Cycling in a winter wonderland

“That’s not snow, that’s a light dusting!” I can already predict some comments on this week’s video. For the people in north-west Europe, not used to heavy snow, it was a bit more than that! With snow from Friday to Monday, leading to a “code red weather alarm” that last day in the Netherlands, public life came to a grinding halt. Not so strange, because code red means: “don’t go out, it’s dangerous!”. Not only in the Netherlands but also in Belgium and the United Kingdom schools and airports were temporarily closed and many people worked from home, because public transport had to cut back services on many routes. In Noord-Brabant all bus services completely stopped for a few hours. The trains run with big delays, but as always: the Dutch kept cycling on as much as possible!

“Yes, it snows, but we need to go places!” If you are used to cycling as transportation a bit of snow doesn’t stop you.
If it helps against the rain it must help against the snow as well. I don’t think it does, against either, but you can see many Dutch struggling through the snow holding up an umbrella…

The last time I wrote about snow on my blog was in January 2015. That’s almost three years ago! And yes, it has been that long since we had a considerable amount of snow, at least here in the south. No wonder people really had to get accustomed to it again. Fortunately, the cycleways were brushed and sprayed with brine even before many roads were treated. That mixture of water and salt quickly melted any residual snow after the brushing, which meant the cycleways could be used again without the risk of slipping and falling in the icy conditions.

A snow plough in ’s-Hertogenbosch. Usually the cycleways are brushed, but this is another type of snow clearing. The vehicle did spray brine from the back, so any snow that was left did melt away.
With cycleways looking like this cycling in the snow becomes no big deal!

I filmed some brave people who kept on cycling even before the snow was brushed away in the city centre streets of ’s-Hertogenbosch last Sunday. With all the decorative lights and the snow on the Christmas trees the atmosphere became really festive. We are all getting ready for the holidays. This is my last ordinary post of 2017. Next week may have the year round-up and then I have a short holiday break to start afresh in the new year! Enjoy the video!

Cycling in the snow in ’s-Hertogenbosch in December 2017.

26 thoughts on “Cycling in a winter wonderland

  1. I moved this year to Utrecht from Boston, Massachusetts, USA. I was here for that snowstorm and yes I did ride my bike. After all, I am used to riding a bike in the snow and it was only four or so inches deep. I did walk with my bike on my quiet street because it hadn’t been plowed. The main cycleways were kept clean by the steady bike traffic. What surprised me was that the city-owned sidewalks were not cleared of snow in many places and people didn’t bother removing snow from the sidewalk in front of their home.In Boston that would be terrible, because snow left on sidewalks turns to ice and remains there for a long time. However, in a few days here in Utrecht, all the snow had melted. The people of Utrecht knew what I didn’t, the snow would soon melt. Several “sneeuwpop” (or snowman/snowdoll) were built on my street and the children went sledding on the artificial hill in the nearby park. My neighbors told me that they seldom have snow that remains on the ground in Utrecht.

  2. Beautiful video 🚲🚲🚲🚲🚲

    Il partito della bicicletta Facebook Groups 💜💛💛💚💙

  3. This i believe the Dutch habit of cycling slowly started,compared to Dublin or London where cyclists cycle speedly on racing bikes all year round.o

  4. Very interesting to look at the demographics of who was cycling in the snow. The people were overwhelmingly young men. Very few women and precisely zero older people or children.

    Those people were in the video. The children being pulled on a sled at the 2:40 mark were particularly cute. Just not cycling.

    Conclusion: Even in The Netherlands it is all about the infrastructure. When snow reduces the cycle network to UK/North American levels of safety, suddenly NL gets UK/North American cycling demographics.

    1. It was on a sunday, people were told to not go out on the road. Most kids were probably either inside at home or enjoying the snow, most elderlies probably staying in. Would have been different if filmed on an early monday morning, I remember I still used to cycle to school in this weather anyway. But ofcourse generally less people tend to cycle in really bad weather, people tend to not leave their home then unless they really have to.

  5. I used to go bicycling in snow and ice. Last year however, I went out after a rain storm. The temperature had dropped to not even freezing yet the road froze in places. I hit a patch of ice and broke my shoulder in three places! Now I never ever ride in the snow, ice or rain when the temperature is cold!

