has been ongoing for a number of years – we reported on it, for example, some time ago.