Saturday, 22 November 2008

Gritting

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.

11 comments:

Anneke said...

Yup, here (my hometown, Doetinchem) there was about 10 com snow on the bike paths, but the snow was quickly swept away or gritted. There was only one path where there was still snow, but that was not a priority route, and will probably be gritted later, say this afternoon, rather than before the morning commute.

WestfieldWanderers said...

Green with envy, once again!

Today, our local traffic free cycle route was a lethal mix of a soggy slurry of rotting leaves and icy patches. It hasn't had as much as a sweep for over three years; the local authorities have no interest in adopting the path after it was built by Britain's leading transport joke - Sustrans - who have no real interest in a route after it's built. They prefer to move on the the next project; a case of never mind the quality look at the mileage.

The local authorities are more than happy to trumpet the path, of course:
Colliers Way

But the fat old gits who run these authorities, of course, being British, has no interest or understanding of the value of a decent cycling infrastructure.

I can understand why you moved away. That's the great thing about bashing one's head against a brick wall - it must feel good when you stop!

Chris said...

The Bristol & Bath railway path was pretty bad this morning, however so were the pavements and residential roads so at least it was general incompetency and not anti-cycling conspiracy.

David Hembrow said...

It's snowing here now, and as the ground is already at freezing point, the snow is settling. I just took the dog for a walk, by bike as usual, with the usual expectation that I'd not find any ice on the cycle paths.

The problem with the UK having a "general incompetency" over gritting is that the most fragile modes of transport are damaged first. Cycling is perhaps the most fragile of all in the UK.

While I could hardly say that conditions were wonderful for cycling this morning there were still well over a dozen other cyclists on my short ride in the suburbs with the dog. Pictures later...

Matt Kerry (UK) said...

Just skidded on black ice on a cycle path in Swindon and hit the ground with a thump. Now nursing a badly bruised leg an shoulder, could have been a lot worse if I was going faster.

I'm now asking the local council why they won't grit the cycle paths. The one I skidded on even runs parallel to a main bus route so it is easily accessible to a gritter.

Cycling need to be made a viable option 365 days a year if the government here want's people to give up their cars!

Anonymous said...

my friend Gary livingstone was killed last monday night by an articulated lorry whilst riding home from work along the A50 in Derbyshire, a tragic accident that would not have happened, had only the local council gritted the cycle path, he always used the cycle path but the week before suffered a crash on it as it was covered in ice, last monday night he ventured onto the gritted road, only to be run down by the driver of an articulated lorry, another senseless waste of human life, that could so eaisly have been avoided had only the cycle lanes had been gritted.rest in peace gary from all your friends at stone wheelers cycling club

David Hembrow said...

I'm very sorry to hear about Gary's death, which could so easily have been avoided.

The Derbyshire authorities should be ashamed of themselves.

janson heath said...

I actually saw the accident just after it happened, i have been extremely effected by this as i am both a lorry driver and a keen cyclist. Tonight i am cycling to work for the first time since. My heart goes out to Gary and his Family

Rest in peace Gary

Janson Heath

Anthony Livingstone said...

Hi Janson

I am Gary's brother. Have you made yourself known to the police to help them with their enquiries? Any information that you can provide would be greatly appreciated by Gary's family.

Anonymous said...

David

great photos and what a great enviroment for cyclists,

I live in Manchester England and we have cyclists killed under lorries reported almost every month, cycle paths full of parked cars and idiots behind the wheels of fast cars and women on phones in 4 by 4s.

I loved reading your blog on cold cycling, my mother comes from Heide a litle village in germany on the dutch border, as a child i remember cycling in the snow and learned how to do it, ie by falling off when little and not so far from the ground.

As an adult 20 years ago (i'm in my fifties now) I remember once cycling to visit my girlfriend one Christmas in the hills of Mottram near Hyde It was about a ten miles journey all up hill on the roads, I wasn't cold for long :-)

As I got to Mottram the roads where less
used and covered in snow and sheet ice, I will always remember cycling up a very steep hill which was a sheet of ice, in low gear, quiet slowly and sedately while this policeman was sliding down it on his backside, while we exchanged "evening .. and merry xmas"

My point being that as long as you stay vertical and go slow ice and rubber do mix.

john.kat@zen.co.uk

every cyclist should read "Energy and Equity" by Illich

2 wheels good - 4 wheels bad ( Orwell-esq)

Anonymous said...

David

great photos and what a great enviroment for cyclists,

I live in Manchester England and we have cyclists killed under lorries reported almost every month, cycle paths full of parked cars and idiots behind the wheels of fast cars and women on phones in 4 by 4s.

I loved reading your blog on cold cycling, my mother comes from Heide a litle village in germany on the dutch border, as a child i remember cycling in the snow and learned how to do it, ie by falling off when little and not so far from the ground.

As an adult 20 years ago (i'm in my fifties now) I remember once cycling to visit my girlfriend one Christmas in the hills of Mottram near Hyde It was about a ten miles journey all up hill on the roads, I wasn't cold for long :-)

As I got to Mottram the roads where less
used and covered in snow and sheet ice, I will always remember cycling up a very steep hill which was a sheet of ice, in low gear, quiet slowly and sedately while this policeman was sliding down it on his backside, while we exchanged "evening .. and merry xmas"

My point being that as long as you stay vertical and go slow ice and rubber do mix.

john.kat@zen.co.uk

every cyclist should read "Energy and Equity" by Illich

2 wheels good - 4 wheels bad ( Orwell-esq)