Breaking the Ice

Just for Fun: Breaking the Ice

With a full schedule of holiday get-togethers on the horizon, what better time than now to brush up on our small talk. So, today, we’re going to break the ice by chatting about the weather.

Have you ever noticed that every time an article mentioning bike lanes is published online, anonymous commenters chime in with the dubious claim that Toronto's climate makes it impossible to ride a bike for 5 or 6 months a year?

Case in point:

Others disagree and have that number at 7 or 8:


Not to be outdone, some have observed that winter in Toronto lasts for 9 months a year:


So what’s going on here? How long does winter actually last in Toronto? And how long does the average cyclist actually ride throughout the year?

In this edition of Just for Fun, we’re going to dive a little deeper and find out just how dubious these aforementioned claims really are.

The first stop in our quest for the truth is a climate chart for Toronto:


Only 2 months of the year, January and February, see daily highs below zero, which was a cut off for some commenters when we went to social media to ask how many months the average cyclist stops cycling due to cold weather. Many mentioned that these colder temperatures only kept them off their bike for certain days, not entire months, however.

On Instagram, we asked our followers how many months a year they take a break from riding because of the weather. We received plenty of insightful responses:

With a total sample size of 98, we ended up with a mean of 2.421348315 months. Let’s call it 2.5. But which two and a half months are they?

To make an educated guess, let’s examine some Bike Share data.

One might notice a marked decrease in Bike Share ridership in January and February, Toronto’s two coldest months. December and March come in third and fourth place respectively, leading us to assume that the average cyclist takes a break from riding sometime in late-December, and resumes riding in early to mid-March.

Still, with almost 60,000 trips taken in both January and February 2022, the data backs up many commenters when they say they never stop riding.

Of course, it should be noted that Bike Share data may be a little bit deceptive due to factors like tourism. However, a quantitative source, regardless of its flaws, is a welcome addition to the aforementioned anecdotal evidence.

At the end of the day, it would seem that there is no certain answer here. The truth would depend on a particular year’s weather and the quality of cycling infrastructure and maintenance in a rider’s particular neighbourhood. It also depends on personal choice and risk-aversion. Some hate biking in the snow, while some celebrate it. Others said they prefer to ride in chilly weather to a humid summer’s day.

After all, so many responded to our question on social media by saying that biking in cold, snowy weather is just a matter of being properly prepared for the occasion. Our winter riding tips page on our website offers plenty of useful advice for winter cycling if you’d like to become better equipped this year.

Hopefully now, given this edition of Just for Fun, our anonymous internet commenters have some data to reference in their next reply. But maybe “The bike lanes aren’t even used for a few days of heavy snowfall during the coldest 10 weeks of the year” isn’t as catchy as they might prefer.

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Do you put your bike away at all for the winter? Reach out to us on social media with your thoughts on winter riding. Also consider subscribing to our newsletter, The Ring & Post - you'll be the first to read the next edition of Just for Fun, in addition to all kinds of updates on Toronto City Council, new cycling infrastructure, and community events.


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