May 18 marks another year that we take a slow, silent ride through Fort Collins: reflecting, mourning, celebrating the lives that we have lost to traffic violence.
A cyclist is hit and killed in the U.S. at a rate of 21 deaths in 100 million trips. Despite this low accident rate, it seems that we all know someone who has contributed to this statistic. For us, however, it is much more than a statistic–it’s a friend, son, daughter, husband, or wife, whose life was taken too soon.
Cyclists are a rare breed; we test our limits in cold, snow, sleet, heat and hail to enjoy that euphoria that comes with getting on our saddle. We throw on our helmet, attach our lights, mirrors, reflectors: our only protection when wrestling with traffic.
Then there are those who neglect their nights, abandon their helmet, feeling invincible. Ninety nine percent of the time–helmet or no–we get home safely. Ninety-nine percent of the time it doesn’t matter if we were wearing our helmet.
As you ride in silence on May 18, reflecting on the dear lives taken too soon, think about your own life and those who would ride for you if you were lost. Wear a helmet for them Attach your lights, and your mirrors and your reflectors for them.
(This is a current view of the road approaching Tavelli Elementary in northeast Fort Collins. The grant money will create bike lanes, crosswalks and complete sidewalks.)
The City of Fort Collins Safe Routes to School Program announced this week the award of a grant that it says will make a major impact in safety and accessibility for students walking and riding to Tavelli Elementary School in Northeast Fort Collins.
Safe Routes Coordinator Nancy Nichols, along with an advisory group composed of city, school district and Bike Fort Collins representatives, assessed the infrastructure deficit at Tavelli and designated it a priority for the CDOT grant opportunity, which will be supplemented by funds from Poudre Schools.
Tavelli is situated at the northeast corner of Lemay and Miramont Drive, a mile north of Vine in northeast Fort Collins. Students coming from the south on Lemay in particular face an inhospitable, dangerous route with no sidewalks or bike lanes.
The project will provide for a separated bike path and crosswalk which are critical pieces in the city’s push towards shifting half of all local school kids getting to school via bike or on foot.
Bike Fort Collins is a proud partner in the Safe Routes to School program and congratulates Nancy Nichols and the city on funding this project.
To “take the lane” means riding right smack in the middle of a travel lane in a single file line with cars. It can seem pretty scary, but there are times when it is THE safest place to be on the road. Once you understand why it can be safer, and how to do it, you can give it a go and see just why this bike riding tip will make you feel like the Boss of the Road.
Why you should take the lane
– To make a left hand turn –
Never make a left hand turn from the right hand side of the road. As a general rule, if you wouldn’t do it in a car, then you shouldn’t do it on a bike. In a car, you get into the left most lane to make a left hand turn. The same holds true when you’re on a bike. And once you’re in that left hand turn lane, queue up with the cars. If you turn left from the right side of the left hand turn lane, then you’re encouraging motorists to slide up beside you on both the right and left, which could put you in a bit of a pinch.
If you don’t feel comfortable crossing lanes to get into the left most lane, then you’ll want to do what’s called a Copenhagen turn, which means crossing straight, turning your bike, and crossing the intersection again.
– To avoid a right hook –
A right hook is when a bicyclist to the right is going straight, but the motorist to the left is turning right. When lines cross like this, it’s the bicyclist that’s going to get the short end of the stick.
You can prevent a right hook by staying to the left hand side of a right hand turn lane, allowing enough room to your right for right turning motorists to still make their turn. This is a legal solution, but not necessarily the safest. If the motorist swings out to the left a bit while making their turn, you could get hit. So the even safer thing to do is to get into the lane to the left of the right hand turn lane. If you’re traveling straight, then getting into that through lane makes sure that no one will be crossing in front of you.
– To make yourself visible –
Motorists learn to look for oncoming vehicles in travel lanes, because that’s where the cars and trucks are that they don’t want to hit. But they don’t always think to glance a little to the side of that for travelers in a bike lane. So by taking the lane, you put yourself where motorists are looking. Then it’s more likely they’ll see you. In fact, some people refuse to ride in bike lanes and always take the lane for this reason.
If you’re in a situation where you worry that people might not see you, then take the lane.
– To encourage safe passing –
You never want a motorist to think they can pass you safely when they can’t. In order to help them make a good decision, ride in the middle of the lane through areas where you know there’s no room to pass. Though the motorist may grumble, shout a few obscenities, or honk their horn, they’ll stay behind you until it’s safe to pass. Just tell yourself that their complaints are proof that they see you. It’s better to be seen and yelled at than to be run over.
If you are riding on a lane that cannot fit the width of a full sized vehicle, a 3 foot buffer (as required by law), and you (with enough cushion on your right hand side that you’re not hitting the curb or drain grates or other obstacles) then it is not safe for a motorist to try to pass you within that lane. Even if you’re hugging the right side, there’s not enough room for them to get around you without possibly knicking you with their mirror or another part of their vehicle. So don’t let them. The further to the left you are, the more they’ll realize that if they want to pass you, they’re going to have to change lanes to do it. (Remember, motorists are legally allowed to cross a double yellow line in order to pass a bicyclist.) So if the lane is too skinny, then help motorists do the right thing by making it plain as day that they’re going to have to change lanes to pass you.
– To avoid obstacles –
If there are sticks, gravel, potholes, road signs, parked cars, or other obstacles in the bike lane, then you are legally allowed to ride in the travel lane instead. While you’re in that travel lane, ride in the center to encourage safe passing until you’re able to safely get right again.
If there are a series of obstacles, then stay in the center of the travel lane until you have passed all obstacles. Weaving in and out around obstacles increases the likelihood of getting hit.
How you should take the lane
Always change lanes while on a bicycle in the same way that you would change lanes when driving a car: Signal your intention to change lanes. Look behind you to see if anyone is approaching in the lane you want to get into. Look beside you to make sure that the way is clear. If everything looks good, then change lanes.
Once you’re in the lane, ride in the center to encourage safe passing.
Once you’re ready to get back into the bike lane, follow the same process all over again. Signal. Look beside and behind. (This time you’re more likely going to be looking for debris or other obstacles, but you never know when a motorist or bicyclist might try to shoot up past you on the right.) Then change lanes.
Speak loudly with your whole body when you make these lane changes. It helps motorists have a sense of what you’re doing, and that you’re taking this “riding a bike on the road” thing seriously. (Just as we wish all motorists would take this “driving a car on the road” thing seriously.) So don’t make a teeny little signal with your hand to indicate a turn. Get your arm out there so your intention to turn can’t be missed.
