Thursday 24 January 2013

Ice cold in Assen

This cycle-path, 200 m from our home, provides a direct
route to the centre of the city. Just like the other cycle paths,
it's been swept and salted. This tight grid of high quality
primary routes is essential to make cycling accessible to all
It felt a little parky when I took our dog for a walk last night and on returning home I noted that  someone had asked me about how we get on cycling in the winter. How cold is it ? What condition are the cycle-paths in ? I decided I'd take some photos today and write a little about this (again).

Elsewhere in the city, a single direction cycle-path also
cleared of snow and ice
On return from the dog walk I noted that the outside temperature was a little below -11 C. For most of the week beforehand the temperature had been hovering around -5 C at mid-day and as I write this it's about -6 C. It'll get colder overnight.

A minor cycle-path, not necessary to use, and un-treated
We've not had masses of snow compared with previous years. About 17 cm of snow (7 inches) fell on Monday. It kept falling all day and though I swept our driveway twice, it didn't much look like I'd bothered by Tuesday.

Simultaneous green crossing in winter. I stopped for red.
During Monday things were a bit difficult because even the most effective of treatments for roads can't deal with snow which continues to fall. However, as soon as it stops the local government does a very good job of sweeping the paths and  treating with what appears to be a mixture of salt and sand.

Main route North out of the city. Someone with a passenger
Main cycle-paths are treated immediately, as are main roads. Residential streets are treated last. Where cars have been they compress the snow and this is more difficult to remove so conditions on some of these streets can remain unpleasant.

This is the same type of vehicle as is used for sweeping
cycle-paths. If the paths are of proper width then you
don't need narrow vehicles.
The photo on the left of a snow-plough going along our street shows how it can be. This was his second pass within 10 minutes. The gritters are switched on and off by computers using GPS. Therefore, they don't waste excessive salt where it's not needed but achieve an even spread around the city, wherever the driver happens to go. Without this, in the past, the area around the depot tended to be treated better than outlying areas.

We still have studded tyres in stock, as well as many other genuinely useful cycling products. There are more stories about gritting and snow removal


Koen said...

I saw your ice-bat video a while ago, and it really looks like fun. It's a lot faster and safer without the propellor, isn't it? Still, not a chance to overtake a professional skater. I don't expect it to catch on very much in NL, but for people who never got to learn how to skate, it can be a very nice way of making trips on the ice otherwise reserved to fast skaters...

Koen said...

....or perhaps a merger with a Whike, so that you can put a sail on it as well?

Even more fun! :o)

David said...

What do you mean "even the most effective of treatments for roads can't deal with snow which continues to fall"?

Many places in Canada manage to do just that: the roads are pre-gritted and salted ahead of a snow event and snow plows are sent out during the snowfall. Some places in the Canadian Rockies get so much snow that if you waited until it stopped falling before starting to clear the snow it would be a metre or more deep.

Here's a 10 min long video of a snowplowing operation during a fairly heavy snowfall in Toronto at night. Note the combination of blue and amber lights on the plows - the blue is far more visible in the nighttime snow conditions.

For something verging on overkill, here's two dozen (!) snow plows out on a freeway in Toronto:

It's too bad we don't devote even 1% of those kind of resources towards our cycling infrastructure.

On a different note, it's a little curious that the snow plow pickup truck has a trailer carrying the gritter rather than just putting it on the back of the pickup truck. That significantly reduces the flexibility of manoeuvre (e.g. reversing), especially in country with generally narrow streets like the Netherlands. A secondary advantage is that if the truck is 4WD, the weight of the gritter helps with traction.

Koen said...

@David James: we do just that here in NL. They start before the snow falls. I guess David H meant you can never take all of it away from all roads if it continues falling.
Mark Wagenbuur has posted an interesting summary of snow clearing on Dutch cycle paths. In the second video you can see all kinds of snow gear uses, from heavy trucks and tractors to brushing machines: