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Winter Cycling

Get Moving

There are many advantages to commuting by bicycle – parking is free, high gas prices don’t apply, more exercise and less impact on the environment – but as winter continues, it’s easy for cyclists to retreat to the comfort of cars or public transportation. 

This doesn't have to be the case, with a few adjustments you can keep cycling through the winter.

Learn what the year round rules of the road are and equipment you're required to have.

Laws and Safety

Here are some tips to help you get moving in the winter:

Plowing Priority

Choose your route based on road conditions. After a snowfall in Edmonton, roads are cleared by priority.

  • Priority 1 (plowed within 36 hours after the end of snowfall)
    Freeways, arterial roads, business districts and bus lanes
  • Priority 2 (plowed within 48 hours after the end of snowfall)
    Collector/bus routes
  • Priority 3 (plowed within 5 days after the end of snowfall)
    Local industrial roadways
  • Priority 4 (bladed to level snowpack; start within 48 hours after snowfall and complete in 5 days)
    Residential streets, alleys

Shared-use paths and shared-use sidewalks are cleared of snow within 48 hours after the end of snowfall.


Winter Cycling Clothing


Layer it up! It seems counterintuitive given the outside temperature, but cycling takes energy and energy generates heat. To stay comfortable, wear a waterproof, windproof and breathable outer layer and a warm moisture-wicking inner layer. Also consider:

  • A warm toque, earmuffs or balaclava that can fit under a helmet
  • Warm boots
  • Warm gloves or mittens, as they keep fingers closer together and warmer
  • Glasses or goggles to keep the snow and wind out of your eyes
  • A neck warmer or scarf – just make sure to tuck it in!
  • A face muffler - to warm up the cold air before you breathe it in
  • Extra socks
  • Long underwear


Winter Cycling Lighting


If you are commuting during winter in Edmonton, chances are you are travelling in the dark. Extra lights will keep you more visible.

  • Consider adding extra lights to the front and back of your bike. At minimum, a white headlamp, a red tail lamp and a red rear reflector are mandatory equipment in Edmonton when cycling in the dark
  • Add reflectors such as vests, straps, tape or plastic pieces that affix to your bicycle or clothing
  • A flashing LED light can be mounted to the back of your bike to help people see you
  • Extra LED lights can also be mounted to your helmet or handlebars to light your way


Winter Cycling Tires


Ice, slush, windrows - all make cycling in winter a challenge. Good tires make a difference on Edmonton’s varied road conditions.

  • Install studded or knobby tires
  • Slightly deflate your tire for added grip
  • Choose wide tires


Like tires, having the right bike equipment and taking care of it can improve your winter cycling experience.

  • Consider a single gear bike or dedicated winter bike
  • A back fender can keep the slush off, but it can also trap snow and ice if it is too tight-fitting
  • To minimize possible rust, clean your bike often
  • Clean and lubricate your chains, brakes and cables

Little Extras

The cold winter air is drier than in summer, so it’s easy to get dehydrated. Pack a bottle of water to take with you to rehydrate during your ride.

It takes more energy to stay warm in the cold, a small snack can give you an extra boost.

In cold temperatures, glasses, watches, jewellery or zipper pulls can get cold enough to give you frostbite. Make sure to tuck them in.


Winter Cycling Teqnique


In winter, you will have to cycle more defensively and anticipate possible problems. Make sure to keep your head up scanning the route ahead, while evaluating the road condition directly in front of you.

  • Try to pedal smoothly
  • Go more slowly than you do in the summer
  • Brake early and slowly, using mainly your rear brakes
  • Don’t make quick turns or lean too much into the curves
  • Once moving, try to keep yourself in a straight line, avoid over-steering and weaving
  • Watch out for other vehicles on the road, they may not be expecting cyclists in the winter – make eye contact with drivers to ensure you are seen
  • If the weather turns nasty, hop on a bus or LRT. Bicycles are allowed on LRTs during off peak hours and many City buses have bike racks. Complete list of bus routes with bike racks.

Report a Problem

Bike route not plowed? Spot sanding needed? One metre bike lane width not maintained? Call 311 to report it. Your feedback on the effectiveness of snow clearing along the 106 Street bike route will help us evaluate this pilot program. We appreciate your help in reporting problems as you encounter them.

What is Done With Your Report

Your report is sent directly to Sustainable Transportation personnel who will dispatch it for road maintenance.

For More Information

Urban Transportation

13th Floor, Century Place
9803 – 102A Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta
T5J 3A3

Telephone 311
Email cycling@edmonton.ca