Weather Report as Ride Determinant

This topic contains 26 replies, has 23 voices, and was last updated by  urbanrider 3 yrs.

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Private Message

Jul 3 2013 at 9:21am #

As you all know, for most people, weather is a key determinant in whether to bike commute on a given day. So, as we review bike count data under various weather conditions, we have come to ask, is it the actual weather that is the determinant, or the weather forecast?

So, I thought I would ask you, the collective cycling community in Pittsburgh: As a cyclist, do you listen to the weather FORECAST and make your decision to ride or not ride on a given day, or do you just look out your window in the morning and decide from there? Or is it somewhere in between?

For myself, I think I do look at the weather forecast, and make some element of a decision — 80% chance of showers in the afternoon makes me less interested in riding than a 30% chance of showers in the afternoon. But that assumes the morning is nice. Active showers in the morning almost always discourage me from riding. Temperature is only relevant when it falls outside of a broad “temperate” band of about 50 – 90 degrees.

I’d be interested in knowing how you decide whether or not to ride on a given day, or at least what “weight” you might give the weather forecast in your decision.


Mr. Destructicity

Private Message

Jul 3 2013 at 9:42am #

Generally, the decision comes down to the moment I open my garage door and see whether it’s raining right now (or has just been raining). Though if the weather forecast calls for a line of thunderstorms that tends to color my perception of the gray overcast skies.

I generally don’t ride when the temperature is below 48 or so, but I am also a total wuss.


Private Message

Jul 3 2013 at 9:46am #

I commute no matter what. I use the forecast as a guide to chose what I wear (which I think is key to riding year round). For days where I just plan on doing a solo 30 miler or something, I will sometimes time it based on when rain is to come through. The rando events have had great weather this year fortunately.


Private Message

Jul 3 2013 at 9:47am #

Weather forecast first (usually from the Internet) including radar and look out of window after. 80% – no go for a long ride. 40%-50% — it’s time to use a coin. 30% and below is “a definite go”.


Private Message

Jul 3 2013 at 10:12am #

I ride to commute, so I’m riding no matter what the weather. Like Stef it’s basically just a guide on what to wear.


Private Message

Jul 3 2013 at 10:46am #

Weather is usually less of a determinant than other factors. There’s a series of go/no go checks that I have to make it through;
family schedule y/n
work schedule y/n
weather forecast y/n
actual weather y/n
The weather forecast for the afternoon is less of a factor than the actual weather in the morning. If it’s nice in the morning, the bus rack option allows me to just about disregard the afternoon forecast.

And then there is the occasional event where I am just about to get on the bike and one of the gates slams shut. Passing a gate does not guarantee that it will remain open. :(

mr marvelous

Private Message

Jul 3 2013 at 11:14am #

I also just use the forecast to determine what to wear. Taking the bus almost triples my commute and driving adds 45 min to my commute. Also I just think the prices of monthly bus passes are outrageous.


Private Message

Jul 3 2013 at 11:43am #

The Wunderground animated radar page. It lets you make pretty accurate guesses about what’s coming. Light rain (like this Monday morning?) doesn’t matter much. And of course you need to dress accordingly; when in doubt overdress in the winter, underdress in the summer.


Private Message

Jul 3 2013 at 11:46am #

I ride.

Weather will stop me if there is more than 6 inches of snow on the road, delay me if the sky is falling.


Private Message

Jul 3 2013 at 11:55am #

Severe selection bias problem here. Regular posters are disproportionately all weather riders. But the timing on checks for appropriate clothing here probably maps out to ride or not ride for the less biking dedicated.

But if you want to be sure, I suggest you put up a lemonade stand on the EFT on the nicest day you can find and ask people who stop for a drink.


Private Message

Jul 3 2013 at 12:32pm #

The only thing I check is the Brady St PennDOT camera that shows whether the trail is plowed in the winter or not. If it is, then I take 5th into work. Other than that it’s all ‘look outside and see’.

