Friday 29 January 2010

Riding back home in the snow / Mango Sport introduction

The snow is back. For two days in a row this week my 60 km round trip to work and back has again been accompanied by snow. This morning it was snowing gently as I rode to work. This is a problem as the snow gets in your eyes if you don't wear glasses, and if you do wear glasses it settles on the front so you can't see much and you have to wipe regularly. Also, the difference in temperature between inside and out causes glasses to steam up. Not the weather for trying to set any records.

During the day the snow continued to fall gentle, and settled on top of my Mango, parked outside the shop while I worked with my colleagues on making new Mangos inside the shop.

Occasionally people ask me how the weather is kept out of a parked Mango. The photo shows the two part cover for the top. The larger part is used when riding in the rain or snow, leaving a gap for your head. The smaller part covers the gap when you park. Both can be stored inside when you ride, which is great on a warm sunny day. On a coldish day like today, when it was hovering around freezing point, a T shirt is warm enough inside the Mango with the cover on (plus woolly hat and scarf). Some people like the optional flevobike top.

Anyway, this was the first commute home in a long time when there was enough light to make a video, so I did. You can see it below:

When I got home tonight the odometer of my Mango read 3101 km. That's how far I've ridden my the Mango since I started riding it on the 9th of October last year. Most of the distance has been ridden in the dark morning and evening commutes three days a week. I quite like riding in the dark. You see a lot of other cyclists here even in the dark and in winter. It's safe on the cycle paths which make up over 28 km of my 30 km commute.

Apart from the commutes there have also been several day rides, and these have often been in snow too. However, due to the completely enclosed drive-chain I've been able to this without any additional horrible jobs like cleaning the chain. In fact, it's needed nothing more than the seat cushion washing and a bit of a polish to look nice. That's real practicality.

Today at work we sent out press releases, in several different languages, for the latest Sinner Mango offering: The Sinner Mango Sport.

This is one of the lightest weight practical velomobiles available, weighing just 27.5 kg - a much lighter weight than my own Mango, achieved with different techniques for building the shell and a change to the components used. There are more details on the Ligfietsgarage website, on various blogs and websites which have responded to the press release, and also quite a lot of photos, including of the internals, on the Sinner facebook page.

There are more stories about the Mango, snow and ice treatment and winter riding.
Read my review of the Sinner Mango Velomobile.

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Zeeland - getting it wrong in the "year of the bike"

Zeeland, the most south west province of the Netherlands which shares a border with Belgium, has declared 2010 to be "the year of the bike." The idea is promote more cycle usage in the province.

However, that's not all they're doing. Sadly the good stuff is rather overshadowed by Zeeland having decided to promote the use of bicycle helmets amongst school children, starting in one area with the intention of spreading across the province if they are "successful". That's pretty much a first for this country.

So, what's wrong with it ? Well, there has yet to be a helmet campaign which has been accompanied by a rise in cycle usage. In Australia, huge falls were seen.

Zeeland ought to take note of what happened in New Zealand, which was named after the province. I grew up in New Zealand, returning to the UK at the age of 15. As children we always cycled to school. However, now ? The website for my old secondary school doesn't mention cycling at all. Rather, there is now a bus route promoted for the 4 km trip that I used to make by bike. Is this the future that Zeeland wants to see ?

English speaking countries don't provide any good examples. I watched cycle sheds being torn down at the secondary school near where we lived in the UK a few years back.

Dutch secondary schools have lots of cycle parking at present because they need it. Do we want to see this go away altogether as it has in countries where cycle helmets have been promoted and cycling has not been supported ?

Also, consider how children use bicycles in the Netherlands. If someone turns up at a friend's house without a bike and an outing is planned, they borrow someone else's bike, or ride on the back of a friend's bike. No-one thinks of this as dangerous. However, if it becomes the norm that a helmet is required, neither of these options will work if just one child is without a bike helmet, so none will travel by bike. Perhaps Mum will helpfully suggest she can give them a lift in a car ? That's how it is in other countries - ones where very few people cycle.

Inconvenience is a large part of the problem with requiring people to have special equipment in order to cycle. The same problem as Mike Rubbo pointed out makes bike share impractical in Australia.

