Riding in the Rotterdam Rain

In the morning, it will be clouded with possible rain. With a strong south-westerly wind, temperatures will reach circa 4 degrees (39F). Later in the day the rain is expected turn into snow.

Would you ride your bicycle in that kind of weather? This was the forecast for last Thursday. As becomes clear from this week’s video, this type of weather did not scare away many people in Rotterdam; they just kept on riding their bicycles as they always do.

Cycling in Rotterdam is very convenient. Wide bi-directional cycle tracks with smooth red asphalt take you everywhere. Note the tram tracks in the grass right next to the cycle track.
Cycling in the Rotterdam centre is very convenient. Wide bi-directional cycle tracks, far away from motor traffic, with smooth red asphalt, take you everywhere. Note the tram tracks in the grass right next to the cycle track.
At some locations, such as here near Blaak Train Station, the one-directional paths are sometimes getting a bit too crowded for comfort.

Rotterdam is changing. It used to be known as a car oriented city, but more people of Rotterdam take up the bike more often. In the last decade, cycling increased by a staggering 60%, according to figures of the city itself. That makes people cycling a much more important group of road users.

Detours tell you a lot about a city. This cycle detour indicates that the city thinks people cycling are important. You don’t need to dismount, you can simply ride on, bypassing the road works.
The Rotterdam cycle plan for 2016-2018: ‘Cycling has priority’. This plan mentions 29 places for improvement.

More cycling is good for a city. Fewer cars and more cycling means less pollution, less noise and better health for people. This increase in cycling was reason for the Rotterdam council to give people cycling even more attention. With a three-year plan, the city wants to increase cycling with another 10% by 2018. This should be achieved by giving cycling more space, more comfort and by making it quicker. In Rotterdam, 160,000 people use the bicycle every weekday. The cycle plan for 2016-2018, called ‘Cycling has priority’, mentions 29 points of improvement. This ranges from improving cycle tracks to expanding bicycle parking facilities, making traffic signals more cycle friendly, introducing signal innovations and expanding bike rental possibilities. From 2016, the city will invest 2 million euro extra per annum in making Rotterdam more bicycle friendly (on top of the 6 million it already spends every year). This money will for instance go to smooth new red asphalt on the last 20 kilometres of tiled cycle tracks. But also to traffic signal information panels that were introduced last month in Rotterdam. Following the example of ʼs-Hertogenbosch, which was the first to have such an information panel, Rotterdam now also shows the fastest route to traverse two big signalised intersections.

Rotterdam looks far less like a car oriented city on the square in front of Central Station. Many people cycle and walk. But, truth be told, there is a car tunnel underneath this place, that helps create this people friendly image.

Rotterdam gets more attention from foreign visitors. Especially for visitors from the North-America and Australia, Rotterdam looks far more like the cities they are familiar with than any other Dutch city. Because it is easier to relate to, it is also easier to give them ideas about how their own cities could be different. The “5-weeks-5-cities” tour of the Netherlands, of Chris and Melissa Bruntlett and their two children, started in Rotterdam last summer and this is how they described their first impression.

“When we first emerged from Rotterdam Centraal Station, our eyes bleary from 24 hours of air and train travel, it took some time to convince ourselves they weren’t playing tricks on us.

Despite the constant drizzle, a steady stream of cyclists moved in every which way, along three different cycle tracks adjacent to the station. And they hardly resembled the type of people we see on bikes in Vancouver.

Dressed in their regular attire, perched on battered, upright frames (often two, and sometimes three abreast), there wasn’t a single helmet to be seen. Some casually carried a passenger on their rear rack; others had a child on their handlebars. We even spotted a man pedaling along with an umbrella in his right hand, with an effortlessness that had us giddy with excitement.”

The Bruntlett family arrived in the city in a summer drizzle, but the scenes are not much different in a winter drizzle. Apart from the far lower temperatures, that makes everyone wear scarves, gloves, heavy coats and hats, and apart from the fact that it is dark much earlier in the winter evening rush hour, people keep riding as they do in summer, and – for some – yes, that includes riding with an umbrella. Enjoy the images!

