Commuting by bike has exploded this year as a safe, socially distant way to travel, but will it continue to maintain its popularity into the winter months? As we enter the height of summer, winter cycling is likely the last thing on the minds of many Canadian cyclists, but one study has found an interesting statistic that may encourage more commuters to stick with it over the colder months.
McGill researchers analyzed the difference in trauma injuries from the past 20 years between bicycle users in winter months compared to summer months. They also explored behavioural variables in order to assess seasonal variability, as well as associations with traumas.
Interestingly, after analyzing 980 bicycle related traumas, the study found that, while most injuries in both the summer and winter were rated in the severe range of the Injury Severity Scale, there were no differences in injury severity, acute brain injury or deaths between the two seasons. There were also no differences in drug, alcohol, or helmet use—in both seasons alcohol use was associated with less likelihood of wearing a helmet. The only significant difference between seasons was that winter riders were more likely to be male.
Getting into winter cycling
Cyclists who are cautious to ride in the winter months may cite road surface conditions or fear of crashing as reasons for keeping off the road. With the right equipment and preparation the transition from hot summer rides to the colder months is much easier than many commuters think, and as this study found, no less safe than riding during the summer.
Many studies have found that Smeed’s Law, which originally applied to motor vehicles, is also true for cyclists and pedestrians. The theory states that the more cyclists there are on the road, the safer cycling in the area becomes. If the growing number of cycling commuters continue to ride throughout the winter, Canadians cities carry on focusing on safer cycling infrastructure and cyclists realize there are not higher risks to riding in the cold, winter cycling could be much more normalized in the coming years.