This evening I cycled out to meet my 12 year old daughter on her return from a friend's birthday. party. On the way I came across a gritter lorry on the cycle path and it reminded me that I'd not yet blogged about what happens to ice on cycle paths in the winter.
Last year in early November there was an article in the local paper telling us that the cycle paths would be gritted and salted regularly through the winter. My reaction was disbelief. I thought it would never happen.
However three days after the article it was Sunday and I went for a ride around Assen. On the way virtually every surface I cycled on had evidence that the gritters had done their job. No ice.
And so it was right through the winter. No ice at all on the cycle paths. The same seems to be happening this year.
The picture shows the published gritter routes for last year (I've not seen if there are any changes this year).
According to the information distributed last year, the council owns six gritting machines for roads which cover 340 km of road in the city each day and four cycle path sized gritting machines for cycle paths which cover 207 km of cycle path each day. These figures initially seem odd as the city claims to have 390 km of road, but just 108 km of segregated cycle path. The discrepancy is explained because the cycle path figure covers roads only once where the path is on both sides (as it frequently is), and doesn't include roughly surfaced paths or the few on road cycle lanes, nor the commuter routes from outlying villages which are shown on the map in the picture.
Maintenance of cycle paths is important. Not only are they de-iced in the winter, but they are regularly swept all year around and faults are fixed quickly. There is a regular programme of improvement. Cycle paths can't be allowed to fall into disrepair or to become unusable due to ice as that would be a dis-incentive to cycle. These paths are essential infrastructure in a city where people each make an average of nearly 1.2 journeys per day by bike.
There is another blog post showing photos of people riding in the snow.
6/1/2009 update: I've realised that "gritting" means different things to people in different places. Over here what is used is salt. While last year this seemed to be NaCl / Table salt and played havoc with anything that could corrode on the bike it seems this year it is something else. I understand there is an ammonia compound which can be used which becomes fertilizer. I use the term "gritting" as that is what would be used in the UK, where sometimes grit a little larger than sand is also used. It seems from reading some of the American blogs that they use rather larger stones there which make cycling very difficult. I don't think that would be acceptable here.
Do you like cycling in winter ? We do. Relatively short hops between warm cafes can be very pleasant in the winter. We're organising a winter warmer cycle ride in January. We expect the cycle paths to be free of ice and safe to cycle on.