A dark and cold rainy evening in January, but it is busy at the entrance to the underground bicycle parking facility at Rotterdam’s central station.

This week’s video: people riding in the evening rush hour in January 2017.

26 thoughts on “Riding in the Rotterdam Rain

  1. I cycled in the weather once, it can be nice b sometimes but not under the shower rain. I was looking like a drowned rat 🙂

  2. My advice for winter riding would be lower your tire pressure to gain traction, ride slower and use the rear brake to slow down (mountain bike techniques).

    I’m from Quebec, Canada and ride most of the winter.

  3. I cycle in pretty much any weather. Only really severe wind ever stops me from cycling. I find cycling in rain quite invigorating. Cold weather conditions bring ice and snow but as long as you stick to roads that are treated with grit and salt you will be okay. You just have to avoid untreated surfaces when it is really icy, and slow down so you can see any really bad spots in front of you and avoid them.

  4. “Would you ride your bicycle in that kind of weather?” – Absolutely not. The problem is as the temperature goes lower, in combination with the wind, ice can form, even above freezing temperatures. This ice may not be visible, especially in darkness. This is extremely dangerous as a quick fall from a moving bicycle can range from slight bruises to loss of life and serious health consequences in between! Do not ride in this kind of weather!

      1. Classes should be cancelled when weather conditions call for it. Ice is extremely dangerous.

        I wonder how many cyclists in The Netherlands end up in the emergency room every year due to ice on the cycle paths or streets?

        1. Very few. Many bike paths are kept free of ice and snow, and when accidents happen, they are typically at low speed and no real damage is done, except for some minor bruises. Cancelling classes would be enjoyed by the kids, but a typical winter has about 10 days where the temperature doesn’t exceed freezing, and freezing temperatures at rush hours (in winter, both morning and evening rush hour is in the dark) easily is double of that. You can’t afford to lose 20 days a year, on average.

          20.000 people are hospitalized yearly in the Netherlands because of traffic incidents. Compared to other countries, that’s not a big number on the population and amount of km traveled. Split per modality, it’s very unsafe to ride a moped, and quite unsafe to ride a motorcycle. Riding a bike is one of the safest options per hour travel time (but less safe then a car per km).

          1. The statistics below indicate 46,000 single-side bicycle hospitalizations. Compared to the population of 17 million this is, as I noted below, epidemic.

            3% of the accidents are caused by snow and ice. But this is completely misleading. Snow and ice is only an issue for a tiny fraction of the hours in a year. Other causes are present 24/7, like curbs or parked cars. What this means is simply snow and icy conditions are extremely dangerous.

            Bicycling in general is dangerous. 1 out 370 hospitalized a year is a major health problem. Many of these accidents can be prevented by having the right education.

            The idea that one must go to school to be “educated” is long out dated. The world is changing for the better now and it will be different. However until then I would cancel all schools on days where ice and snow is or has a high risk of being present.

            1. You know, golf seems to be one of the most dangerous sports ever. Thousands of cardiac arrests every year. Probably because lots of ageing pople do it. It’like that with cycling over here. Please don’t jump to conclusions.

        2. I found some numbers on the following site: http://www.verkeerskunde.nl/enkelvoudigefietsongevallen

          3% of the one-sided accidents are caused by snow and ice. In comparison: over 6% is caused by dirt or gravel on the road, 7% by bollards, 4% by parked cars and/or their doors, and 21% by the edge of the road (either curb or shoulder).

          It looks like snow and ice are on the lower side of the daily risks involving cycling.

          1. Excellent article! But you have reached the wrong conclusions. 46,000 single-side bicycle accidents cause 46,000 people to go to the hospital each year. That’s 1380 (3 percent) that fell from snow and ice. Take an estimate of the average number of days (30 or less?) when ice is present annually and you see that cycling on these days is extremely risky!

            1. I don’t want to confuse – I should have just said “single-side bicycle accidents cause 46,000 people to go to the hospital each year.” Many more accidents happen but these people do not go to the hospital.