Feel like a boss
Just last week I picked up takeout food from Bann Thai on College. From there I wanted to head west toward home. I decided that the fastest way to get to Mason would be to travel from College to Mulberry, just like I would if I were in a car. So I waited until traffic had cleared, entered northbound College, and signaled a lane change to get left until I was in the left hand turn lane. I took the lane to be sure everyone could see me.
The light at Mulberry was red, so I stood over my bike with my arm out, indicating my left hand turn. (It was self evident since I was in the rightmost left hand turn lane, but it helps motorists know that I’m taking this whole “using the lane” thing seriously. It’s a way to say loud and proud that I know what I’m doing and I have every legal right to be doing it.)
When the light changed, I made the turn, stayed in the middle of the lane until Mason, and then turned right.
And despite the fact that there were motorists all around me, they could tell that I knew what I was doing. I was making my intentions at every step of the way abundantly clear. And my whole attitude made clear that I knew I had a right to the road. I didn’t have a single motorist honk at me, or yell at me, or even rev their engine at me. They were polite and drove single file behind me. And as soon as I could get somewhere a bit safer, I did. So I took the shorter route to save time, but when there was an equally good route with a better comfort level for bicyclists, I took it.
And by golly, I felt like the boss of College Avenue out there on my bike, surrounded by motorists that were treating me with respect… like I belonged. Because I did.
Meg is the author of PedalFortCollins.com, a local transportation blog that’s part of the Scoop Blog Network. She’s an active member of Bike Fort Collins and the Fort Collins Coalition for Infrastructure and she is frequently involved in transportation and urban planning events hosted by the City of Fort Collins. You can reach her at email@example.com.
“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
-Susan B. Anthony
Cyclofemme is an annual ride held on Mother’s day and recognized around the world that celebrates women on bikes. It began in 2012 with 163 riders in 14 countries; by the third year, it had grown to 303 riders in 25 countries, including China, Japan, Mexico, Rwanda and Indonesia.
More than a ride that celebrates women and women on bikes, Cyclofemme embraces the spirit of empowering women be independent, fearless, and joyful. This ride organized for women by women unifies a community and allows for a stronger, louder voice that can advocate for women on bikes all year and for years to come.
Women and bikes is not a concept that’s new to Fort Collins. The Fort Collins Bike Co-Op hosts Women’s Wrenching Nights, FC Bikes has rolled out Women Ride on Wednesdays, and there’s a history of all-women teams and clubs: Team BoB, Belle Starrs, Fort Follies, and Brave New Babes. This doesn’t mean our work is done. A recent study by FC Moves revealed that on average, Fort Collins bicyclists are approximately 65% male and 35% female, a statistic that has shown no upward trend from previous years.
Fort Collins has hosted its own Cyclofemme celebrations for the past 2 years, powered by women and anyone who supports women on bikes. Keeping with tradition, we will ride again this Mother’s day, May 8. Barring snow (our fingers are crossed this year!) there will be a road ride, mountain bike ride, and a townie ride, each ending at New Belgium Brewery for celebratory libations, snacks, and high-fives. So ladies, gents, girls and boys: grab your helmet and let’s ride!
For more information on Cyclofemme, visit cyclofemme.com. For more information on Fort Collins Cyclofemme, including information on start times and locations of CycloFemme rides, go to the Event Page.
EDIT 4/19 – After speaking to the Parks Department, they wanted me to make clear that the North (yellow) route is actually not a trail and is technically private property. To that end, I want to clarify that this map is not an official city communication. Ride on private trail spurs at your own risk.
Starting Monday, April 18th , the Spring Creek Trail underpass at College Ave will be closed for several weeks (“through mid-May” according to the FCgov trail status page.)
Those who use the underpass regularly will be familiar with this closure and detour from last fall.
Important points: For Westbound traffic, you can either cross at the light Spring Park and College, or use the Crosswalk on the south side of the intersection. There is NO crosswalk at the north side of that intersection. For Eastbound you can Use the EB bike lane from spring creek and change lanes to make a left turn on to spring creek at the Remington/Spring Creek intersection, or use the College and Spring Creek crosswalk to reach Spring Creek Trail at the corner of College and Spring Creek.
[Bike Fort Collins Blog welcomes Sylvia Cranmer, long time cycling community leader and current chair of the Bicycle Advocacy Committee]
One of the great things about Fort Collins is that it offers opportunities for us average folks to have an impact and make a difference in our community. Fort Collins is on the crossroads of being a large town/small city, which keeps things cozy and manageable in terms of local involvement. Bicyclists in Fort Collins are realizing that they have a voice and can impact the decisions that make this place a safer and more enjoyable place to get around by bike. One group in particular has been influential in identifying problematic areas for bicyclists, and making suggestions to City staff for specific improvements to enhance our local bicycling experience. Bike Fort Collins (BFC) spearheaded the local RAT Rides, which are monthly group rides that bring bicyclists together to Ride Around Town (RAT) to identify and proactively promote improved riding conditions on Fort Collins streets and trails.
RAT Rides started a few years ago with members of BFC and likeminded local infrastructure enthusiasts. Occasionally members of city staff, consultants working with city staff, and even elected officials have joined the rides. According to BFC President Bruce Henderson, the first RAT ride developed out of various discussions regarding the Mason Corridor, and the riding conditions along that route. Various advocates in the bicycling community then proposed other areas they thought needed attention, and the concept blossomed and spread throughout town.
RAT Rides take place year-round, however, the schedules and routes change a bit at different times of the year. For example, during the street maintenance season (spring/summer/early fall), the monthly ride routes are planned according to the City’s street maintenance schedule. According to Henderson, “If we know there is
work planned for Shields next month, we’ll include that stretch of Shields in our next route. If they are doing asphalt overlays, it’s much easier for us to convince them to make a change in the bike lane striping at that point.”
Most rides have a common starting and ending destination, usually a pub or brewery where the group can debrief immediately following the ride. “These are advocacy rides – we are collecting comments on conditions during the ride that can be summarized afterwards. We do occasionally stop during the ride to talk and capture a few notes,” add Henderson. It’s also a great excuse for people to get out on the roads for an easy paced fun ride in a larger group, which typically makes everyone feel safer even on busier roads such as Riverside, Prospect or Horsetooth. The ride leader then formally documents the ride and sends the summary to whoever has jurisdiction over that particular area.
