COMMUTE

What cold? Many bikers pedaled through polar vortex

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WASHINGTON (WJLA) - With a warm-up on the way this weekend, the "polar vortex" on Tuesday could feel like a distant memory.

But it was only 48 hours ago that we were all shivering. Both BWI and Dulles broke records with a low temperature of 3 degrees.

Tuesday was one of the only days in 20 years that Marc Eisenberg commuted to work without his bike.

Reflecting on his decision to ride Metro, he said, “I was like, ‘Oh, I'll do it. It won't be that bad.’ And then my wife was like, ‘Are you sure? Have you been outside yet?’”

With a daytime high of 21 degrees and a low of 6 degrees, many longtime bikers admit that there are just not enough leggings or layers to make that worthwhile.

“Even with all of that, it would have been way too cold,” said Sophia Lewin Adams.

Jodie Rubenstein said, “It was the one day of this whole season I decided I couldn't do it… I took the bus.”

Saul Leiken, the general manager of City Bikes in Northwest D.C., said he considered riding Metro that day.

“But I decided that if I work in a bike shop, I should probably get on the bike,” Leiken said. “It was very cold… I regretted it on the way home when the sun was down.”

Turns out, Leiken was not the only brave biker that day. DDOT said there were 2,338 Capital Bikeshare trips taken across the region on Tuesday, much less than usual. 

The average number of daily trips taken in December was about double that – 4,347. Still, there were more trips on Tuesday than other days this winter. On those days, DDOT attributed the drop to wet weather, holidays or other factors.

Generally, DDOT said its statistics show a growing trend with more and more commuters getting to work or school on two wheels instead of four. And they're doing it year-round, in some of the coldest winter weather.

The biking industry has developed new bikes, clothes and gear to deal with a cold commute. Helmets are more insulated and tires are wider.

Not surprising, DDOT's numbers show that most biking activity happens in better weather, with over 10,000 trips on Capital Bikeshare many days in the spring and summer.

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