When You Can't Bike: Winter Walking

BY: Amber Dallman / February 06 , 2013

Amber loves to use her bike for her daily commute but a few things, like slush, hold her back in the winter. She doesn't give in to driving though, instead, she has a few tips for winter walking.

I’m a fair weather bicyclist and I have my reasons. Everybody does. Mine have nothing to do with cold temperatures and wind chills. In fact, the temps don’t seem to bother me. Guess I was raised (and brainwashed) to believe “there’s no bad weather, just bad clothing,” which many of my winter-biking colleagues agree with, right Carlos, Nick, and Veronica?

What gets me are the short days and slushy roads. Those are my top two barriers. You can put me in the “interested…but concerned” category when it comes to winter biking. I’d do it more if the roads were well cleared.

Most months of the year bicycling is my primary form of physical activity. What’s a girl to do to stay healthy when she’s worried about unsafe conditions that can arise with winter bicycling with a toddler in tow? I work on other activities. Previously, I’ve shared that I bike my toddler two miles to daycare. For winter I convert that trip to walking or running. After all, it is ONLY two miles. Sometimes we can be so entrenched in the habit of using our cars we forget it can take about thirty minutes to walk a two mile distance. Okay, I admit, that’s a brisk walking pace and probably explains why I still sweat when the temps are in the single digits. BUT, that built in thirty minutes helps me get my daily dose of physical activity.

Having the stroller allows me to schlep my work items and a change of clothing. After dropping off the kid, I pick up a bus for the remaining distance. Yes, it takes a bit long than biking. This is particularly true when your toddler decides he’d prefer to walk nearly half of the trip on the way home. However, it certainly ensures that I slow down and take in all there is to enjoy about winter. My toddler has been particularly helpful in pointing some of these features out during our walks – like the lights glistening through freshly fallen snow, the peacefulness the snow brings, and even playing in the snow.

 My biggest complaint about walking is similar to biking: lack of clear facilities. Most of my neighbors do an okay job of shoveling their sidewalks, but intersections / curb cuts frequently have to be muscled through with the stroller. The toddler thinks this fun. I am fortunate to be able-bodied and get over the mounds of snow to get back on the sidewalk. That’s not true for everyone in my community. People with disabilities in a wheelchair are often forced to roll along in the street. Its important residents and communities recognize people still walk and roll in the winter and need safe places to do so. A local non-profit in my community has partnered with the city to raise awareness about snow removal. They have door hangers for neighbors that may need a reminder – a tactic comfortable for most Midwesterners – and resources to help neighbors that may not be able to clear sidewalks. There are other creative ways communities can support shoveling. My favorite example of late: instead of selling candy bars for that school sports team fundraiser sell snow shoveling services – a great way to engage residents and our future community leaders!

Soon enough the days will start getting longer, the snow will melt, and we’ll be back in the saddle again – happy to feel the breeze (not wind chill) on our faces. Until then, what do you do to stay active when it’s winter time?

Share your ideas: what suggestions do you have for keeping walking and bicycling facilities clear in winter?

See More From: Amber Dallman

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  1. I do the same exact thing here in Vermont! We are lucky enough that the city (Burlington) plows the sidewalks in the winter to allow people to get around. You may want to bring this idea up to your municipality.Tanya