- Sweating, suffering cyclists. (Photo: flickr/Ken_Mayer)
The extremity of our hot summer weather this year raises a new question for some of our D.C. commuters: Is it too hot to bike? I've heard informal worries about cycling in these triple-digit temperatures this year from a few different cycling enthusiasts online but wanted to get a better sense from someone within the biking community. As a colleague of mine wondered, is it time for D.C. bike commuters to forget the bicycles and descend into the Metro?
I gave Bike Arlington's program manager Chris Eatough a call to see whether he was still biking in this muggy, monstrous weather. I've talked with Eatough before about how bikeshare stations are expanding throughout northern Virginia and knew he'd biked for years professionally — surely a man who dealt with cyclists for years and could provide some context. Was Eatough still biking?
OK, DC heat, you win. I am not biking again until the heat index is back below 100.
"I still bike regardless of the heat," Eatough told me. "It varies for every individual, but it comes down to common sense and knowing yourself."
The veteran cyclist and professional bike authority cautioned cyclists to keep hydrated and to keep distances short in these high temperatures. He said that biking in hot weather is really no different than walking when it comes to the health risks outdoors. Yes, there can be dangers now, Eatough said, but light exertion is often fine depending on the individual. Cyclists, at least, always generate a breeze when they're riding through the summer heat, which helps.
Eatough recently wrote a few tips in Capital Bikeshare's July newsletter that should aid bike commuters who do attempt to endure the blazing heat. Read his many wise tips before venturing out — they're good sense and include cautions to stay hydrated, dress light, remember to pace yourself, and to allow proper time to cool off after a hot bike ride. Another good resource Eatough pointed to is a series of messages posted yesterday and today from D.C. area cyclists debating what the best clothing options are in such extremely hot summer weather.
The heat will, Eatough imagines, result in lower bikeshare numbers for today. Recent numbers suggest people have chosen to bike less frequently as temperatures began to spike. Capital Bikeshare recorded 3,800 trips yesterday compared to 5,000 the Thursday before ("a warm but pleasant day," Eatough notes). An average weekday sees about 4,500 to 5,000 trips.
What he praises is the amount of transportation choices in the D.C. area — many people are still riding, which should be fine with the proper precautions, but a few are also hanging up the bike helmets until we see a little more sanity in our outrageous weather. Let's hope that happens soon.