When winter weather gets moody here, only the bravest riders remain roadside. Average temperatures in January hang around 15 degrees, with annual snowfall of roughly 70 inches. Even so, 1.1 percent of its commuters travel by bike, putting it just ahead of sunny San Diego.
Denver’s high altitude has earned it the moniker ‘The Mile-High City.’ Even if locals get used to the thin, biting winter air, the near-constant flurries test the riders’ mettle. It averages 89 days of precipitation a year and 60 inches of snow. And yet it boasts the sixth-highest percentage of bike commuters in the country among the 70 largest cities.
Many locals consider winters here to be ride-through or not at all; the wind, snow and cold here can practically shut down the city, not to mention cyclists. However, with bike specific lanes that get plowed just like city roads, it’s no wonder Salt Lake City was awarded silver-level bicycle friendly community status from the League of American Bicyclists. Photo by Katie Harrington, courtesy of Cycling Utah.
The Midtown Greenway Path is a unique 5.5-mile trail that gives winter commuters a way to keep beating traffic. The greenway corridor, a former railroad track, snakes above or beneath the city streets unbroken, providing hardy cyclists a constantly lit, well-plowed means to stay in the saddle.
Between the city’s infamous wind and its lake spray, winter bike commuting on the popular lakeside trails can be an impossibly icy affair. Many riders brave city traffic despite the harsh conditions; they even celebrate with annual winter biking events, such as the ‘Frozen Snot Century.’
When you’re in a snowball battle, the colder and snowier the better. But when you’re struggling to get to work, 152 precipitation days per year (39 days of which have snow) and average January temperatures of around 27 degrees would make most cyclists throw in the towel. Not so in Pittsburgh, which, when ranked among America's 70 largest cities, comes in only four spots below the cycling mecca of Austin.
When drivers worry about snow, they think in inches. For cyclists, even an inch can stir up trouble, and Montana is no slouch in the wintertime. On average, Billings gets 96 precipitation days and 57 inches of snow a year; and average temperatures in January hover around 24 degrees. That doesn’t stop Billings residents, 1.5 percent of whom cycle to work—a rate similar to Austin’s.
In terms of sheer volume and frequency Buffalo is one the kings of snow. A whopping 61 days of average annual snowfall (and 169 of precipitation of any kind) mean almost half the year the city’s snowy or wet; and with 93.6 yearly inches of the white stuff, it takes more than the right equipment to cycle through winter. Over 1.6 percent of commuters do. Photo courtesy of GO Bike Buffalo.
Winters in the Midwest are just plain cold. With Lake Michigan 70 miles east, and four lakes of its own within city limits, Madison experiences a predictable frenzy of snow and slush each season as cold winter winds mix with air rising from the relatively warm bodies of water. Over 6 percent of its commuters travel by bike, and are able to keep doing so because the city makes a point of plowing its beloved bike paths after storms.