Just imagine if you could only walk somewhere if you took along some special piece of personalized equipment. Say expensively custom fitted walking boots, and if there was a campaign to say that without fitted walking boots, walking was dangerous. If you cycled to a friend's house, with your normal comfortable cycling shoes, and they suggested that you go for a walk you'd not be able to take part.

What's more, this type of cycle promotion plants a seed of an idea. The idea being that here in the world's safest cycling country, cyclists are not actually safe at all. Perhaps this suggests that it's best not to cycle. Cycling relies on a high degree of subjective safety. Without this, cycling declines.

Zeeland is also the province where the fuss arose last year about considering implementing a speed limit on cycle paths. Apparently, Belgian cycle racers who come across the border to ride on Zeeuwse cycle paths are a nuisance. However, the only reason these cyclists come across the border is because conditions are better for them in Zeeland than on the roads in their own country.

I found the story on

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Mum, can we go skating ?

The snow has cleared up over the last few days, but it's still pretty cold here at the moment. -9 C outside our window this morning. Yesterday I took some photos of these children who were skating on one of the frozen canals.

Note the pile of bikes beside the cycle path on the left. That's how the children got here. There's no adult supervising, so no adult's bike amongst them.

It's safe here for children to cycle on their own, and for them to skate on their own too.

Ice hockey is popular too. These children were practising a little further along the same canal.

And of course their bikes were not far away either.

How else to travel ? This way there is no need to wait until Mum (or Dad) can give them a lift. In the summer they do much the same to go swimming.

Is it any surprise that Dutch children have again been shown to have the best lives of all children living in industrialised countries ?

Monday 25 January 2010

Sustainable safety

The Dutch concept of "Duurzaam Veilig", Sustainable Safety, has lead to this country having some of the safest roads in the world. Over ten years, between 1998 and 2007, the number of traffic fatalities in the Netherlands fell by an average of 5% per year due to the policies within the framework of "Duurzaam Veilig". This is a decrease of 300-400 deaths overall, more than a 30% improvement in safety for the already relatively safe Dutch road network.

A clear downward trend in traffic deaths
So what is "Duurzaam Veilig" and what does this mean ? Let's start with what it is not. Frequently I see from the UK that there are calls for drivers to be better educated, for cyclists to be better educated, for pedestrians to wear brighter clothing so they are seen more easily and to take the responsibility for avoiding being hit by motor vehicles. This is not sustainable safety. Sustainable safety is not about punishing people for making mistakes, but about preventing those mistakes from occurring.

While a good level of education of drivers in particular (as they are the ones bringing lethal force to the roads) is important, it is never possible to completely eliminate the chance of error, or of frustration leading to violent behaviour, if conflict is designed into the way in which roads are used. What's more, people are often tired or distracted. These things cannot be solved by education, they are a result of being human.

Dutch roads are dramatically safer now
than in the early 1970s. Child fatalities
on the roads have dropped by 98%. Just
9 children died on Dutch roads in 2013
What the Dutch have done is to reduce the frequency of conflict between road users and to to reduce the lethality of those crashes which still inevitably occur. This has involved changes in infrastructure to keep vulnerable road users away from the lethal force of motor vehicles, design of junctions so that routes do not cross each other at speed, as well as some changes in the law and education of road users about how to behave in a safe way (i.e. drunk driving, taking a break on long journeys...).

Speed limit reductions are a useful tool, both in town and in rural areas (but note that merely posting speed limit signs is not enough on its own). Out of a total of 120000 km of roads in the Netherlands, 41000 km have had the speed limit reduced from 50 km/h to 30 km/h roads and over 33000 km have been reduced from 80 km/h to 60 km/h. From the article: "Currently over 70% of all 30km/h neighbourhood connector roads have speeds reduced at intersections and/or stretches of road, and 45% of 60km/h roads." It is estimated that 51 to 77 traffic fatalities were prevented by the 30 km/h roads and 60 more due to the rural 60 km/h roads.

On many of the 30 km/h roads, measures have been taken to exclude cars.

Cycle-paths well away from traffic
remove conflict and danger.
Also, roundabout construction is credited with saving an estimated 11 lives. However, it goes beyond this. Traffic light junctions in the Netherlands do not work in the same way as similar junctions in the UK. In most cases, drivers who have a green light can go without having to negotiate with other drivers or cyclists who also have a green light but who are travelling in different directions. The conflict between, for instance, cyclists travelling straight on and motorists turning right has been removed by junction design. What's more, cyclists can avoid many traffic lights therefore avoiding all the danger caused by those junctions.

