When the days are warm and sunny, cycling can be a beautiful experience for all ages. And climate change requires a vast number of Canadians to take up this pastime. But that pleasant weather is not always there. In fact, even in the southern parts of Canada like south-western and south-central Ontario the weather can be challenging for most cyclists almost half the year.
In London, Ontario, multi-use trails such as the Thames Valley Trail (TVP) are in constant use. But when snow falls, and is not cleared, the TVP becomes impassable for many cyclists.
How do we make cycling in winter conditions happen?
A look at past history and other regions of the world tells us that great societal and political changes have occurred by brutal force. In other words, autocratic regimes can make things change quickly and efficiently. As was the case of Joseph Stalin and his changes to the Soviet agrarian system in the 1930s, collectivization was simply imposed. Literally millions of Russian and Ukrainian citizens were staved to death to achieve Stalin’s success. So change can be achieved, but at what cost?
Some Stalinist thinkers can easily be convinced that cycling can be imposed by brutal attacks on the driving public. Reduce the efficiency of driving, penalize drivers of cars at every corner, until they have no choice but to ride bicycles. Others like myself believe that you can gain more with sugar than you can with vinegar. Rather than making it a difficult world for car drivers, we can make it more comfortable, convenient and safer for cyclists. We can achieve this in many positive ways.
The cost of e-bikes could be made cheaper through government incentives. A much greater emphasis could be placed, not just on building new cycling paths, trails and tracks, but on improving their maintenance so that they are truly usable throughout the Canadian year. Safe ways of securing cycles from theft can be introduced so that a rider can be assured that, at the halfway point of their excursion, their cycle will still be there to take them back home. More cycle designs are needed to protect riders from the elements such as rain through development of water-resistant, light-weight cages. No one can feel comfortable travelling to a workplace in soaked clothing when the alternative of a warm and dry, gas-guzzling automobile is present. And we need to improve the design of those paths, trails and tracks to separate pedestrians of cyclists, and cyclists from motor vehicles.
Cycling can be achieved in winter conditions. It is possible to make this happen without autocratic, dictatorial punishments. It just needs a few positive persons to create positive change.