This event, scheduled for Saturday February 11th 2023, was originally planned as a post-pandemic celebration. The vision was a series of winter bike parades all over the world.
Two weeks after setting the date 12 months ago, world events erupted that undermined our ability and desire to celebrate.
The event can and will go on, near you. We recommend gathering friends and going for a ride as usual. It is good for you. Good for all of us. We’ll be riding with you.
This year though, rather than simply ride, we urge everyone to support this campaign created by 6 Ukrainian cycling NGOs – people who would normally participate in this event – and help them get bicycles into the hands of people who need them right now:
Why We Don’t Feel Like Celebrating and Why We Urge Supporting #BikesForUkraine – A Message to Participants from the People who Make the Website:
We would love to keep going the same way this year, but we can’t, not with a broken heart.
Winter Bike to Work day is a 100% volunteer-run event. Every year is different. Every year, this event invites the world to commit to ride with “us”. Us is you, wherever you are.
Our only agenda is bicycles. We value international cooperation, humour, sharing and fun. The purpose of this always-hastily-thrown-together event is to spread the pure joy of riding a bicycle for everyday purposes in the cold, the snow, the rain, and the warm winter sun. It is mostly for those who don’t realize how good it can be.
The event has always relied on the passion and creativity of people and organizations from all over the world. We pick a day. You plan events locally, do it your own way. You make it fun.
Everything is designed to encourage people to share images and videos of cycling in the winter widely, all at once.
Once a year, since 2013, this event has offered just one more excuse to share an experience that we all know to be beautiful.
It’s a big made up reason to be seen together.
Each year, there is a new theme to keep it different and interesting. Sometimes it is just a cool font. Usually there is a new logo. Sometimes the logo tries to be rich with meaning. Sometimes we have a survey question we all want an answer to. Sometimes we’ve sharing something tangible (remember the gift exchange?). Sometimes the date itself becomes a theme (remember the Friday February 14th Valentine’s Day ride all about love and the climate?).
Sometimes, world events sneak in.
Sometimes world events roar in.
Sometimes things happen outside our control and all we can do is react.
The past few years have been… tough.
Not long after the event three short years ago, a worldwide pandemic hit. It began to deeply affect how we could all move. It changed how we worked, who worked, who couldn’t work and whether many of us even left the house.
It even changed whether we could be together anywhere, at all. Riding a bicycle suddenly became more important than ever. Necessary for many. What was the role for an absurd little event like ours, when even “working” had become a strange and new thing?
In response, the “main” organizers – the ones who quickly make this website and then watch all the real magic made by others – temporarily modified the event to be about riding anywhere. A lonesome loop. A coffee date with a close friend. That made the event name a bit weird, but so what? We were still riding. It was still winter. Close enough.
That worked OK. Besides, we never cared whether people actually went to work. Everyone was welcome. There have always been late night shift workers, the part time workers, the unemployed, the retired, the students, the people who don’t work on Fridays or who only work on weekends. No one ever cared about that part.
“Come ride with us” was the only mantra.
Still, in the pandemic years, we missed the early morning pit stops and the work parties, and it wasn’t quite the same.
During the pandemic, no one needed an excuse to ride a bicycle. A lot of the other “bikey” events had to be cancelled too – and then the next year too. Oh well. People, more than ever, were riding anyway. People were trying to survive. This event felt even more silly than usual. Fine.
By January 2022, around the time the lazy IT team finally sits down to think up a new theme for the upcoming February’s event (yes its a bad habit), the pandemic had started to abate, but it still lingered on and, like everyone else, we were all tired. Your friendly website builders struggled to make this event meaningful and we decided that we all just needed to take care of everyone’s mental health that year. Take a deep breath. Recoup. Get ready for the next event. We thought it would be great to switch to Saturday and get ready for next year.
The next one would be better than ever, we thought.
This next one we’d actually be able to get together.
It would be our 10th anniversary.
It would be a celebration!
Two weeks after that well-intentioned plan was hatched and laid out here, Russia’s army invaded more parts of Ukraine. It did so on a large and vicious scale, causing widespread death and destruction and plunging countries across the parts of Europe where this event has had strong roots deeper into a conflict that is impossible to ignore.
It is never possible to truly ignore war, of course. Worldwide, war happens. War is evil. War isn’t new. War is happening in places that don’t ever make the news. Wars have been happening in one way or another the entire time humans have lived on this planet, and certainly was ongoing the entire time we have hosted this event. Somewhere. Even in Ukraine.
But this was different somehow.
We always tried to leave external events out of this event. This is about bicycles. This is about joy, period. Its about connecting people without pretense. People and their governments and their armies, after all, are not the same thing.
But the best part of this event has always been solidarity and the erasure of barriers no matter where you are – physical ones, cultural ones, language ones. While political upheaval might be going on, we tried to stay focused on bicycles and snow.
But the insanity of the war in Ukraine has turned this celebratory event into something else – like trying to plan a party while the neighbour next door is hosting a funeral.
It can’t happen the same way this year. It wouldn’t be the same. People in bombed out cities across Ukraine would love to ride with us, but they can’t.
We all loved seeing the pictures flow out, the friendly words of encouragement sent out to the world by people we’ve never met, working for organizations we haven’t heard of, thanks to translated social media messages and posters originally written in Finnish, or Turkish, or Russian, or Ukrainian, or Icelandic. We loved seeing the snowflakes drop onto the map in places like Lviv, Kharkiv, Voronezh and Rostov-on-Don. Each one representing a humble person wanting to express their love of winter and bike with the rest of the world.
We also loved the mock competition between invented entities and identities. Any event that plays on the ties between countries, between cities, is playing with imaginary lines and identities and ideas made up by humans. We know that. Nature doesn’t care about city names or country borders. Everyone who has ever participated in this event knows how absurd it is to urge people to sign up to ride for a made up event and then to declare “winners” in a “competition” between cities of vastly different sizes. Moscow vs. Traverse City? Croatia vs. Canada. Absurd. It never mattered. That was the fun.
We took great pleasure in seeing both Ukrainian and Russian people and organizations everywhere involved in this event from the beginning. We loved the ties that developed between bicycle advocacy organizations in a way that felt unique and beautiful.
Everywhere from Turkey to Spain, from Austria to Kazakhstan, we discovered people and organizations just like us – all with two basic things in common: We love bicycles and we love winter.
It is something we haven’t seen anywhere else, in any other event of its kind.
We would love to keep going the same way this year, but we just can’t.
Our hearts are broken.
All we can say is that war is evil. War is wrong. That much is true. We would go further if it was our place.
This year we are not cancelling the event. It does not deserve to be cancelled. But we are also not celebrating.
We still urge everyone to ride, together.
And, because some of us can’t, we offer them our support.
So instead, we are changing the call to action this year to a simple one:
Initiated by 6 Ukrainian NGOs, the #BikesforUkraine project collects money and bicycles to help Ukrainian volunteers and community services get around.
You can become one of dozens of advocacy organizations, NGOs, businesses and individuals who help bring more bicycles and parts to a place where the basic infrastructure for transport and fuel has made bicycles even more useful than usual.
On Saturday February 11th, (or Friday the 10th.. whatever..) go ride somewhere. Wherever you are. Take photos. Share videos. Tell your friends. Do what you love. Do it while you ride. And lets get some more #BikesForUkraine so that one day in future, if this event happens the way we all still want it to, Ukrainian people (and maybe Russian people) can ride with us.
Winter Bike to Work Day HQ