The measures have proven to be socially cost-effective, as benefits are a factor of four higher than costs. It's a common theme with Dutch policies concerning transport and in particular cycling that measures are not seen as a cost, but as a benefit. The Netherlands is a rich nation, in part due to sensible design of roads.

Of course it's all OK to have the world's safest roads, but to influence people to ride bikes you also need Subjective Safety to make cycling feel safe enough that people want to do it, and want their children to do it too. This has been addressed by a number of means, leading to the world's highest rate of cycling, and happily the same things which increase real safety and work for sustainable safety also work to increase subjective safety. The result is the highest rate of cycling in the world, with very high participation by the broadest possible population of cyclists, and what this means sometimes takes people by surprise.

Read also another blog post which explains about the importance of Sustainable Safety. Also about how the necessary segregation of cyclists from drivers is achieved even without cycle-paths because cycling routes are unravelled from driving routes.

Wednesday 20 January 2010

Yarra - the highest cycling rate in Australia

Mike Rubbo recently made this film about Jackie Fristacky, the Councillor for Nicholls Ward, City of Yarra which is located in Melbourne in Australia.

Over here, it's nothing special to be a "cycling councillor." In fact, quite the reverse. When 93% of the population ride a bike at least once a week, it would be a brave councillor who tried to get elected with any kind of anti-bike message. In this country, the royal family ride bikes, and do so publicly in part because it's a way of connecting with the public and appearing a bit more normal rather than aloof.

However, in Australia it is not the same, and Jackie is sticking her head out in being a "cycling councillor." It is perhaps not a co-incidence that she represents the area with the highest cycling rate in Australia. 9% of commutes in Yarra are by bicycle, which is vastly higher than the average for the country as a whole.

Now, that's all very interesting, but what I like to know about places like this is what makes them special. What makes Yarra a place where cycling is more acceptable and more commonplace than elsewhere in Australia ? I sent Mike this question, and got a very comprehensive reply from Jackie herself, listing her reasons why Yarra has a high cycling mode share:
  • Location close to key destinations such as CBD (1-2kms away to 5kms away at the extreme), employment and local activity centres;
  • Yarra being 19.5 sq kms, and only a few kms from CBD (Central Business District), so distances all easily cyclable;
  • Relatively flat terrain;
  • Hoddle grid street pattern (rectangular blocks) makes cycling easy;
  • High youth population, including students, given proximity to many tertiary educational institutions (University of Melbourne, RMIT, Australian Catholic University, and city campuses of Monash University, Vitoria University and others);
  • Demographic is diverse with high proportion of professionals (higher incomes), and students and public housing (low incomes); both demographics cycle;
  • cycling as an egalitarian and independent mode, suits the Yarra demographic;
  • Congestion, so it is far more effective to cycle - being faster and door to door;
  • 20% of households do not have a car, compared with Melbourne average of 10%;
  • 73,000 residents; and 8,700 business in Yarra, employing some 60,000 people, Yarra having the largest source of employment outside the CBD. Some large businesses, like the CUB, have large secure bike cages for staff. Many employers are starting to encourage their staff to cycle to work with good parking and other facilities. Under the State planning scheme, these have become mandatory for larger new developments, but this is effecting existing businesses too. At meetings with planners, we take every opportunity to point out that more bikes are sold than cars, especially in Yarra, so where are residents/workers going to put their bikes. We say that if they do not want them in corridors and on balconies where they can cause trip hazards and WorkCare claims, then they need to plan better storage places;
  • people are employed locally though more are employed in the CBD and also in surrounding areas;
  • Yarra inherited a good cycle path to the CBD (Canning Street) but this has been supplemented by bike paths on virtually all roads in Yarra due to policy change directing this;
  • Role models of Mayor and councillors on bikes, and senior staff including Directors on bikes;
  • PR with press features on cycling and facilities;
  • many local workers like to attend a bar or the like after work and having a car hampers them with restricted parking, drink driving etc; a bike gives more flexibility and less likely to be DUI.
What is my point in presenting this ? I believe there is always a reason why people cycle more in some places than they do in others. You see the same thing even here in the Netherlands. Some cities have higher cycling rates than others. There is always a reason why.

