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.

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.

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