Biking on campus can seem difficult at times, and seems even less appealing in the winter. But for some, biking is something they stick to year round.

When the notoriously cold Michigan weather hits Michigan State University’s campus, Tim Potter, manager of the MSU Bike Service Center, said that biking is his ideal mode of transportation.

MSU Bikes
Photo courtesy of MSU Bikes

“A common thing that I hear people say ‘it’s too cold to ride my bike,’” said Potter. “Well, I feel that it’s too cold to walk or too cold to stand at a bus stop, because in that fifteen minutes of waiting for a bus you could be at class.”

Even on the coldest days Potter said how much easier it is to generate heat by pedaling on a bike rather than walking or standing.

“I’d much rather make progress towards my destination and generate heat rather than wait for a bus,” said Potter. “I like to be in control of my circumstances, that’s what keeps me riding.”

Potter said there are many different ways to succeed as a winter bicyclist.

Potter said that visibility is vital year-round, but especially during the winter for bikers.

“Having good lights; good rear and headlights,” said Potter, “Is really important throughout the year and even during the day. Shadows and shade can make it almost impossible for motorists to see you.”

Potter said he had an experience last year where he was riding his bike and was almost hit by an elderly driving a car who didn’t see him come out of the shade.

“It’s good to use the strobe light so that motorists can see you,” Potter said. “Call it the ‘be seen light.’”
Usually, Potter said he rides (and recommends riding) on the roadway, but in the winter when there’s low visibility, he rides on the sidewalk.

“I’ll often be on the sidewalks to avoid accidents where motorists might lose control,” Potter said.
It’s definitely time to stay on the sidewalk when it’s dark, or when there’s an active storm with low visibility, Potter said.

The MSU Bikes blog said that bikers should always be careful and have the mindset that drivers cannot see them.

“Assuming that drivers don’t see you is a good attitude any time of the year no matter whether you ride in the road (with or without bike lanes) or on the sidewalks/paths.”

Potter said that the bike store, located at 434 Farm Lane, hopes further education on bike lanes with public service announcement ivdeos to encourage motorists and bicyclists to know how to share the road safely.
As for not slipping around while riding in the winter, Potter said that he has found that “studded tires” make winter conditions much easier to navigate through.

“A few years ago I crashed riding down Farm Lane, it was black ice conditions in November and I didn’t think I needed to take precautions,” said Potter, “I decided from that point on to use studded tires, which is little screws in the tires.”

Studded tires are very critical to winter riding safety and may cost $40-$50 to buy, Potter said, but cheaper than going to the hospital.

Potter also said that on the MSU Bikes blog there are videos on how to make your own studded tires at home with a set of screws, unless you just want to buy new tires.

“Make sure you have tires with good traction. I recommend a wider tire,” said Potter. “Also make sure brakes are operational because when it starts to get cold and wet out, even with two working brakes, it’s still hard to stop.”

When it comes to the Michigan winters, Potter said that bikers should be aware of their surroundings and be taking good care of their bikes.

“Keep bikes indoor at night. Keeping bikes outside all the time, everything tends to rust up; brakes start to cease, shifting gets bad,” said Potter. “I highly recommend to keep bikes indoors, they’ll operate a lot better during the day.”

Potter said that three-fourths of residence halls have bike rooms that are free to use and that there are MSU bike garages in the parking ramps on Trowbridge Road and Grand River Avenue.

“They’re covered, secure and well-lit with an ATM machine and video camera for security.” said Potter. “Both of the facilities have a do-it-yourself repair station that have air-pumps and tools for basic adjustments and repairs.”

No preference sophomore Alexandra Harris said that she doesn’t fear the wrath of Michigan winters and that she prefers her own physical transportation over a bus.

“Buses are expensive and they scare me. When the weather gets bad I’ll walk, and if the paths aren’t snow covered I’ll ride my bike,” said Harris.

Communication sophomore Emily Chapman feels the same way as Harris.

“Last year the bus was so packed and the driver didn’t see me trying to get off at my stop, so they took off before I had the chance,” Chapman said. “Which is why I ride my bike or walk to classes, no matter where they are.”

Potter said the MSU bike store is a unique aspect to the university.

“We’re one of just a handful of university-owned bike shops in the country, and fewer than five are full-service,” said Potter, “our main focus is helping transportation cyclists.”

2 thoughts on “Stay safe while riding bikes around campus this winter”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *