Even avid cyclists might feel like turning to other modes of transportation in the winter, when biting weather and black ice make biking more daunting. But this year, Emily D’Ath, an Australian living in Beijing, was determined to stick with it. “I didn’t want to put my bike away for the winter and have to battle with Beijing traffic and the metro system,” she says.
So D’Ath created a personal challenge for herself: to bike to work every day throughout the winter. Her friend Monica Tan, a fellow Australian expat, loved the idea, and together they created the Winter B-Icicle Challenge, a global group of cyclists pledging to bike to school or work through February 29.
D’Ath and Tan created the Challenge in late November with a website and Facebook page and accounts on Twitter and its Chinese equivalent, Weibo. The idea took off: “When we started the WBC we were hoping for about 50 people to join up,” Emily says, “but within a month we had over 400.”
The point of the project isn’t to force people to suffer through discomfort, but rather to show them that winter biking isn’t so bad. “Once you have the right clothing, riding in winter is so fantastic,” D’Ath says. “You get to work and you feel like your whole body has been sucking on a peppermint. It wakes you up and provides an opportunity to interact with your environment and people.”
On their website they’re collecting photos of challenge participants. While some are pretty hard-core (see the guys cycling across central Asia in -30 degree temperatures), most are just average commuters. A Huntington, West Virginia, couple and their four children recently signed up. “If a family of six can get around on a bike,” says D’Ath, “then we all should be able to do it.”
D’Ath and Tan are trying to get 1,000 participants before winter ends. They’re planning to take the idea to the Southern Hemisphere winter in a few months. You can sign up for the challenge on their website or on their Facebook page.