Snow? The Dutch roll on.

Last month the city of Bologna, capital of the Italian province of Emilia Romagna, issued a municipal ordinance in which it was also stated that cycling (and riding a moped) was to be prohibited in the case of even mild snow from 1st December to 15th March on all municipal roads and streets.

When the Corriere di Bologna wrote about the winter cycle ban, it provoked a storm of protest. One paper commented that this ban would force people to use cars which would generate more traffic, or they would have to use public transport that might collapse because of the many more travelers. The local ordinance was consequently amended last week. In a press release of December 6th, Bologna stated that it was convinced, by organizations, both public and private, that there are cities, both in Italy and other countries, which deal with the phenomenon of snow and cycling in a different way.

winter cycling ban
A winter cycling ban in the Netherlands is out of the question; the separated cycle tracks -cleared from snow and ice- make cycling possible under almost all conditions.

The ban on winter cycling was therefore taken out of the ordinance, so that it now only states that four-wheeled vehicles must have winter tires. Local cycle groups were understandably very happy with the decision. But it is clear once again, that ignorance among legislators about cycling and the safety of it, cause that cycling is always under threat of having laws imposed on it that would damage the image of cycling. This happens more often, and all over the world. In the same announcement the city of Bologna does still advise riders of two-wheeled vehicles to use their own judgment to assess if the conditions of the weather, the road and their vehicle make operating that vehicle safe enough, and if not, to adjust their speed or to stop using it altogether.

Looking at this from the Netherlands, and I am sure from a lot of other countries which have similar or more severe winters than the north of Italy, the ban seemed excessive. So it is good the ordinance was changed. The advice to take extra care is of course sensible but a bit out-of-place in an official municipal announcement.

By coincidence we experienced snow in the Netherlands that same week. The first snow of the winter 2012/2012 was early. (Last winter the first snow only appeared on February 3rd.) But it gave me an opportunity to show you –again–  how the Dutch simply roll on in winter conditions. Yes, people riding their two-wheeled vehicles do take extra care by adjusting their speed. That’s just common sense! But apart from that and putting on warm clothes, there’s really nothing more you need to do to be able to simply ride your bike. One thing is perfectly clear from the video: there is no need to stop riding in winter conditions!

In this video many people pass a junction in ‘s-Hertogenbosch on their bicycles on the first day with snow
in the winter of 2012/2013.
The music is appropriately called ‘Nothing Broken‘ by Kevin MacLeod.

9 thoughts on “Snow? The Dutch roll on.

  1. Always some excuse. Some people here on the warm west coast of Canada say that it’s too cold yet I know people further east in Saskatchewan that cycle in the snow at -40º. You just need the right tires and clothes.
    It does show that what the Americans call “eternal vigilance” will always be needed as there will always be somebody who wants to interfere in someone else’s life.

  2. Richard, before motorbikes became ubiquitous (and highly polluting), cities in Vietnam were full of cyclists. And Dutch colonialism spread cycling to Indonesia.

    Here, of course, car addicts cite snow as a reason not to cycle, and no matter how many photos we show of cyclists in Scandinavian countries, they keep raising other objections…

  3. Gee Netherlands, still manually clearing your cycling paths of snow and ice – how 20th century! If you were a “real” cycling nation you’d be looking at heating your paths to clear them….oh, I see, you are already doing that 😉

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