    1. I am very sorry to hear that. It must have hurt tremendiously. May I suggest that you buy a trike recumbent. So you never fall off again. I own a brute Full Fat Trike, with a studded tyre at the back. I have driven over ice covered road (no gritting) and the off road tyres held their grip. Other cyclists had to dismount and walk.

      1. Thank you for your excellent recommendation. That is something I will consider along with adult tricycles.

        1. I ride part of winter in Canada, all I would recommend is two studded tires, to lower your tire pressure and cycle a little slower than in the summer.

      1. It was a hybrid bicycle with slim tires, the kind with no tread in the center of the tires. I went down in an instant. I’m lucky to be alive. Just seconds before I fell a car had just past the same spot.

  6. even in london, i’d usually set my alarm for the normal time, get up, find that the only way to cross london and get to work in time was the bike, and take the bike regardless of what the weather is doing.

    Much like other people get in their cars even when the weather means this is totally irresponsible.

    If it becomes your default, its the method you use.

  7. Lack of hills hills makes this very possible. Also, this would be a younger person’s effort. Falling is bad, very bad for us older folks.

    1. re- lack of hills. It is worth noting that Belgium is just as flat and does not have this cycling culture.

      re- falling. Isn’t this just as true, if not more so of walking.

      see topographical maps of the ‘low countries’

      see A&E stats.

      1. The bicycling culture of flat Flemish Belgium is just as strong as in The Netherlands. The south of Belgium, Wallonia, is quite hilly in general but still there is bicycle culture.

        Falling off a moving bicycle is usually far worse than falling while walking.

        1. The cycling “culture” in Flanders is indeed quite strong, but it’s still nowhere near that of the Netherlands. I hear this generalization from people all the time, that the two are more or less the same. Before I moved to the Netherlands, I also thought the same thing but have since realized they are quite different. The language is the same, but that’s about it. The social culture, religion, mentality about food and urban planning are all incredibly different. Belgians are much more “polite” and indirect than Dutch, are largely Catholic (whereas only 2 Dutch provinces are such), have a much better appreciation for food and have absolutely terrible urban planning and crap infrastructure everywhere.

          It’s true that, on a global scale, the larger cities of Ghent and Antwerp could probably be considered among some of the best cycling cities in the world. But this is all relative. Compared to most Dutch cities, the infrastructure in the Flemish ones are quite inferior, and this is reflected in the amount of cycling there vs in comparable Dutch cities. The difference is even more stark outside of cities. In Belgium, you often just get a dashed line on the edge of the shoulder lane of a motorway to cycle on. This would never happen in the Netherlands. I have also been to Copenhagen many times and saw many more cyclists in the Danish capital than I’ve seen in Antwerp or Ghent. And even Copenhagen doesn’t quite match the cycling level as the Dutch cities. I’ve also noticed that the cycling infrastructure is way more variable in the Flemish cities. Some major roads have separated bike lanes almost as good as the best Dutch ones, others only have narrow painted lanes while some arterial roads have nothing at all for cyclist.

          The difference in mentality about cycling is also very different. I live and work in Zeeland, just north of Belgium, and have many colleagues that are Dutch, Flemish and also German. The Dutch cycle way more than all other Europeans, including Germans, Flemish or even Danes. The Dutch are way less likely to op for the car just because the weather is not so ideal or the distance seems a bit far.

          1. The language is the same by name (Dutch) but sounds noticeably very different due to the dialect.

            NL has a higher level overall of bicycle culture but Flanders has greatly changed in recent years. In many places now the cycling infrastructure is indistinguishable from NL.

            Then you have magnificent cycle routes that do not exist in or can not be created in NL. A good example would be the canal path from Sluis, NL south to the historic city of Brugge and then on to the seaside city of Ostende. There is nothing like this route in the world!

  8. Was there a section of cycle track that was heated? I wonder if it’s possible to see how that copes with the snow? Best wishes for a happy holiday.

    1. “the cycleways were brushed and sprayed with brine even before many roads were treated. That mixture of water and salt quickly melted any residual snow after the brushing”

      “The vehicle did spray brine from the back, so any snow that was left did melt away.”

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