Interested in joining RAT Rides? During the summer the group meets on the second Thursday each month at 6:00 p.m.. The rides typically last 1 – 1 1/2 hours, averaging 10-12 mph – covering 10 miles or less. For more information, follow BFC on Facebook and watch for monthly ride announcements; sign up for the BFC newsletter by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org; or request to be added to the RAT Ride email list through email@example.com.
(Sylvia Cranmer is Chair of the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and a member of Bike Fort Collins.)
YGR Live was developed in 2011 as “Northern Colorado’s Live Bike Talk Show”. Our goal was to put together a regular event with a diverse lineup of guests and stories. Over the years we’ve featured pro athletes, community leaders, educators, race promoters, journalists, health and fitness experts and more. All with the goal of celebrating all the diverse and wonderful facets of bike culture in NoCo, and rallying the culture together to confront issues of common concern, like traffic safety.
After an extended hiatus, YGR Live is thrilled to announce our relaunch on April 11th at the Rio Grande Agave Room at 7:00pm. Hosts Dan Porter and Chris Johnson will bring up local newsmakers to give updates and info on upcoming projects, and then welcome 3 featured guests for longer interviews and audience Q&A.
For our relaunch we’re featuring the great lineup of:
Cosmo Catalano of Cyclocosm.com to talk about the classics, give some predictions about the summer tours, and talk about racing safety in light of the uptick in incidents between racers and support vehicles,
Stacy Sebczek, Director of the Fort Collins Bike Share to talk about the evolution of the library ito the new share model and whats unique about our share, and where we’re headed.
and Dan Lionberg to talk about the history and future of NoCo’s own underground classic, the One Speed Open.
[The FC Bike Co-Op is one of Bike Fort Collins’ oldest partners in local bike community development in advocacy. We’re thrilled to include them as regular contributors to our new blog. Here’s a brief primer on the Co-op’s history and vision and programs. They’ll be updating us on a monthly basis with all things Co-op. – CJ]
The Fort Collins Bike Co-op was founded in 2003 as the Bike Against Collective in a residential garage by Rafael Cletero. Raf started Bike Against as a way to help his friends and neighbors get their bikes repaired and rideable. As word about Raf’s generosity spread, the Collective quickly outgrew its home in his garage. It moved into a commercial space and continued to be best-known within the community as a place where people could go to get help fixing their bikes.
Bike Against expanded to help keep bikes out of the local landfill by accepting donations of bikes, parts and accessories, and its Earn-a-Bike program was founded and took off almost immediately as the most visible of its programs. A few more years went by and Bike Against applied for 501c3 non-profit status. The organization became The Bicycle Cooperative of Fort Collins when it was officially incorporated. A volunteer Board of Directors was formed to address administrative concerns, and the mission statement “building community through bicycling” became the foundation for all of the Bike Co-op’s activities.
So what exactly does the Bike Co-op do? This question is raised on a pretty regular basis and the short answer is: a lot. To break it down:
We hold Open Shop hours during which customers can come and buy bikes, parts and service. Our mechanic services differ from any other shop in Northern Colorado in that when a customer brings their bike in for work, we pair the customer with a mechanic who teaches them how to do the repairs. The customer is the one wielding the tools and doing the work, and the mechanic coaches them through the process. We do this for everything from fixing flats to repacking bearing systems to drive train adjustments…and more!
We hold Work Nights for our volunteers to work on bikes and internal projects such as recycling, retail bike and Earn-A-Bike builds.
We recycle almost everything. Our landfill contributions amount to a single residential-sized garbage can of trash every two weeks. If we can’t reuse it or upcycle it, we recycle it. Local artists approach us frequently for wheels and frames and other items otherwise destined to be recycled and we happily give away nonworking parts.
Our Earn-A-Bike program is still our most popular program and is still going strong. We give out 15 applications per month for the program. EAB candidates must volunteer a number of hours in the community and, once they do, we build them a bike.
Our Women’s & LGBT Wrenching Nights are a wildly popular, fairly recent addition to our programs. Taught by female mechanics in a safe atmosphere, Women’s Wrenching Nights endeavours to get more women working on their own bikes by providing an introduction to basic bike mechanics, fit, maintenance and repairs. Participation in Women’s & LGBT Wrenching Nights is restricted to women and LGBT populations.
We work with various nonprofits and businesses throughout the Northern Colorado community to further our mission and support local bike culture, safety and education. Some of these include the Matthews House, Turn Around Bikes, Bikes for Tykes, the Committee for Sustainable Energy, Bike Fort Collins, the Overland Mountain Bike Club and many more.
We are one of the nonprofit recipients of Tour De Fat, the Labor Day bike parade and extravaganza hosted generously by New Belgium Brewing. Our project bikes are also a great resource for anyone looking to build a Tour De Fat bike, and we have seen these bikes turn into some incredible contraptions over the years.
We are always looking for volunteers, and we require absolutely no experience to volunteer with us. We need volunteers for everything from the Art Department to the steering committee to grant writing and fundraising to event coordination and staffing to Open Shop Co-op Representatives and Mechanics to work night wrenches and recycling specialists. Sign up to volunteer on our website!
At 13 years old, the Fort Collins Bike Co-op is still running strong. In fact, we recently purchased property at 1501 N. College and relocated in October 2015. We have an incredibly devoted Board of Directors and a boatload of amazingly hard-working, bike-loving volunteers. We know we wouldn’t still be here, however, without the incredible community we serve. Fort Collins is an awesome town for cycling, and that shows especially at the Bike Co-op, where our customer base is as diverse as the bikes they ride. So come on by sometime and say hello! We’d love to welcome you to the Bike Co-op. We’re here for Open Shop Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 2-5pm and Sundays 12-6pm, and you can find us on the web at http://fcbikecoop.org.
If you have any questions you’d like to email us, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to connecting with you!
Dondi is a year-round commuter cyclist, freelance writer and Co-op Representative at the Fort Collins Bike Co-op. In addition to “Building Community Through Bicycling” she enjoys road rides, rock climbing and baking treats every Sunday for the Bike Co-op’s velonteer crew. You can reach her at email@example.com.
In honor of the return of the Horsetooth Time Trial starting next week, BIke Fort Collins closes out our month of rolling out regular blog contributions from our partners by sharing a beginners guide to the “race of truth”
Waaaait a second. Back up. Whats a Time Trial?
A time trial is a kind of bike race that usually held on a point to point or looped course where each individual racer starts out separately, released in regular intervals, and the goal is simply to have as fast a time on the clock as possible. Theyre anywhere from a couple of miles to hundreds. (The bike portion of an Ironman triathlon is effectively a 100+ mile time trial), Most commonly they’re between 10 and 25 miles.
