After biking for half an hour in sub-zero, snowy weather, I stop to take a picture of Schneider Creek under the Homer Watson bridge. This isn’t a leisure ride, but I feel compelled to capture the beauty of the freshly fallen snow. The snow that veils the trees across the river is mesmerizing.  

My hands are cold, but I know how happy I’ll be to have these pictures to share with friends.  

I haven’t always been a winter cyclist. At 25, I only started feeling comfortable riding on roads a few years ago. Without road riding, you can’t go far in Kitchener.  

However, it was worse before the Transform WR Climate Plan made active transportation a bigger priority for city and regional councils.  

Much of my route has been on infrastructure built or improved in the past three years. In 2020, Duke St. added a contraflow bike lane, allowing bikes to go in both directions.  

The Courtland/Stirling intersection was improved in 2023, making crossing easier.  

The 2023 Iron Horse Trail extension now connects me to the Rockway neighbourhood. Beyond Rockway, the Wilson Park trail was paved in 2022, making it as smooth and easy to ride as the Iron Horse Trail.  

As you go further from downtown, there are examples of unsafe infrastructure. Painted bike lanes wind to accommodate on-street parking, trails start and stop with no connections, and intersections lack safety measures.  

The highlight of this part of the ride, though, is coming up to Homer Watson Park, where posts in the road prevent cars from driving through.  

Without the roar of traffic, the park is a rare and beautiful place of relaxation—an undisturbed cocoon of trees and nature.  

It’s a special place for me, where I often stop to reflect along my way. I remember stressful times when I’ve been moved to tears in that quiet place, thinking of the beautiful and painful things in my life. I used to give myself an extra ten minutes on my ride to stop and eat a snack overlooking the Grand River in Homer Watson Park.  

After Wilson St., the path takes me along Schneider Creek and under Homer Watson Blvd., where I’m moved to take a picture of the snowfall in the forest. I bike a little further to Doon Pioneer Park Community Centre. Some of my piano students ask about my bike and I tell them how much I enjoy biking, even in the winter. I show one of the the pictures I took.  

As a winter cyclist, I feel like an automatic advocate for biking. Every other person tonight asks whether I ride all winter (I do), or remarks that I must have winter tires on (I don’t).  

I’ve seen the Not Just Bikes video about the majority of people in the city of Oulu, Finland, riding their bikes through the winter. I know we could all do it if we had the infrastructure and bought the winter gear we needed.  

But no one likes a critic.  

After my lessons I consider taking the bus home, but the snow still looks so beautiful and I know the only way to enjoy it fully is another bike ride across the city. I’m not immune to the cold.  

Some winters, I don’t realize the temperature change quickly enough, or I forget exactly how I dressed to keep warm the winter before.  

That was last week for me. I had forgotten to wear long-sleeve layers under my coat and hadn’t put on my helmet’s ear-warmers. But with tonight’s outfit, I feel cozy and ready for the night’s weather.  

I set off on Pioneer Dr., checking over my shoulder as each car passes to make sure none of them end my life with a moment of carelessness. I have my lights and my high-visibility vest on, but I know drivers have been coddled into thinking nothing can go wrong on the road. People still text and drive.  

The Homer Watson multi-use trail (2019-2020) is my escape from all the cars. For the next 20 minutes, I only have to look out for cars five times as I cross the various intersections and roundabouts that Homer Watson touches between Pioneer Dr. and Ottawa St.  

It’s a different route going home. The hills here are bigger, but I prefer the lighting and protection the Homer Watson Trail affords for late-night rides.  

This is the perfect time to put on a podcast and enjoy a slow and easy but steady pace. I watch as one set of bike tire tracks gets joined by another, then more as I get closer to the city centre.  

After riding beside Homer Watson Blvd. and Ottawa St. traffic for so long, the Iron Horse Trail feels heavenly with its wide, well-lit path surrounded by trees.  

Getting into the downtown, I finally start to see people walking around again and I smile, remembering the Christmas lights I’ve wound around the body of my bike. I’m happy to see people outside during this beautiful season! 

I watch the snow come down in the light from the light posts and land among the trees. My pace is relaxed and, by the time I get to Willow River Park, I’m feeling eager to extend my ride a little again, stopping by a store to pick up a treat for when I get home.  

To love winter cycling, it takes some trial and error and depends on good, separated bike infrastructure. I hope more people can enjoy cycling this winter, especially where the infrastructure exists to support it. I really think it’s one of the best ways to enjoy the winter season.