As you can assume, I have found myself woefully unprepared on a few occasions. I’m okay with it, helps me keep my biking zen.


Private Message

Jul 3 2013 at 12:33pm #

@Ben – Yes, I am aware of the selection bias in the use of this forum for this question. But, the question relates to bike commuters — not just the family who happens to be on a trail on a nice day. In that sense, this forum seemed appropriate. And I say that knowing that there are some people who ride everyday regardless of the weather. So, on a nice day when we do the bike counts, we probably count them. On a really terrible day when they are the only ones out there, we are probably not doing bike counts. It sort of evens out.

But, we are trying to see if and how weather affects ridership numbers at a given location. What is not yet clear is whether it is the FORECASTED weather or the OBSERVED weather that is the larger determinant in riding decision-making.

This is a diverse and articulate group. I am very interested in how they make decisions to ride, how they make decisions about HOW they ride, and other variables that may help eventually make Pittsburgh a better place for all riders.

I understand what you were saying in your message, and I take it to heart. Your suggestion of the EFT on a nice day is a good one. We may decide to do that as a follow up. This was a first step in getting the question out there.


Private Message

Jul 3 2013 at 12:46pm #

My year-round goal is to commute Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I build my work and after-work schedule around having a bike on those days. My commute, however, is a little different than a lot of people. It is 10.5 miles each way, with 1800 feet of climbing.

I look at the weather forecast, and don’t put a lot of credence in it. My family knows my favorite saying by now, “30% chance of rain means 70% chance of no rain!” I look out the window in the morning, then look at the radar, and decide then what to do. If it is raining hard, I’ll drive, reluctantly. I know that if I can get in to work relatively dry, the afternoon becomes a game of reading the radar and looking for gaps. I have a good degree of flexibility in my job, so I can start heading home anytime after 4:00 PM.

My winter rules are simple. If it’s cold and wet, I don’t ride. If it’s just cold, I dress appropriately.


Private Message

Jul 3 2013 at 1:47pm #

My mode of travel is the result. The main determinants are the need to arrive by time X while planning to leave at time Y. This resolves to one of the following, in this order of preference:

* bike the whole way
* bike to a bus
* walk to a bus
* motorcycle
* being driven to a bus stop

The whole algorithm is too complex to describe here, but in terms of answering the original question, the current conditions matter more than the forecast.


Private Message

Jul 3 2013 at 3:11pm #

I don’t commute from home so I typically drive somewhere to park and then ride the rest of the way in. The weather may decide for me where I park. If it’s pouring down rain in the morning, I will park at the 2nd avenue/jail lot for my bike ride to the North Side. If it’s drizzly or raining lightly I will park at the Swinburne St lot. Otherwise, I am now parking at the Pimp House at the Waterfront.

Remember Stormageddeon? I drove in that Monday morning, muscled my car through the heavy snow of the Swinburne Street lot and started riding my bike, only turning back when I found trees down blocking my way. I took to the road then and, until the trees were cleared (by me) and the trail plowed, I continued that way, biking Second Avenue.


Private Message

Jul 3 2013 at 3:25pm #

I generally check the weather to see if I should bring my rain jacket or not (usually just leave it in my pannier anyways)

I need to get to work regardless of the weather, so it doesn’t really affect my commute unless the college is closed

Also bring more water/use sunscreen if it’s hotter/sunnier outside


Private Message

Jul 3 2013 at 3:36pm #

I commute every day, the weather report determines whether I take the bus or ride on the way out, as well as clothing. On the way back I always ride. When thunderstorms are in progress I look at the radar to time things.


