Champaign County Bikes helps cyclists brave the winter


Bikes sit in racks on the South side of the Union on Tuesday afternoon. Erica Magda

By Erik Allgood

Biking on campus can be frustrating, especially during the winter. Champaign County Bikes is a group of community members and students that helps make it easier for cyclists.

Richard Langlois, Champaign County Bikes chairman and CITES employee, said during the winter it is not necessary to stop riding, but certain safety measures need to be taken. If these safety measures are met, riding a bike during the winter is no more dangerous than skiing.

Champaign County Bikes has two main purposes: to improve traffic and parking infrastructure and to provide community education about bicycles. The group started as a mailing list with a dozen or so people and snowballed into a membership of about 150 people, Langlois said.Body Protection

Langlois said it is important to make sure all of the skin is covered when riding a bike in sub-zero temperatures. When people perspire, the energy exerted keeps them warm.

Even on Jan. 15, the coldest day of the year so far, Langlois said he rode his bike to work.

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“The cold doesn’t bother me in the least,” Langlois said, “Although I know riding during the winter might seem crazy to people who don’t do it.”

Barry Isralewitz, post-doctoral student, said it is important that both drivers and bicyclists are concerned about safety and that it is best to be as predictable as possible.

Any preventive actions that would be taken during the rest of the year should be intensified during the winter, he said.

Equipment protection

“I splurged and got studded tires a couple years ago during a Valentine’s Day snowstorm,” said Susan Jones, vice president of the biking group and academic development specialist for Parkland College. “I blame myself, though, because we have had horrible winters ever since.”

Isralewitz said bicyclists should have a light on their bicycle in bad weather or during the night in order to be visible.

“A rear blinking light is good but a front light is just necessary,” Isralewitz said.

Students who ride during the winter should use plenty of lubricant on their chains and gears to keep them from rusting, Langlois said. He also advised making sure bikes are well-protected.

“If you have a $20 bike, you are still going to want a $30 lock on it.” Langlois said.


Langlois said students need to obey rules that they would follow during any other season, including wearing a helmet.

Bikers should also avoiding taking up more than one space in bike racks, or leaving their bike too close to wheelchair ramps, he added.

Isralewitz said a few bad cyclists keep some drivers from respecting bikers’ rights, and responsible riders should know what they are doing before they get in the bike lanes.

“There’s a lot more to cycling than sitting on a bike and moving the pedals around,” Jones said, “People should know what they are doing so that they annoy the drivers as little as possible and don’t put themselves in any danger.”