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Riding your Bike in the Winter

The majority of Denver’s on-street bicycle lanes are located on roadways with stripes; these are the streets that are routinely plowed every time snow accumulates. Crews will make every effort to plow through the bike lane to the curb whenever possible. During swift, heavy snowfall, however, bike lanes may become snow packed. In these conditions, bicyclists can count on the vehicle travel lane to likely be the clearest option and should be prepared to ride in a shared lane condition during snow season. If the city experiences a major snow event (12 inches of snow or more), bicyclists may want to consider alternative transportation options.

The City will be experimenting with different snow-clearing strategies along the 15th Street protected bike lane, requiring the use of a smaller vehicle and plow. Our goal is to avoid snow accumulation in the buffer zone, as snow melt flowing across the protected bike lane can freeze at night. We will also apply a limited amount of anti-icing materials to the protected bike lane to reduce icing conditions while avoiding excess wear and tear on bicycle components.

The Denver Parks and Recreation Department maintains all bicycle and walking pathways. Any snow accumulation on the trails that are one inch or more in depth will be plowed to the channel side (or down slope side) within 12 hours after the end of snow fall event. Any snow removal not accessible by machine will be removed manually. Any ice accumulation on the trail will be treated with gravel and environmentally safe chemical products.

Snow removal around bicycle parking areas at city facilities is the responsibility of the specific facility’s maintenance staff.

Bicycling in snow conditions can be challenging, so having yourself and your bicycle prepared for the weather is critical. After checking the local weather, decide if your bicycling skill set matches the daily weather forecast.

  • Tire Type - The more tread on your tires the better. A mountain bike is the ideal bicycle for snow conditions. You may want to consider the addition of fenders upon your bicycle to avoid dirt and debris on yourself as the snow begins to soften.
  • Air - Let a little air out of your tires to give you more surface area on the snowy pavement.
  • Position - Lower your saddle so you can quickly put your foot down to avoid falling in slippery conditions.
  • Braking - As in all slippery conditions (such as very wet roads), brake early and in a straight line. You can also apply the back brake (lightly) to test the amount of adhesion you have.
  • Apparel - Dress in layers and wear a moisture-resistant outer shell. Warm gloves and shoe coverings are also recommended; once your outer extremities become wet and cold, riding will become very uncomfortable.
  • Bike Maintenance – Regular rides in snow conditions can have a negative impact upon your bicycle and its components. Snow and ice can accumulate within the frame, forks, brakes and the front and rear derailleur. This accumulation could impede your ride and damage components unless you regularly remove the excess material. Please consider cleaning your chain after every ride. A chain cleaner, rag and an old toothbrush are all you need. Clean it thoroughly and apply additional lubrication with a chain lube designed for wet/dirty climates. Wipe down your brakes after riding in snow to make sure the contact surfaces with the wheels are clean.

Denver B-Cycle

While Denver B-Cycle bicycles will remain open this winter, please be respectful of the equipment and avoid using the bicycles during the harshest winter conditions.