Private Message

Jul 3 2013 at 5:44pm #

When I first began commuting downtown, I made the bike/bus decision based on the weather forecast the night before. Later, I ended up deciding whether to commute based on the weather when I woke up, for two reasons:
1. Once I got into the bike commuting groove, it was easier for me to pull together everything I needed on the fly (instead of having to plan things out the night before)
2. It was very annoying to take the bus because of a predicted downpour, only to miss out on a beautiful day of riding. I’d rather be on my bike and get rained on unexpectedly than be on the bus watching bikey people happily ride past.

buffalo buffalo

Private Message

Jul 3 2013 at 10:41pm #

I ride pretty much every day. Observed conditions, then radar, will sometimes determine /when/ I leave, and/or how I dress, however–if it’s very hot and/or humid (and I have a pretty low tolerance, so this is like 80/80%), I’ll wear running shorts and shirt; if it’s raining, or if I’ve heard it’s supposed to rain, I’ll wear sandals. Sometimes when I’m thinking about when to leave from work, I’ll look at radar (I don’t have much of a window) and decide to stay a while or leave rightnow depending on that.

(Also, I both live and work a few miles east of Downtown, so twitter reports from the Allegheny County feed, various journalists, and others sometimes substitute for formal radar.)

I’ll occasionally look at the (more than an hour ahead) forecast when planning events, but rarely for daily riding.


Private Message

Jul 3 2013 at 11:50pm #

Kordite wrote:Otherwise, I am now parking at the Pimp House at the Waterfront.


Private Message

Jul 4 2013 at 5:49am #

joanne wrote:It was very annoying to take the bus because of a predicted downpour, only to miss out on a beautiful day of riding. I’d rather be on my bike and get rained on unexpectedly than be on the bus watching bikey people happily ride past.

So much so.


Private Message

Jul 5 2013 at 11:54am #

The biggest help weather forecasts provided when I was commuting was to signal when it was TIME TO LEAVE. In summer especially, thunder storms seem to love to pop up around 4:45 to 5:30. I’d try to work around these.

if it was raining, that might get me to take the bus in the morning, but taking the bus in the rain is more of a downer than riding in the rain.

helen s

Private Message

Jul 6 2013 at 12:18pm #

I commute no matter what, with the qualifier that if my roads/ trails seem too dangerous from ice, then I drive. I have not done so in a few years, and did reluctantly ride 2nd Avenue after Snowmaggedon. I have ridden in some really bad conditions, and was glad I did, but only afterwards.

For recreational riding (not very often) – years of running no matter what translate into the same for riding.


Private Message

Jul 7 2013 at 12:33am #

I ride every day, and to the extent I modify my riding based on the weather it’s definitely observed rather than forecasted. My schedule is flexible so it’s raining too hard or especially if there’s lightning, I might delay the trip. Or, if I see nasty clouds rolling in I sometimes leave early – having a clear view to the west from the 7th floor helps a lot there. Plus my ride is short (<15 min) which limits my exposure to changing weather.

For longer rec rides I do definitely look at the forecast. I might still ride in the rain but if the temps are approaching 90 I’ll probably stay home.


Private Message

Jul 7 2013 at 1:55am #

Practice reading the National Weather Service radar [link] so you know where you are and can estimate what weather is upwind and how long it takes for it to get to you.

Learn to differentiate routine ground clutter from actual weather, and what serious weather actually looks like. Knowing this will help you gauge whether to wait or go, and what to expect when you’re out.

It also helps to be able to read the sky and know which direction the weather is coming from. Seeing lightning is a concern, obviously, but it a very different matter if it’s upwind or veering off so as to miss you.


Private Message

Jul 7 2013 at 9:35am #

I look at the radar too, although that’s still “observed” rather than “forecast” obviously. I actually took a basic meteorology class at CCAC a few years ago too… but in general the published forecasts are fine, just maybe not as current or granular as you’d like.


Private Message

Jul 7 2013 at 3:28pm #

joanne wrote:
2. It was very annoying to take the bus because of a predicted downpour, only to miss out on a beautiful day of riding. I’d rather be on my bike and get rained on unexpectedly than be on the bus watching bikey people happily ride past.


About 95% of the time it’s a game time decision.

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