For the most part, TTs are solo events, though team TTs do exist, and some teams specialize in them. but mostly its just one person against the clock.
Usually there are rules against drafting. If you do overtake an over rider your’e expected to do so and cleanly as possible and not linger in the other riders slipstream.
Fundamentally, the time trial is a test of how well you know yourself and y our limits. Go too hard and you’ll crack and limp to the finish line, broken. Go to easy, and you’ve wasted an opportunity to explore your potential and squeeze out every last ounce of strength. The time trial is a race of discovering your limits, knowing when to push past them and knowing when to hold back. It’s a race of preparation and of staying cool under prolonged physical and psychological stress. Its also a lot of fun, especially at the grassroots level.
What kind of bike do TTs use?
In pro cycling they use expensive dedicated TT bikes with aerodynamic handlebars , helmets, and skinsuits. At the speeds these guys are going (30MPH avg is not unusual for a pro riding a 25mile TT)m every little bit of aerodynamic advantage matters, so nothing is left to chance.
But at the grassroots level, YGR TTs always have “aero” categories, and Merckx standard road bike categories. Merckx is named for the legendary pro Eddy Merckx, one of the all time greats, from an era before aerodynamic gear was in common use in pro racing. YGR has even been known to throw in a Kerkove category. named for local pro mountain biker Jeff Kerkove, this allows you to race and be ranked against other competitors on mountain bikes.
Time trials are fun events to enter if you’re interested in dipping a toe into racing but not sure if you have the nerve for elbow to elbow road racing, technical skills required tor mountain bike or cyclocross racing. they’re about as safe as you can get in a bike race, and you can race against the field, a buddy, or just try to improve your time each week.
Horsetooth Time Trial
YourGroupRide.com once again opens the grassroots Tuesday night calendar with the 8th annual Horsetooth Time Trial Series pb Backcountry Delicatessen . This is no ordinary flat straight TT; the HTTT starts near the corner of Harmony and Taft in Fort Collins and climbs all the way up to the Horsetooth Mountain Park, dives down to Masonville, turns around and finishes by climbing back up to Horsetooth, from the even more formidable west side.
This is a 4 week series, which makes is a perfect early season training series for tracking early season fitness and shooting for personal records. Remember, this is not a mass start race, so pacing together and drafting aren’t allowed. Riders will be sent off in 30 intervals and times will be compiled and posted at YourGroupRide.com after the event. Please be respectful of local traffic on this open course.
Here are the details on your favorite, least favorite 14.35 miles:
Registration will open here on YGR the Monday before each race and will close at 4pm on race day. The cost is $10.00 for your average Joe, $5.00 for college kids and the unemployed. Juniors race free.
[We know theres some confusion out there about the difference between Bike Fort Collins, FC Bikes, and the Fort Collins Bike Co-op, and we’re workin’ on clarifying, but all three groups are critical partners in the sustainable transportation movement in Northern Colorado and we at BFC are excited to add FC Bikes- the City of Fort Collins’ Bicycling program- to our growing list of blog contributors. FC Bikes staff will chime in here every month to keep everyone in the loop about upcoming projects, events, closures and more. -ED]
Vision: No Need for a Car to Travel in Fort Collins
Imagine a Fort Collins where you can easily and seamlessly get to where you need to go without using a motor vehicle. You hop on the bus near your house, and then you pedal a ways on a bike share bike and then walk a short distance to your final destination. You do all this with ease and confidence because the systems and infrastructure in the city support it. We are making progress toward making this vision a reality with a number of initiatives the City’s FC Bikes Program is implementing this year.
Below are a few highlights of the projects currently underway. Find out more about all of the FC Bikes initiatives at the first annual Bike Projects Fair on Wed., April 13, 5:30-7:30pm. The Fair will be held at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.
Creating Connections with Bike Share
Starting April 1 Fort Collins will have a self-service automated bike share system thanks to collaboration between the City, Bike Fort Collins, Zagster, and community partners. Building on the success of the Bike Library, this exciting new system will allow you to check out a bike and use it for trips around town, complemented by a local community cycling hub and in-person customer service at the Downtown Transit Center. Bike share is an important component of a robust public transportation system because it expands the possibilities for connecting people to the places where they live, work and play as well as to other transportation options.
Fort Collins Bike Share is scheduled to launch with 16 stations in key locations. The City is celebrating the launch with a ribbon cutting ceremony at Noon on April 1 at the Downtown Transit Center followed by a short ride to view stations (bring your bike and helmet!) . In addition, a celebration will take place in Old Town Square that evening from 5pm-7pm. Bike Share Staff, FC Bikes Staff and FC Bikes Bicycle Ambassadors will be available around town throughout the day to answer questions about the system. www.fcgov.com/bikeshare
Safe Routes That Are Easy to Navigate
The 2014 Bicycle Master Plan proposed a Low-Stress Bicycle Network to provide users safe and comfortable routes for traveling by bike. FC Bikes is working on a number of projects to make progress on building the Low Stress Bicycle Network and ways to navigate it. Here are two examples:
Pitkin Bikeway Project – an infrastructure project that focuses on upgrades to crossings of major arterials, wayfinding and minor striping changes along Pitkin.
Bicycle Wayfinding – the city’s bicycle wayfinding system can help people navigate the city’s low-stress bicycle network. The Remington Bikeway, a north-south route, was recently signed with wayfinding signs. A route along Swallow will be signed soon.
Flipping Bicycle Safety Education on Its Helmet
For years bicycle safety education focused mostly on the cyclist. FC Bikes, in partnership with Bike Fort Collins, recently reframed the traditional bicycle safety educational offering and created a compelling program called the Bicycle Friendly Driver Program. Over 550 people in Fort Collins have been certified as Bicycle Friendly Drivers and are becoming part of a safer cycling community. Find out how to host a class at your business and when public sessions are scheduled. www.fcgov.com/BicycleFriendlyDriver
Encourage People to Try It!
FC Bikes is bringing Open Streets back to Fort Collins in 2016! Last year Open Streets events drew over 12,000 people who were able to use the streets without motorized traffic present. This freeing and fun experience encourages people to travel distances of everyday trips using their own power. On June 5 you can join the fun. Bring your bike or skates or your two feet and cruise and enjoy the car-free roads. Check out the activity hubs and meet fellow community members along the route while you are there too!
Jamie Gaskill-Fox is a Program Specialist with the City of Fort Collins FC Bikes. She coordinates the Bicycle Ambassador Program and is a League Cycling Instructor.