The challenge is to transform the rest of the city, even the rest of the country, so that conditions there are also conducive to cycling, and to keep on doing so in order to continue to increase the cycling rate. Commuters are a start, but they only get you so far. For a sustainable improvement, infrastructure needs to be designed to make it possible for a wider demographic to take to bicycles.

For now, let's be happy with what Yarra has achieved so far: The highest cycling rate anywhere in Australia.

Compare with a city in the Netherlands with a "low" rate of cycling

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Where Ford Escorts go to die

An article on the BBC news website drew me to look at St. Helena, a tiny Island in the South Atlantic which they refer to as "the world's remotest island." Just 4255 (or 7637 depending on whether you believe wikipedia or the BBC) people live on the island.

In many ways, life on the island sounds idyllic. On other ways it does not. I can see why people leave, but also see why others might want to take their place.

So, why is this on a cycling blog ? Well, there's a video on the BBC site which includes interviews with school children. The boy on the video at 1:28 talks about the some of the issues that people face on the island. He says "...people getting 4000 - 5000 pounds per year as their salary, and that's to pay for food which is 2-3 times the price of the UK, to run a car with petrol one and a half times the price..."

Hang on, I thought. A car surely isn't actually a necessity. It's really a tiny place. In fact, St. Helena has a total area only 50% greater than that of the city of Assen where we live. It's perfectly possible to live here without a car, so surely that's also true of St. Helena. Because the island is just 16 x 8 km in size, the maximum distance anyone can possibly travel to get to anywhere else on the island is shorter than the distance that some school children from villages around here ride daily to get to school.

St. Helena's climate would appear to be very agreeable too. It apparently doesn't drop below about 15 C (59 F) in the winter, so no cycling on ice as we have to do here.

However, the BBC also refer to the island as "where Ford Escorts go to die." Could it really be true that a place so small is so infested with car culture that no-one considers that there is a different way of getting about ?

I took a look around the web to see if I can find any evidence that anyone rides a bike there. Surely a bicycle would also be a practical way of getting around this place. However, neither the government website nor tourism website actually refer to bicycles at all. In fact, I didn't manage to find a single reference to anyone riding a bike on this island, ever. Very strange indeed. I do hope I'm wrong about this - contributions from those who regularly cycle around the island would be very interesting to hear about.

If nothing else, perhaps cycling could be something else to offer on the tourism site. It does sound like a fascinating place to visit.

Monday 18 January 2010

Northern Velomobile Ride

Yesterday was the Noordelijke Velomobieltocht - Northern Velomobile Ride. It was organised by Peter, who lives a few hundred metres from me here in Assen.

We had a bit of snow overnight, and I set off into it with a sparkling clean Mango which I'd washed the day before.

Peter's route took us through just short of 60 km of Drents countryside. It all looked beautiful in the fresh snow which had fallen overnight. We stopped for lunch and there was delicious soup provided when we returned to his home at the end of the day.

You can also see a few more photos on picasaweb.

Other participants also documented the ride.

Peter's experiences as organiser can be read on his blog, Alex took lots of photos and Wilfred's blog post includes a really nice film:

We didn't have such a big group as the Oliebollentocht a few weeks ago, but it was a very pleasant event all the same.

A group of us go on similar rides most weekends.
Read my review of the Sinner Mango Velomobile.

Railway station cycle parking in Zutphen and Wageningen

All Dutch railway stations have mass cycle parking. This video from Radio Netherlands Worldwide shows a newer cycle parking facility at Zutphen railway station in contrast with an older one at the station in Wageningen. The new facility is designed to be more comfortable for cyclists to use, as well as more secure against cycle theft.

Wageningen's population is just 36000 but there are thousands of spaces for bikes at the station. Zutphen has a population of just 47000, and over 3000 cycle spaces at the railway station. That's one space for every fifteen residents. In absolute numbers it's actually more than London, a much larger city with 8 million inhabitants which provides spaces for just one in every 2800 residents to park a bicycle at all of its fifty railway stations combined.

Note that the video was made last winter while there was snow on the ground. The cycling rate in the Netherlands only drops about 5% in the winter, so most people were still cycling and the bike racks were still full.

