Robert Ryan rides his bike in every kind of weather including when there’s snow on the ground and temperatures plummet.
Editor’s note: The reporter is not related to the source.
For most of the year, St. John’s resident Robert Ryan can be found riding his bike to and from work. Even during dark and snowy winter nights, he rides.
Ryan walked into the Jumping Bean café with his bicycle at his side – a Cannondale hybrid, one of his eight bikes – with sunglasses shielding his face. It was a sunny day with a chill in the air, but nothing he hadn’t felt before. He’s quite at peace riding in the snow, and he’s prepared for another winter doing exactly that.
He’s been cycling for the past 15 years, but says things took a turn more recently after developing back pain.
“I tried physio and chiropractors, but I realized that I just needed some exercise,” said Ryan. “So, I fixed up an old bike from the basement … now I ride back and forth to work on it every day. And that just became my passion.”
As snow and less than desirable temperatures make their way to St. John’s for the season, active transportation remains a priority for cyclists in the city. Meghan Hollett, a friend of Ryan’s, is the chairwoman of Ordinary Spokes, a non-profit cycling organization. An avid cyclist, much of her work focuses on promoting active transportation.
“Active transportation, for me, is any way that’s not passive,” Hollett said. “So a chance to physically move in any way. Of course, cycling plays a key role in that as well, even if you’re taking the buses as part of that transportation.”
She also says there’s an environmental aspect to the concept, because it reduces pollutants emitted by cars. Those pollutants are a major contributor to global warming.
“A -10 C night in the winter with the stars out and glistening on the snow is unforgettable. You’ll be hooked on winter riding after that.”– Robert Ryan
There are plenty of benefits to riding in the winter, says Ryan. For one, there’s less traffic on his six-kilometre evening commute from his job at St. John’s City Hall to his home. Oftentimes, he’ll ride around the city for a few extra kilometres until the cold gets to him.
“(Last winter) the colder it got, the less people were on the road. We had a spell there in February last year when it went to -10 C. I was the only person on the road going home from work every evening. It was great,” Ryan said, nodding his head.
Safety is key when it comes to winter cycling, according to Hollett. She recommends using attachable bicycle lights and wearing bright clothing.
“Any cyclist, you’d probably open their closet and see a lot of colours and think they’re loving the 90s, maybe,” she said, referring that decade’s neon fashions.
Finding the roads that work best is also on the top of Hollett’s list of safety tips. The city of St. John’s lists its snow clearing plan on its website. Service priority is given to school zones and a series of arterial roads and pedestrian-heavy roads in the downtown business district. Exact roads and their priority for snow clearing can be searched on the city’s website.
Hollett and Ryan say riding a bike between some points in the city can be just as quick or even quicker than driving when traffic is heavy and road conditions are taken into account.
Bicycles remain Ryan’s preferred method of transportation no matter the weather, as long as it’s not too windy. While he’s had some close calls with aggravated drivers, he has never been in a collision. Ryan rides a mountain bike with headlights and repair equipment attached if needed to ensure his safety in slushy conditions.
“I’m telling you, go out on the -10 C nights, get a toque on covering your ears, and a good pair of mittens,” said Ryan.
“A -10 C night in the winter, with the stars out and glistening on the snow, is unforgettable. You’ll be hooked on winter riding after that.”