[As we continue to roll out our expanded blog content, I’m honored to present our first regular contribution from stalwart local blogger Meg Dunn. I asked Meg to share her insights on the spiritual and religious case for bikes and sustainable transportation. -ED]
I love hanging out down by the Poudre river. The rustle of the leaves in the trees, the music of the birds as they swoop down over the water, and the burble of the river as it wends its way through town somehow soothe the soul. Sometimes I get that same feeling when I’m on my bicycle. The wind on my face, the soft “shush shush” of my feet on the pedals, and the ability to look someone in the eye as I pass them and say, “hello,” all make me feel connected to something much larger than myself. Here I am on my bike. But at the same time, here I am as part of a larger world, a larger community,… as part of Life. It’s a feeling that is at the same time both exhilarating and humbling. It can feel deeply spiritual.
Of course, I don’t always feel this way on my bicycle. When I’m traveling down Mason street with an impatient motorist on my tail, I’m usually not singing hymns or shouting Hallelujahs. It’s at times like that that I’m riding my bike, not because it feels like a spiritual experience, but because my spiritual beliefs speak to my world view. And my world view has led me to make a conscious choice to travel, as often as possible, by foot or by bicycle.
I have a car. With three kids, one husband, and two dogs, all of whom travel with me now and again as we get around town, there are many times when we’ll all pile into the car to get where we need to go. But as a family we’ve made some very deliberate life choices because of our faith that affect how we travel. When we moved here fifteen years ago, we deliberately chose to pay a little more in order to get a house that was located in a walkable neighborhood. We chose to send our kids to our neighborhood schools so we wouldn’t have to drive them back and forth every day. And we attend a church within walking/biking distance.
I said we made these choices because of our faith. Let me explain.
Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” And in the book of Genesis, in the story of creation, it says that the Lord, “took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” When God made the world, he didn’t just give it to mankind to use for our own purposes. He also put us here to take care of it.
Sure, there’s some level of crap that we can throw into the soil and water and air and somehow the plants and animals and other organisms manage to clean out the junk that we’re putting into the system. But there comes an overflow point where we’re doing more harm than the environment can handle. God has called us to be stewards. We should be treating the land as caretakers. …like it doesn’t belong to us. …like it belongs to God.
So our family does what we can. We decided to reuse and improve our older house rather than tearing it down, throwing it into the landfill, and using newly harvested natural resources to build a new one. We have food gardens in front and in back of our house and we’ve never used herbicides on our grass. We eat organic and local as much as possible. We compost, recycle, keep backyard chickens, support a local CSA, and eat home cooked meals made from minimally processed food items.
And we bicycle.
I’ll fess up right now that we still shoehorn our family into a little sedan to get to church in winter, but as soon as the roads are clear and the weather starts to warm up, we’re out pumping up tires and testing brakes on a Sunday morning so that we can head to the service by bicycle. It feels so much better going to worship God when we haven’t polluted his creation on our way.
So we bike as a means of caring for the planet, but we also bike as a means of caring for ourselves. We’re just as much stewards of our own bodies as we are stewards of the planet. Being fit and healthy is a way of valuing and appreciating the gift of life that God has given us.
Bicycling is also a means of being a more connected part of our community. When you’re traveling around by car, you don’t have opportunities to talk to the person in the car next to you, or the person standing on the street corner, or the person biking past. But when you’re on your bicycle, you can easily stop and chat when you see a neighbor or friend. And I frequently have short interactions with pedestrians and other cyclists when I’m pedaling around. We might just say hello, or talk about the weather. But I’ve also talked to people about their bicycle, they’ve asked me for directions, or we’ve shared concerns about whether the stop light can “see” us or not. All of these interactions are threads that help to make our community feel safer, friendlier, and more people oriented.
Fort Collins is a rapidly growing city, which has led to increased traffic and congestion on the roads. I don’t know about you, but I find traffic to be frustrating and anxiety inducing. Rather than improving my spirits and helping me to connect with those around me, I find it can often do exactly the opposite, leaving me exasperated, angry, and upset with my fellow Fort Collins residents. Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” But I tell you what, it is really hard to love my Christian brethren when they and their little fish bumper sticker cut me off in traffic. I think that as a believer, it behooves me to be at the forefront of finding answers to the problems that plague our community. And one answer to the problem of ever increasing traffic is to find alternatives. Transfort service, improved walkability, and safe streets for cyclists are key means of getting angry people out of their cars and helping them to make better, healthier, and friendlier transit choices.
You certainly don’t have to be a spiritual person to advocate for bikes and other forms of alernative transportation in Fort Collins. But if you are a believer, then I think it behooves you to think about how our transportation affects our interactions with one another; how it affects the health, well-being, and safety of the people in our community; and how it relates to our role as stewards of God’s creation. God might not be calling you to sell your car and take up bicycling as your only means of transport. But leaving the car at home a bit more often, and using alternatives means of getting around that are better for the environment, for your health, and for the community, can be an act of service to God and a witness to others.
About Meg Dunn
Meg has been been bicycling for as long as she can remember. Though she did go through a bit of a “Dark Ages” period in the early 1990s when she lived in Detroit, she’s been using a bicycle as an alternative form of transportation since the mid-70s when, as a kid, she realized that a bicycle could get her down the street to the store where candy bars were sold. Though bicycling was a popular form of transport in Ann Arbor and San Francisco, Meg has found that to be less the case in other places where she’s lived… including Fort Collins where bicycling is often seen more as a form of recreation than transportation.
[Editors Note: This is the first of what will be a monthly blog contribution from Overland Mountain Bike Club, We thought it would be best to start with an introduction. OMBC does great work in the Community. – CJ]
So who is “Overland Mountain Bike Club”? You’ve probably heard or seen the name around town at some point. You may have passed someone out on a local trail wearing an Overland jersey. Or maybe you’ve seen the blue tent at some event around town…Get Outdoors Day, Tour de Fat, at a trail head. Maybe you’ve even seen a pack of them on a Wednesday evening social ride. But who ARE they, and what do they actually do? Quite a lot, actually…
Overland was originally founded as Diamond Peaks Mountain Bike Patrol in 1995. A group of Diamond Peaks Ski Patrol members decided they could use something to do during the summer months, so they formed a similar group based around mountain biking. They soon entered into an agreement with the US Forest Service to conduct patrol rides on USFS trails, and they were in business. 21 years later, the Patrol still has an operating agreement in place with the Forest Service. As well as Larimer County. And the City of Fort Collins. And Lory State Park. And Wyoming State Parks (specifically Curt Gowdy and Glendo).
