Cycling on a rainy autumn day in Utrecht

When I showed you people continue to cycle during a short and light summer shower in ʼs-Hertogenbosch, exactly three months ago, someone on YouTube commented: “You should make one in heavier rain! That is just a sprinkle!”. That person had a point, and because I always try to listen to my viewers, there’s a new video of a much heavier autumn shower in Utrecht that I’d like to show you in this post.

That’s the way to teach your child that cycling in the rain is no big deal! This girl has a lot of fun with her own Jip & Janneke* umbrella on the bicycle with daddy! (* Dutch children’s book characters.)

This video was shot on the 21st of October, which was a genuine autumn day with precipitation for 11.4 hours with a total sum of 23.9 mm of rain (almost an inch). With 14 degrees Celsius, (57.2F) it wasn’t really a cold day. So people do not wear gloves or woolen scarves yet. (Yesterday, that was a bit different: the 3rd of December was the coldest day in almost 21 months in The Netherlands, with temperatures around the freezing point.) I shot this video during my lunch break, in a time span of only 15 minutes. The radar image in this post is from exactly that time frame. It shows there was really heavy rain at that particular moment.

This is the weather report of the day this was filmed from the national weather station in De Bilt, which is only 5 kilometres from Utrecht.

The location may seem familiar. I filmed here before on a true summer day and that video showed a lot of beautiful people cycling. There are always people saying such videos only show so many people because of the good weather. Now you can compare and I think you can see that there are indeed fewer people cycling, but there is not that much difference. There are still quite a lot of people who are not disturbed by the rain. You can see many children, because they had their autumn holidays.

An orange rain coat and blue rain pants. This lady will not get her clothes soaked!

There is much more rain gear in this video than the one I shot during the light sprinkle in ʼs-Hertogenbosch. People do have their gear for the heavier rain stashed away in their personal belongings, which only comes out when it is really needed. That makes is possible for many people to continue to cycle from A to B even on wetter days in autumn. Well, you have to really, haven’t you? … When you went from A to B in the morning when it was still dry, you will have to cycle back from B to A, no matter if it rains or not. And people do.

The rain radar image of the time I shot the video shows really heavy rain for Utrecht. Which is right under the tiny red dot most to the east. Red means over 10 mm of rain in one hour.
This man has a surveillance job and he wears a waterproof police-like uniform for this wet day. His bicycle is also painted to resemble a police vehicle.

Could we make the rainy trip any better for these people cycling? Architect Steven Fleming thinks we can and should; by building roofing over the cycle tracks. He wondered on Twitter why the Dutch don’t. After a long Twitter debate Sally Hinchcliffe replied with a perfect post, which I can only recommend. I too think it would not be a good idea. We couldn’t and shouldn’t build roofs over cycle paths anywhere. They would be ugly (even with good and costly maintenance) and pretty useless most of the time, annoying all the rest of the time.

She left the house prepared for rain. Look at her stylish rubber boots!

The people in this video show that when you are truly committed to cycling, as a person or as a nation, you will cycle regardless of the weather conditions. Covered cycleways don’t make any difference, the fact that there are cycleways in the first place does make a difference.

This week’s video: cycling in the rain in the centre of Utrecht

16 thoughts on “Cycling on a rainy autumn day in Utrecht

  1. many in the big cities in the northeast where driving is costly walk to subways in rain, snow and ice already and in the summer they are wearing suits in high humidity. in the bermudas there are buermuda shorts suits.

    in freezing rain even car commuts become slow and ponderous and sometimes dangerous. but climate can be a drawback for increased cycling, sure.

  2. Regarding rooves over cycle paths – this would be an nice idea in certain bits of Australia (my home), during the summer – cycling home in 40 degrees heat and burning sunshine after work can be a trial worse than any rain!
    Working and cycling over here in Rotterdam at present, loving every minute of it, even with the cold and rain.

  3. Lovely video! The accompanying music almost made me feel like cycling in the rain is something desirable rather than a minor annoyance to be endured.

  4. I think that if there is somewhere that roofs over cycle paths makes sense, its here in Toronto and other places where there is substantial snowfall in addition to the rain. Of course riders do not need protection from falling snow, which is much less annoying than falling rain. But the roof might reduce the cost of snow clearance enough that it is cost-neutral in the long run.

    Regarding the aesthetic element, I think one could design a covered cycleway that is quite attractive in a rural or suburban context. It could have a similar feel to those tree-lined rural roads in Europe. But in urban areas I agree that almost any design would make streets too cluttered.

  5. Vancouver is famous for it’s rain yet people still cycle here. There is an entire industry designing and making active clothing for use in the rain.
    The really heavy rain is only occasional. Most of the time it’s a light rain or intermittent. Easily ignored if you wear the right clothing. The same clothing as you would for walking most of the time.
    The elevated light rail transit system here (Skytrain) has a cycle path under most of it and provides a rain cover automatically.

  6. Wait, you said coldest day in 18 months. That puts the last coldest day in the summer. Does the Netherlands have a territory in Siberia I do not know about.

    1. I quoted a news item that said “one and a half years”, but I now checked and it turns out to have been 11 March 2013, so that is almost 21 months. I have changed it in the post.

  7. I had always thought that rain is the natural cleaning agent for road (and cycle path) surfaces.

    If a roof is put over the path, does this mean that someone must then go and clean the path?

  8. In Dr Behooving’s defence, most visitors to his blog are not properly comprehending the ideas and thought experiments put forth. A lot of the recent stuff is about an architectural model that is bicycle-centric. A touchstone from which we can project practical implementations, instead of continuing our current practice of designing around the car model. Practically all cities now are focussed around car-mobility and thus the comment “They would be ugly (even with good and costly maintenance) and pretty useless most of the time, annoying all the rest of the time” I would say is especially true of roads in general. They cost at least two orders of magnitude to maintain and repair than a bike path, yet we have a massive blind spot to this (thanks be to Copenhagenize for continually waking us up) Even a covered bike path will be far cheaper to maintain compared to the expenditure on roads for cars.

    While the model is not about retro-fitting our current cities or suburban sprawl (quite the contrary) it’s not hard to imagine a typical, old town high street, with awnings extending out from the buildings, shielding pedestrians or cyclists when they need it, or the open central street where pedestrians can mingle, and people on bikes can enjoy the sunshine when it’s there. No cars stealing it from us. Even the ‘wide’ Dutch bicycle paths are a fraction of the street width, currently dominated by cars. Harking back to the ‘ugly’ comment – running cars through our town centres and high streets has totally damaged them, as many of your fine posts demonstrate. Old towns were designed around people, the last 50 years, not so, Velotopia is about bringing it back to human-scale design.

    If I could have cover at least a significant portion of the journey to daycare, I wouldn’t have needed to buy a bakfiets. But again, that ‘door-to-door’ argument is me trying to retrofit my suburban sprawl environment (Australia)

  9. I do not want to make light of these people cycling in the rain, but some one should try to cycle in the rain in northern Ontario in November.

    1. In cold rain, you can always put on waterproof clothing. In hot rain, though, you really can’t. Atlanta and Houston pose much bigger challenges than Northern Ontario.

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