            2. To put things in perspective:

              46000 accidents per year, that’s about 126 per day.
              1380 due to snow and ice, on the estimated 30 cold days, that’s 45 per day,

              So the ‘extremely risky’ conditions increase the risk of an accident by 36%. I think that cycling at night vs day, cycling in a city, cycling on foggy days, cycling while older or cycling as a kid will increase the risk by similar amounts?

            3. One last perspective:

              46000 bike accidents on 17 million dutchies, so every dutch citizen (most of them cycling) has a 0.27% chance each year to visit the hospital due to a single-sided bike accident. Over 80 years of cycling that’s about 1 in 5 people that visit a hospital once in their lives, most of which will be simple checkups, sprained wrists, some scratches.

              With a 36% increase, that would become 0.37% per year if we had snow all year round. Not really what I would call ‘extremely dangerous’.

          2. You’re perspectives are wrong! First, you must realize that things like curbs, poles and parked cars are present 24 hours a day x 365 days in a year. Snow and ice is a tiny fraction of those hours. So that 3% figure in completely misleading.
            Bicycling when ice is present is in fact extremely dangerous.

            Looking at the overall statistics 46,000 people out of 17 million is 1 out of 370. That’s not good odds. In fact it’s epidemic. If it were a disease it would be front page news. Bicycling is in fact dangerous.

            I’m not trying to scare anyone. I am just trying to show that being more cautious will save a lot of people pain. If there’s chance for ice it would be good to make other plans for travel or stay home is the advice I always follow. That was the question of this blog.

    1. We ride in this weather but take precautions while riding: the tires a bit softer, avoiding streets with ovenbaked streetstones because they ‘ll get extremly slippery, not using the breaks but a foot on the ground and tempering our speed.

      1. Still, I wonder how many cyclists per year fall and are injured because of ice? My guess is everyone who has wished they had taken the bus or stayed home!

        1. So you don’t know the actual risk but are still calling it “extremely dangerous”.
          Sounds like fear mongering.
          Cyclists tend to take weather and road conditions into consideration and adjust their behaviour. Even if one falls, with the type of bike most Dutch use, one usually tries to break the fall with hand or arm. Little chance of going head first over the handlebar.

          1. I did not know the numbers before but that does not mean one can not reach the right conclusions without them. Now that I have some numbers, thank you jan above, it is clear that bicycling when ice is present, or when conditions exist that may cause ice, is extremely dangerous. I’m not trying to scare anyone but letting them know that it is something to know about.

  5. Hi there, i wrote to you at youtube. Next time i use this reblog function at wordpress. Thanky you for your great videos all the times.

  6. That first cycle path looks a bit narrow, it looks 3 metres wide. You sure it’s something like 3.5-4?

    And I actually used Rotterdam as an example of what my own city could look like if it went Dutch on transport infrastructure, with nice tram tracks and bus lanes for longer distance transport, it’s a much bigger city (when you combine suburbs like Dordrecht) than most other Dutch cities and is closer to the size of my own city, and has distributor roads that resemble what the distributor roads in my city would look like in the plans I come up with although I’d use more roundabouts. Nice architecture, I remember the big cubes by Rotterdam Blaak station.

    1. While I know what you mean regarding the metropolitain area, Dordrecht is not considered a suburb of Rotterdam by Dutchies.

      The comment even raises the hairs on the back of this Dordtenaar! 😉

  7. Great post. Over the past year I’ve really enjoyed the site, especially as I met a wonderful Dutch lady and spent time in the Netherlands Den Bosch in particular ( how I find the site). And loved to see the infrastructure comparison with here in London.
    This post though really surprised me as today I move to rotterdam. And then you go and post a video what are the chances!
    Please keep up the good work even with the move I’ll always look forward to a new post.

  8. Thanks for this Mark.

    Rain just above freezing is about the most uncomfortable environment I ever ride in (or sometimes not). Then again, I don’t ride at all when it’s below about zero f (-18c) and only shorter distances above that until around freezing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.