The original patrol group soon made it a requirement for every member to complete a minimum amount of trail work as well. It was now becoming a patrol group, a trail maintenance group, and an advocacy group. In 1999, Diamond Peaks and New Belgium Brewing partnered on an idea for a new event. The idea was to create a new, fun event to celebrate the cycling culture of Fort Collins, highlight New Belgium Brewing, and raise a little bit of money for a local non-profit group. They decided to call it “Tour de Fat”. Over the next 10 years the club took on more events, more trail building efforts and more members. Since it had become more than “just a patrol group”, in 2009 the organization decided to take the name of Overland Mountain Bike Club, based on the historic Overland Trail which connects the areas of Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming.
Today, we still have Diamond Peaks Mountain Bike Patrol operating as a service of Overland. But we have become much more! A quick glance at our calendar and you’ll see a wide variety of events…trail building skills clinics, patrol training, trail work days, social rides, monthly meetings, Take-a-Kid Mountain Biking Day, Get Outdoors Day, various community outreach events. A new event for 2016 is the Tooth or Consequences Mountain Bike Festival, happening July 22-24. This will feature the ever-popular “40 in the Fort”, a new enduro MTB race, and a festival kick-off party at New Belgium Brewing. We also recommend riding options to out-of-town visitors to further highlight the trail systems of Northern Colorado & Southern Wyoming.
Overland is now made up of nearly 300 members and gives approximately 5000 volunteer hours per year back to this community. The patrol group is completing nearly 350 patrol rides annually to help ALL trail users with any medical or mechanical issues, keep trail users informed of trail etiquette and “Rules of the Trail”, and provide the land agencies with valuable trail user statistics. Our trail building efforts in 2016 will include assisting with the new Hidden Valley Trail at Devils Backbone, a new loop trail at Hermit Park Open Space, the re-construction of Young Gulch, as well as other general maintenance projects. Overland also gives financial grants to Ciclismo Youth Foundation, Cheyenne High School Mountain Bike Team, Laramie High School Mountain Bike Team, Stone Temple Youth Mountain Bike Camp, and to various local trail projects.
Hopefully everyone has attended at least one Tour de Fat event. Many of you have probably volunteered for it as well. If you have…THANK YOU! You are helping to make all of these events happen…you are helping to keep our trails maintained…you are helping to keep our trail users safe…and you are helping support multiple fantastic organizations continue to do great things for this community, including Overland Mountain Bike Club!
(For the latest in traffic code, city and state, check FC Bikes great page HERE)
It’s a tough world out there, folks.
Traffic is busier and busier every year. Trains going through the middle of town create hectic holdups and spur road frustration in even the most genteel of drivers. Roadwork seems to be going on everywhere…all the time. Or maybe that’s just on your commute. And on top of it, cyclists and drivers are often forced to share roadways, which often seems to infuriate both parties.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Especially for that last part. While there isn’t much we can all do to decrease traffic, reroute trains or stop the roadwork, we can all work together to create stress-free roads for drivers and cyclists alike. Here are a few things to keep in mind whether your pedal-pushing involves a two-, three- or four-wheelers vehicle or, as I like to see them, the playground rules of the road:
The Golden Rule always applies. Sick of drivers passing too closely? They probably are too. Maybe scoot a little more to the right in the bike lane. Nobody’s saying you have to ride in the gutter, but you don’t have to ride the line either. Tired of having to wait for slow cyclists to move along so you can turn right because there’s no enough room to scoot around them? Cyclists are vehicles according to Colorado state law, so treat them accordingly. You wouldn’t try to zoom around or lay on the horn if someone driving another car were moving a tiny bit more slowly than you like. Just frustrated in general? Try using the vast network of bike paths instead of the roadways, cyclists; drivers, try to be grateful that cyclists AREN’T in cars adding even MORE traffic to the roads.
Use common sense. I strongly dislike it when I see fellow cyclists blowing stoplights and stop signs and riding three across in a lane that obviously cannot accommodate more than single file. Similarly I’m not a fan of being honked at, followed too closely or having vulgarities screamed at me when I’m biking along peaceably. If you’re in a situation where your safety may be compromised, cyclists, deliberately acting in ways that guarantee your safety is compromised is a TERRIBLE idea. In the equation you versus a vehicle, that vehicle is going to win every time, so take your safety seriously and ride responsibly. Drivers: cyclists are people too!! Cyclists are guaranteed the same rights to the road as YOU are. Use some common sense when driving around cyclists and consider their rights as well.
Stop. Texting. While. Operating. Any. Moving. Vehicle. This goes for you, too, cyclists. While driver are arguably more dangerous as they are piloting several tons of moving steel, that doesn’t let cyclists off the hook. Texting while cycling is as irresponsible as texting while driving. Just don’t do it. That also goes for updating Facebook statuses, posting to Instagram or checking your Strava standings. It can wait. I promise.
One of the coolest aspects of living in Fort Collins is our robust cycling community, and we all need to do our parts to make this community one where we can all get along. Sometimes the easiest way to do this is go back to the basics and start with our playground rules again. No hitting. No fighting. Respect each other’s space. And if all else fails, maybe give yourself a time-out for a couple of breaths so you can rejoin the rest of us from a happier, calmer place.
Dondi is a year-round commuter cyclist, freelance writer and Co-op Representative at the Fort Collins Bike Co-op. In addition to “Building Community Through Bicycling” she enjoys road rides, rock climbing and baking treats every Sunday for the Bike Co-op’s velonteer crew. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BFC had an eventful night at RioSwap last night. By appearance, it was the best attended RioSwap by a solid margin.
In addition to the usual margs and bike parts, this year added trainer races (Courtesy of Gold Bike Friendly Business Source Endurance Center of the Rockies) and a live broadcast of The Bikes and Beer Radio Show.
IT was also BFC’s opportunity to talk about our new look and new vision publicly for the first time. I’ve been using the language for a while, because I think its an easy way to explain Bike fort Collins. Its an elevator pitch if you will.
The gist is this:
While infrastructure is critical, its wasted if it goes unused, and also probably counter productive.
Reciprocally, encouraging “interested but concerned” cyclists to take the leap is much harder without safe streets and progressive community attitudes about sustainable transportation to support them.
While a thriving, possibly even sprawling, bike community is an enviable situation for most communities, with scale comes the challenge of uniting and engaging and educating ALL cyclists about our shared challenges. and presenting a unified voice to governments and businesses who influence the way our community grows.