Friday 15 January 2010

Bram's Mother's Bike

Bram Moens, of M5 ligfietsen, made his mother a new town bike over the Christmas holidays:

Inbetween Christmas/New Year job.......
January 14th, 2010

Super lightweight carbon city bike for Bram Moens' mother, because an
electric bike was not an option!

It's in the genes, that much is clear. Bram's mother is almost 84 en does around 6000 km all year round on the bicycle. Up till now she used an already lightweight custom-made bicycle with Cr-Mo Reynolds tubing.

So, the weight of this city bike was already little with approximately 12 kg, but starting and stopping it was a bit hard because of the relatively high positioned top tube. Therefore a full carbon lightweight bicycle with a much lower frame curve and obviously a lot of lightweight M5 components (hubs, brakes and rims) was made. The result is a remarkably rigid, smooth and lightweight (7.3 kg) carbon city bike with a 9 speed gear system. The crank is acquired from another recumbent builder in the USA (Lightning). Two carbon chain rims around the 42 toothed blade make sure the chain is kept perfectly in place.

The Dutch version of the article also mentions that a 250 gram extra light rear rack is being made for the bike. Hopefully she'll get mudguards too. These are all parts of what make up a practical bicycle for everyday use.

Cycling is for all demographic groups in the Netherlands. While Bram Moen's mother may be exceptional, Dutch people over 65 on average make a quarter of all their journeys by bicycle.

Please read more about elderly people cycling in the Netherlands and about cycling quickly in the Netherlands.

M5's usual products are fast recumbent bicycles, and very nice they are too

Wednesday 13 January 2010

Fresh Mangos

Photos of three of the latest Mangos delivered. On Friday evening they were all out in the snow for the first photo before being loaded into vans for delivery to customers.

The orange top and white bottom Mango in the middle is the lightest yet produced. It weighs just 30.5 kg including everything (lights and battery etc.). That's light for a velomobile. The owner asked for a minimal setup and lightweight equipment because he wants to race it and I look forward to the result. We've been working on weight reduction for a product that I can't tell you about yet, so this was good practice for us.

The second photo, taken by Harry in Germany, is of the customer of the yellow Mango taking his first test ride through the snow.

I'll be setting off for work in a few minutes myself, riding my yellow Mango through the snow to Groningen. It's -6 C this morning, 5 C warmer than it was when I set off last Friday morning, but still cold. A warming cup of coffee will be very welcome when I arrive, and having found the banana I carried on Friday to be complete solid on the way home when I tried to eat it, I've got a muesli bar today instead.
Read my review of the Sinner Mango Velomobile.

Monday 11 January 2010

A small bridge in Assen

A few weeks back I covered a big bridge for cyclists in Nijmegen. It's nice to see such exceptional examples of infrastructure but their importance is often over-stated. The many small bridges which make links in the comprehensive grid of good quality infrastructure in the Netherlands make a bigger difference for cyclists. This blog post is about one of those small bridges in Assen.

This example is on the bicycle road which takes cyclists from the western side of Assen to the city centre. The bollards at this point are one of several reasons why motorists can't use the road as a through route. As a result, the bicycle road remains almost completely car free, except for people accessing their own homes along the road and this road provides a fantastic direct route for cyclists.

Stand for just a few minutes here watching and you'll see all types of people on bikes.

The cars rarely move. They belong to people who live along the road and are parked in residential car parking spaces.

The historical end of the road is surfaced with old fashioned looking tiles in keeping with the buildings, but they're actually an updated version which give a smoother ride for cyclists.

The red and white bollard prevents drivers from using this as
a through route by car
Cycling makes for 41% of all journeys in this city. While it's not the highest cycling rate in the Netherlands, it's a higher rate of cycling than in any city outside the Netherlands.

The extremely high subjective safety for cyclists in Assen makes it possible for children to have a much higher rate of independent personal mobility than is the case elsewhere.

Look in the opposite direction and it's a similar tale. All sorts of cyclists, many children making their way to the very centre of the city on their own bikes.

It's very common for young (and sometimes not so young) couples to travel two to a bike. It's also a good way of collecting children, or to pick up friends from the railway station.

Outside the more historical part of the city the bicycle road takes a slightly different form with tarmac for the majority of the surface with a raised and less smooth centre which discourages fast overtaking by drivers.

