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Tips for safe winter bicycling

Wednesday - 3/5/2014, 4:44am  ET

BIKESHARE BIKES MIKE MURILLO
The recent snow has sidelined a lot of bikeshare bikes, and made life tougher for those who do ride. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
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WASHINGTON -- With temperatures remaining low and ice and snow still on many area roads, you may have noticed fewer people riding bicycles. But winter weather isn't slowing down local bikers, says a leader of the D.C. biking community.

Many Capital Area Bikeshare stations are full of snow-covered bikes. But David Cranor, of the D.C. Bike Advisory Council, says, "biking does drop on days like this, but not to zero."

For those who must venture out on two wheels, the roads are all they have, Cranor says.

"If you rely on trails, or you try to go across bridges like on the 14th Street Bridge, the side paths tend to get kind of unusable," Cranor says.

With roads narrowed by slush and ice, most drivers are aware that bikes might be closer to cars than usual, Cranor says.

"People tend to give you a little more leeway because they know why you are riding right in front of them, or they know why you are not in the bike lane today," he says.

But when drivers don't, he says, the bike trip can be unnerving.

"It's a little more frightening to be passed by a car that comes close and then you're going to be splashing on to them," he says.

Anyone who plans to bike while the ice and snow remain should "take it slow, especially at turns," Cranor says. He also recommends walking the bike if you hit an icy patch.

"You have to be aware -- it's gonna cost you if you're not," said Jeff Combs, a bike courier in Georgetown. Combs -- of Natural Bridge, Va -- said that because of the storm, he has a lot more work to do in the less-than-ideal conditions.

Combs says the top priority for him is keeping the bike upright.

"I've been down a lot, so its not any fun to go down," Combs says.

When you get on the bike the first time after a storm, your best friend might turn out to be the bus fare.

"You can throw your bike on the front of a bus and get home, just as easily as you can on your bike," Cranor says.

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