So I’ve come to think of advocacy and community development as something of a feedback loop. If we work to get more people on bikes, we have a bigger community to engage and activate to do the work, and together we can effect change to the way we think about and plan our shared public roads and spaces. And this, in turn, helps us get more people on bikes.
The best part is, it distills to 6 simple words
More Bikes, Safe Streets, One Voice.
And thats our vision.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be rolling out a number of announcement about programs and events. Some new, some expanded, some old favorites we’re bringing back.
The first major news is that starting today, bikefortcollins.org will host an ambitious new blog dedicated to sharing news about everything that’s going on in NoCo cycling, with the goal of creating a more engaged, informed bike community. Topics will range from infrastructure to events to advocacy to project updates and closures and more. And we’ll be updating it twice a week. I am tremendously proud of the lineup, which includes contributions from the Bicycle Advisory Committee, the FC Bike Co-op, Overland Mountain Bike Club, FC Bikes/City of Fort Collins, Your Group Ride, Pedal Fort Collins, FC Bike Share and more. We have a stable of regular contributors and plans for special guests from time to time a well. This blog will covering everything from racing to advocacy to city policy to trail conditions to current events affecting NoCo Cyclists. The blog will be updated twice a week.
So here’s where you come in. BFC has committees and programs that are doing great work, and the programs we’re announcing over the coming weeks that will balance our advocacy and shape our city. We need everyone who rides a bike, or even cares about someone who rides a bike, or even just cares about sustainable transportation and a healthy future for Fort Collins to join us.
Theres a tab up top that says “Support”, There’s so many ways to support us.
Become a member
Become a volunteer
Become a donor
Join our Bike Friendly Business network
Join a committee
Subscribe to our newsletter
Follow us on social media.
Being recognized as a Platinum Bike Friendly Community is an acknowledgement that Fort Collins takes cycling seriously.
Now, our responsibility, as a bike community and as a city, is to make sure that as we continue to grow and change, everyone in Northern Colorado has access and resources to choose bikes and other sustainable transportation, can make informed transportation decisions, and enjoy safe streets. We must use our platform to develop new programs, that lead lead the way for other cities to make the shift to putting people first in their communities.
This year brought the first winter since I moved to Colorado 11 years ago that I’ve lived and worked in the same town. This change of routine brought down a daily bike commute that varied over the years from 12 to 16 miles one way to a measly half mile one way. It did bring the added challenge of commuting on one of the most inhospitable stretches of roadway in town: crossing College on Drake. I also have much more dynamic schedule now, with meetings spread all over town on any given day.
It also brought about another important change: I don’t “kit up” in dedicated cycling wear for my commute anymore. It made sense for comfort and safety on longer rides (12 miles is guaranteed to make your work clothes a little damp and clammy, a half a mile not so much)
What surprised me is that I’ve learned a lot about local commuting and have changed my routine quite a bit and feel like I have more insight than ever on best practices and gear for tackling the “local”.
I always struggle with how to talk about winter commuting, because the most common interaction I have with people when it comes up is them being astonished or impressed. I think there was probably a brief spell 15 years ago where I relished that attention, but after many years and hundreds of incredulous coworkers gawking “YOU DIDN’T RIDE IN THIS, DID YOU?” I’d be fine if I never had to answer that question again. I’d much rather chat with my compatriots, who are more numerous every year, about good tires or cheap base layers or secret shortcuts.
At the same time, I am wary of being too casual about it. Winter cycling does present challenges that shouldn’t be underestimated, at risk of injury from cold and from trauma. The good news is- while they should be taken seriously, the risks from cold are no worse than they are on the ski runs we love spending out weekends running. And the risks of trauma can be mitigated by following best practices and using the city’s off street bike paths and other low stress routes where possible.
For 10 minutes on the bike, it just doesn’t make sense to suit up in the same expensive dedicated bike layers I’d wear on a 45 min commute. If for no other reason than back in those days, just suiting up at home and changing at work took close to 10 minutes each, so I’d effectively be tripling my commute time.
Its also just not as necessary. The main virtue of dedicated tech wear is that the longer you’re on your bike in the cold, the trickier it is to thermoregulate and the more inevitable it is that you’re gonna start sweating. Cotton casual wear and underclothes are particularly bad in those conditions. Cotton has an absorbent quality that sponges water and keeps it next to your skin, while the outside temps chill the moisture and begin a process of leaching heat away from your body very quickly (wet and cold is MUCH worse than dry and cold). So technical layering- using a strategic combination of wicking and insulating and venting layers- is mission critical the longer you’re outside and the colder it gets.
When changing clothes at work is either impractical, or just not an option, consider the following:
Your puffy winter jacket is probably plenty warm for walking around, but it might not be designed to keep cold air from flowing in thru the collar or cuffs. Neck gaiters or scarves block airflow down your neck, and simple wool or synthetic arm warmers under jackets are often all the extra insulation you need to keep the chill from creeping up your sleeves, without requiring a whole extra layer.
Waterproof overpants are pretty easy to get your hands on at just about any bike shop. They vary in quality and cost from simple pvc to fancy and expensive space age materials that breathe have features like vents and pockets. But the general principle is the same, they’re a convenient winter commuting tool, as they both keep road slush and grime off of work clothes, AND act as a windbreaking, insulating layer that keeps the chill away for a short ride.
I’d be wary of using them on longer rides, especially the cheaper ones that don’t breathe. Our legs are full of BIG muscles that work hard on the bike and generate a lot of heat (fun act: over 30% of fuel that you muscles consume while cycling is wasted as heat), if you don’t have some wicking and venting going on, you’ll get your work clothes soaked thru and it’ll quickly feel like you’re wearing a greenhouse. Once at work, rain pants will roll up pretty compactly in a bag or locker or desk drawer.
If your budget allows, dedicated winter bike shoes are one area where I’d suggest you consider sticking with technical gear, especially if your commuter bike is SPD pedal equipped. There are a number of really good brands of winter bike shoe these days (I have a few different models from 45NRTH). They’ll do the best job of balancing close, gapless fit, ankle support, water and slush resistance and a bit of grip for when you do need to put a foot down on ice or snow.
Short of that- or if you don’t have SPDs- winter hiking boots will work well too, but in general, footwear is an area where it does make sense to keep your work shoes either in a bag or at work and commute in something that will stand up to the elements. Chemical toe warmers are relatively cheap, as are wool socks.
