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Chicago commuters cycle through winter

Cycling in winter in Chicago. Photo by saumacus

Cycling in winter in Chicago. Photo by saumacus

As the temperature drops and most Chicago residents put away their bikes, the serious cyclists are gearing up for another winter on wheels.

Many cyclists in Chicago have chosen to make bicycles their only form of transportation year-round.

According to Bike Winter, the winter cycling season is the period between Nov. 1 and April 30. That means 181 days fighting snow, ice and other conditions that Chicagoans typically flee from.

“If you have to put your bike away during the winter, it kind of defeats the purpose of having one,” Howard Kaplan, treasurer of Bike Winter, said. “When people think of winter cycling, they think of riding through a blizzard, and it’s not like that.”

According to the National Weather Service, the average seasonal temperature in Chicago between December and February is 26.4 degrees with an average snowfall of 28.4 inches.

Bike Winter is an organization dedicated to promoting winter cycling through events and awareness. Kaplan said the organization started 12 years ago, when a group of people wanted to get more riders on bikes and out of their cars.

“You get used to it, depending on how far you ride,” said Kaplan. “My commute is only a mile.”

Matthew Jorgensen, 27, of Logan Square, said he rides his bike instead of driving to work every day  and will choose to take public transportation only under two conditions.

“I won’t ride if there is fresh snow that is not plowed, or if it snows and gets warm,” said Jorgensen. “The slush makes it likely for cyclists to drift and slide. That is too dangerous.”

Michael Brown, manager and personal trainer at Energy Fitness Center, said he rides year-round for the environmental aspect.

“It is not as accepted of a mode of transportation for Midwesterners,” Brown said. “People can’t live without their cars.”

Matthew Schwerin, 26, a Logan Square resident, said he chooses to ride year round. He used to own a car until earlier this year when it broke down. It was then the choice was obvious; he would cycle.

“I just feel good after a bike ride,” Schwerin said. “It is a lot quicker and a lot better than riding the CTA.”

Brown said that not only is there a cardiovascular fitness benefit to riding but it can also improve mood and endurance during the winter.

In August, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the installation of 34 miles of new bike lanes in Chicago by the end of the year as a part of the 650-mile bike plan to be completed in 2012.

Jorgensen said as a winter cyclist, the bike lanes are great when plowed, but the danger is glass, which punctures bike tires.

“Often times, the street sweepers don’t get glass in the bike lanes,” Jorgensen said. “It’s a beautiful new lane, but there is glass everywhere and that can be more dangerous than whatever the weather brings.”

For those thinking of trading in their car for a bike, Kaplan has some advice: “Dress in layers and keep riding,” Kaplan said. “Don’t put the bike away.”

Posted by on January 9, 2013. Filed under Community, Editor's Choice, Transportation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.