Winter Cycling

Winter Cycling

It takes more than cold weather and snow to stop many Rochester residents from cycling.  Winter cyclists enjoy all of the same great economic and health benefits as they do in the summer, so it’s no wonder many people bike year round.  While much is the same, there are some important differences to consider during your winter ride.

Drivers should expect to share a narrower width of available pavement during and after snow events with cyclists. Cyclists are legally allowed to take the full lane.  


Don’t Hug the Snow Bank

Cyclists should ride about 4 feet from the snow bank.  Snow plows push snow to the right, leaving a snow bank that is either just off the curb line or adjacent to parked cars.  This will effectively reduce the travel width of the road.  Sharrows and Bike Lanes guide riders to the safest place to ride, however, in the presence of a snow bank, riders should adjust where they ride so that they are not in danger of riding into the snow bank.  If there are large amounts of snow near the edge of the street, a cyclist may find the safest placement is in the middle of the lane, so as to avoid swerving into adjacent traffic.     

Bike Lane or Snow Bank?

On street parking or overall street width may prevent plows from clearing the bike lane, or plows may be forced to dump snow into the bike lane.  This is typically a temporary condition and future plow runs will attempt to push the snow to the curb.  Drivers should be prepared to share the vehicular lane with cyclists if the plows have pushed snow into the bike lane. Cyclists may take the full lane if the bike lane isn't plowed.

Where to Park

City street plows and sidewalk plows may bury bike posts or bike racks located near the curb line.  Choose a bike rack that is not directly adjacent to a plowed space to avoid having your bike buried in snow.  The City offers a three-sided sheltered bike rack on Court Street at the Genesee Riverway Trail.  Additional sheltered bike racks will soon be installed in all of the City's parking garages. These racks will be free to use.  You can currently find sheltered bike racks at the street level of the Court Street, Sister Cities and High Falls Garages and outside of the South Avenue Garage.  Some buildings also offer indoor bicycle parking. 


South Avenue bike lane during a snow event

City Trails Are Not Plowed

Remember when planning a bike trip in the winter that City trails are not plowed.  Your ability to ride on the trail may be limited by snow accumulation, as well as drifting snow. 

Watch Out For Slush and Ice

Snow banks can sometimes block or plug catch basins. Riders should look out for slush and ice building up on the right side of the road.  It may be much deeper than what would typically occur during a heavy rain event, or other recent snow events.  Avoid using your front brake or making any sudden movements on icy patches. 

Stay Visible

Shorter daylight hours in the winter mean commuters may need to ride in the dark. Front and back lights on your bike are required 30 minutes after dusk until 30 minutes before dawn. It is recommended to use lights at all times so that you can be more easily seen.   Visibility can be very poor during snow events and motor vehicle drivers are less likely to see bicyclists during winter weather events.  Position your ride where you are visible to drivers and make sure right turning vehicles can see you. 

Additional Tips

  • Dress for the weather
  • Wear gloves
  • Lower your seat so feet can touch pavement in icy spots
  • Ride slower
  • Use off-road or even studded tires for better traction


Call 311 for more information on winter bicycling in Rochester. 


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