I experimented again this winter with a ski/board helmet instead of a bike helmet and found I still didn’t like it. I have to subject myself to this every few years cuz it always seems like a no-brainer solution when I’ve forgotten why it doesn’t work. My main complaints are that the earmuffs compromise my hearing and spatial awareness, and that they limit peripheral vision just a hair, and make checking my surroundings periodically feel less effective. Thats a big no-no for me. So I will stick with the bike lid with various balaclavas, winter caps, and neck gaiters. I’m also a big fan of close fitting sunglasses that keep the gap between your brow and the upper rim of the glasses as tight as possible. Keep those eyeballs warm!
For me, gloves are the piece that require the least dedicated tech gear. If you have winter gloves, especially ski gloves, they’re probably fine. The only thing to be careful of is whether they compromise your ability to shift or grab your brakes effectively. Some knit gloves compromise grip. But most ski gloves do not. It’s not a bad idea to consider getting gloves that are a tad big and supplementing them with glove liners, and keeping a backup pair just in case your primary liners get damp. Its pretty miserable to ride in cold wet gloves, even for a short trip.
As with gear, budget will inform your range of options here, but shouldn’t scare you off if you aren’t in a position where going with top shelf winter solutions makes sense. if you can afford a dedicated winter bike, with larger knobby tires, cheaper components (or single speed) and above all, fenders, it’ll make the seasonal transition easier, but on the other hand, there’s a lot of other fixes to common winter problems that don’t require an extra bike.
As much as tire manufacturers want us to believe otherwise, when you buy tires you’re always calculating a trade-off between durability and speed. Slicker, lighter, faster rolling tires are also more susceptible to punctures. For many people, this is an acceptable trade off in the summer, but it can be a major pain, and potentially a major safety risk, in extreme cold. When the temperature drops, consider swapping to a super durable tire, like Schwalbe’s Marathon series. They’re available in a range of specific models but all of them are top notch for keeping the air on the inside of your tire at all costs.
I own a spare set of wheels mounted with studded tires (Schwalbe Marathon Winters). They hang on the wall in the garage so that they’re ready to go at a moments notice, rather than having to take the time to mount them when I need them. Here’s the thing though. I almost never use them. The occasions when roads are slick with ice are pretty rare. Neighborhood snowpack is much more common, and the more time you spend on it, the more you appreciate that mountain bike or touring tires with a decent bit of tooth give you plenty of grip on snowpack, especially if you lower the your tire pressure to the low end of the recommended pressure range (printed or molded into your sidewalls)
I’ve had days where studs gave me plenty of peace of mind, but I also wonder if the eagerness of well resourced winter bike nuts to espouse their virtues makes them sound more important than they are under less extreme circumstances.
Keeping your chain clean will extend your component life considerably, which will save you a lot of money and minimize the chances of a spontaneous failure out on the road. Rock n Roll lubes are chain cleaner and lube in one, and their blue formula is great for cleaning and protecting in bad conditions. And all you have to do is douse your chain with the stuff, give in a few spins, then wipe it down, and you’re protected for a few days.
for the most part, rim brakes don’t work as well when temps drop much below freezing. Combine that with the existence of more road hazards like snow and ice, and the importance of being aware of your surroundings and planning and looking ahead is that much more acute.
And of course, fenders are super helpful in the winter. They’re great to have year round, but particularly impactful on slushy thaw days, where its sunny and slightly warmer after a heavy snow. A number of manufacturers have quick mount fenders too, so its less of a commitment to take them on an off.
Daylight hours are a lot shorter in the winter, and low visibility from nightfall, active snow, or just heavy overcast skies can sneak up on you this time of year. Get in the habit of keeping your lights charged and on you, and err on the side of turning them on more readily than you might in the summer. USB lights are all the rage these days but if you’re out and your battery die you’re out of luck. Consider a replaceable battery backup light, or, if resources permit, keep a portable USB charger in your bag.
USB chargers are a really useful little indulgence if you spend a lot of time on your bike, one little piece of gear gives you peace of mind about your lights, your phone, and even your bike computer, if you’re the computer type.
Skills and Tricks
The misunderstanding a lot of prospective winter commuters share is that riding in winter is dangerous. The reality is slightly different, In some ways, winter/snowy riding is even safer. Who wouldn’t rather bail into a snowbank than a gutter? Who wouldn’t rather fall and slide across ice than get your clothes and body grated up with road rash from sliding across asphalt?
In fact, the truth is that much more so than bikes, cars aren’t very safe riding in the snow and ice, but when they make mistakes, it’s often cyclists who pay for it. As a thought experiment: take all the bikes of the road in the aftermath of a snowstorm but leave cars, now switch and leave only bikes. Which will result in more serious injuries? So what does that tell us about how to prepare for riding in snow?
For one thing, it tells us to avoid cars if we can.
If you have access to a bike path, that might be your best solution, even if it means going a block out of your way. Even an unplowed bike path (and FC is pretty good about plowing, most of the time) is safer than an arterial that plows all of its snow into the bike lane.
Don’t be shy about taking a lane where necessary. It’s your right. And it’s often much safer than sticking tightly to the far right of the useable road, leaving enough space for cars to try squeeze past you in their lanes, rather than changing lanes or waiting. In adverse conditions this can be more dangerous than normal, so if you don’t feel like a car can safely pass you, don’t give them room to try!
In some limited cases, you might even consider taking a sidewalk to avoid a hazardous stretch of road. I do. Be very conscious about speed and sharing the path with pedestrians, announcing your presence and passing wide. Beespecially careful at intersections. Cars may not be looking for you when you’re contraflowing on the sidewalk and they’re making a left in front of you.
It also pays to get comfortable on loose ground cover BEFORE you get caught in a surprise snowfall. Cyclocross and mountain bike handling exercises like riding on grass or soft dirt and sand will prepare you for snow. Keep your body loose (tense muscles slow reaction time), and your weight off your handlebars. Look and plan ahead down the road, not 10 feet in front of your wheel. There are many weekly grassroots race series here in NoCo that include (or require) beginner skills clinics and give you time to practice skills on closed, controlled courses. check out yourgroupride.com for calendar of races and clinics. You don’t have to be a stick thin spandex warrior to take advantage of these great resources.
You could fill a book with winter tips and tricks and there are in fact several out there, but hopefully these will get you started. It sounds like a lot of information, but believe me, most of it becomes second nature pretty quickly, and its no more burdensome than defrosting and scraping car windows, waiting for your car to warm up, fighting bad drivers for parking spaces, and bundling up and walking through the freezing cold parking lot anyway.
Got any suggestions or tricks? Add them on Facebook, or send them to me at email@example.com