The rules remain the same. Cyclists have priority, and drivers may not park on the road. In effect it is a 5.5 m wide cycle path, and a very pleasant place to cycle. The motor vehicle through route is on the other side of the canal, which is also good for cycling.

In total, this bicycle road provides part of a 3.5 km direct line route right into the city centre from the west of Assen.

The bridge is not new. Actually, it's an historical bridge in Assen which had pretty much fallen into dis-use. Two years ago it looked as shown in this photo. It was moved a short distance and turned around to take its new place in the city, providing an important link for cyclists.

You can tell from the weather that this post was written a few weeks back. The bridge looks a bit different at the moment.

This bicycle road has featured several times before on my blog. Apart from the post about the direct route that it creates for cyclists, it was also in a post about how cycling should not be like an extreme sport, showing access to the city centre by bike on a Saturday, and as a demonstration of how cycle routes can be separate from driving routes.

Before and after photos of this location can be seen in another blog post. This bridge can also be seen on Streetview.

Update January 2015
This bridge has been replaced by a much narrower bridge which will cause conflict.

Friday 8 January 2010

Perceptive comments on safety

Via the Waltham Forest blog, I was made aware of the very perceptive comments of someone using the name "BikingBernie" on the bikeradar website. I recommend taking a look at both links.

There is more at those links, but to whet your taste, here's a segment of J.S. Dean's 1947 book 'Murder most foul: a study of the road deaths problem' as quoted by BikingBernie:

A vicious circle has been created. The more the drivers kill and maim the more right they become and the more right they become the more dangerously they drive. Or, to put the position from the opposite side, the more the non-drivers, and especially the pedestrians, are killed and maimed, the more this is proof of their carelessness and refusal to be "educated" and the more this is accepted the less care is taken by the drivers to avoid them, and this is applied to the youngest children and the oldest and most infirm persons... As a nation we are placed in the grotesque position of being forced to listen to and practice the degrading gospel of "Safety First" merely for the purpose of increasing the danger. There is no end to the process and there can be no end. Thus, it was not enough that the "responsibility" for child accidents should be placed on the children: the attempt is now being made to place it on their absent parents and guardians: as if more than a fraction of the nation's children or practically any of those of the working class can be accompanied more than very rarely in the streets, and as if parents and guardians generally did not live in a condition of perpetual misery and anxiety because of the dangers to their children. The "education" campaign that refuses to rebuke the drivers for breaking the law rebukes the parents when their children are killed or maimed.

.... In the first place this "education" is the worst possible training for the children as the drivers of the future since it teaches them to believe that the driver is the master of the road and that the only role for the other road-users, including the youngest children and the oldest and most infirm persons, is to keep out of his way and that if they are killed or maimed through not doing so this is something they deserve, Much of the motor slaughter may, indeed, be traced directly to the yearly appearance on the roads of young drivers brought up in this evil and destructive belief. Secondly, it is the worst possible training for the children as the citizens of the future, i.e. that they should be taught to accept the spectacle of the motor slaughter, with all its implications. as normal and as something to which they must submit without question. The spectacle of children passing from, one classroom where they have been told about the "great traditions of British freedom" to another where a police officer tells them that unless they keep out of the way of the motorist they will be killed or maimed and, by implication, will deserve to be, is neither pleasant not encouraging.

...The question of the general effects of this "education" on the minds of young children hardly lies within the scope of this work, but brief reference to it may be made:

A simple child
That lightly draws her breath
And feels her life in every limb,
What should she know of death?

Everything, say the "education" propagandists. Put the idea of death and destruction deep into their minds. Never let them forget it. Fill their lives with it. Teach them fear. Make them frightened and keep them frightened.

Tuesday 5 January 2010

Rural bike paths in the winter

The explanatory captions on this video are only visible if you view it on a computer and not on a mobile device.

Heading in the opposite direction
on the same path in summer. Note
the tractor path alongside. This is
an example of how routes are
in the countryside.
This video is a combination of video shot in summer 2007 with some I shot on Sunday. The same path in fine weather and difficult weather is just as usable by cyclists when the temperature is -6 C and there is snow.

To maintain a high cycling rate, it has to be made easy to ride bikes all year around, even in rural areas. This cycle path is well used by adult commuters and also by school children who ride from villages into Assen.

A cycle route, shown in blue on the left, between Zeijen and a secondary school in Assen is 6.1 km. There is one traffic light on the route and the majority of it is on cycle paths or very low traffic roads. The equivalent driving route is shown using red. This route is 6.8 km in length and has two traffic lights. Cycle paths lead to cyclists making more direct journeys in greater safety whatever the time of year.

At the time of posting this, two days later, there is still about the same amount of snow on the ground, it's snowed lightly again this morning, and the cycle paths look just as clear. I took the dog for a walk by bike this morning, my children have both gone to their schools by bike (no schools are shut due to the weather), and my wife's gone to a meeting by bike. Tomorrow it's supposed to be -12 C, and I expect to ride to work in Groningen 30 km away. It's probably going to look a bit like it did two weeks ago.

A few days ago I was told a detail of how the gritting is performed so efficiently. The drivers follow routes determined in the summer and use GPS to turn the salt supply on and off. This prevents drivers from dumping all their salt too close to the depot, and is the reason why there are some very small patches which oddly seem not to have been gritted at all - they are due to mistakes made months ago when planning the routes.

I'm impressed by some of the details. For instance, these works required blocking the cycle path an diverting cyclists onto the sidewalk to go under a bridge. Gritting carries on under the bridge, and a temporary flush kerb has been installed.

Cyclists don't have so much of a problem due to snow as ice-skaters do. The local news reported that people running ice skating rinks which rely on the cold weather have problems because the snow causes the ice to be thinner.

Update 15 Jan: Google's Streetview car got very close to going along this route, on the road. They seem to have been put off by the bad surface, though, as they stop at the end of the smooth bit.

There are more posts about gritting of cycle paths, school travel and road works. The snowy video above was made last Sunday when there was 12 cm of snow and the temperature was -6 C. You can see more of it from my post about a pleasant ride through the countryside on that day.

Sunday 3 January 2010

A ride through snowy countryside

On Sunday mornings there is a regular ride of local recumbent enthusiasts, called the huneliggers. This morning the temperature was -6 C ( 21 F ) and there was 12 cm ( 4.5 inches ) of snow, but that didn't stop a few of us going out.

First there were Peter and myself, we met Anton along the way and visited Ritsert at home. In all a ride just short of 70 km, and a lot of fun.

Peter also wrote the ride up on his blog, and in two weeks from now, Peter is leading the Noordelijke velomobieltocht starting here in Assen. The video gives a taste of what the event could be like.

There are more posts about huneliggers rides, or if you want to join in, go to the huneliggers website.

The bike I was riding was again the wonderful Sinner Mango velomobile. On days like this it makes a big difference to comfort to be out of the wind, and it's wonderful to be able to just wash down the outside and not have to bother about cleaning the chain (completely enclosed) or other parts after such a ride.
Read my review of the Sinner Mango Velomobile.

Friday 1 January 2010

Happy New Year

After a very pleasant evening with the neighbours and an awesome racket from fireworks into the early hours, we wake up today in a new year.

We got up late, and took our dog, Harry, for a walk. As normal, we did this by bike. Harry's a regular on the blog, having been featured going for a ride in the countryside and riding in his dog trailer. Now we're back on the same dog walking path as I covered earlier in the year.

However, it's a bit colder today. It just about crept up to freezing point before going down again later. It didn't snow today, but it should do so again tomorrow, and the temperature is predicted as being down to -9 C ( 15 F ) on Sunday - just in time for the children to cycle back to school on Monday.

This path is a bit slippery, but it's not a bike path so it can be so.

Next to a frozen ditch. Today Harry didn't go for a swim.

And over one of the bridges on our walk.

Now we're back on a bike path. You can see the difference it makes for it to have been gritted and swept regularly. The gentleman in the photo is walking his dogs using an electric buggy. One of the great things about having an extensive network of cycle paths is that they a resource accessible to all.

Another shot of the same cycle path as it turns into a bicycle road which goes directly to the city centre.

And here we're about to cross a bridge which was visible on another video from earlier in the year.

And along the cycle path by the side of the now frozen canal which provides the first part of my route to work.

We returned home to watch and listen to the wonderful broadcast of the New Year's Day concert from Vienna, including of course the Blue Danube waltz, as used by Mike Rubbo in his film of bikes in Amsterdam in the summer.

Anyway, it's time that I wished all my readers a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous new year.