A ride in the snow

A light dusting of snow ended a very long period without snow in the Netherlands on Saturday 16 January last. It hadn’t snowed in De Bilt (which is the location of the Dutch weather bureau) since 1 February 2019. Over 700 days without snow was record breaking long. There had been a tiny bit of snow in ʼs-Hertogenbosch on the morning of 26 February 2020, and I made sure I caught that on camera, but that didn’t count for the official record which is measured near Utrecht. So when it did snow again in Utrecht, I wanted to get it on camera. The snow only started to fall after dark, so for this week’s post I have a snow ride in Utrecht for you in the dark.

Billet en français

This is Gambiadreef. Originally from the late 1960s and then twice as wide. It was cut in half and the parking on the right hand side came in the place of half the road. For a 30km/h residential street it is wide enough and the space is shared. It looks like the street was salted, but since it had continued to snow the street was not entirely clear of snow.

I started my ride in the neighbourhood that has been made car-low a few years ago. I took a route from Overvecht in the north of the city to central station. I rode on Carnegiedreef, which I have shown in the Spring before and Troelstralaan, one of the more recent cycle streets in Utrecht that also featured on my blog before. Then to the historic city centre and the – at that moment not so busy – busiest cycleway of the Netherlands. I then passed through the area with road works on Smakkelaarskade. (Which is a new name for this part of Smakkelaarsveld. With all the new buildings planned at this location some new streets will develop there with houses that will need their own addresses, hence this new name and also Smakkelaarshoek. Meaning that apart from the original “freight shipper’s field” we now also have a “freight shipper’s quay” and a “freight shipper’s corner” respectively). Finally, I reached the bicycle parking garage of “Stationsplein” (Station square), the largest in the world, where my Utrecht bicycle lives and which I have shown you before as well.

The stabilisation of my camera obviously works not so well in the dark. This was the first time I used the “low light” settings. I may have flipped a wrong button which affected the stabilising abilities, but since the image suddenly turns very smooth in the well lit parking garage this may simply be the best the camera can do in the dark. Sorry about the bumpy ride. I hope you still find it an enjoyable video!

This crossing in Carnegiedreef is considered dangerous by the locals. In the snow the car from the left did give me my rightful priority. Snow slows drivers down and it is known that the slower car drivers go themselves the more inclined they are to stop to let others go first (the tipping point is between 30 and 40km/h)
The cycleways in Utrecht had not really been cleared of the snow. It was known that the snow would melt during the night and the next morning. Maybe the city thought it was not worth the trouble, I don’t really know.
I passed a few signalised intersections, but I did not have to stop on many of them and it was never really long. It was clear that the lights responded to my presence, even though Utrecht “only” relies on (advanced) detection loops.
It is clear by the way the snow was “driven” away here, that many cars do use this cycle street. But at the time I used it there were more people cycling than that there were cars, which is as it should be in a cycle street.
A nice reminder that we are in the Netherlands: one of Utrecht’s two remaining wind mills in the distance.
In the city centre I rode on Oudegracht. Since that is sloping sideways (towards the canal to the left) it was the hardest part of the route to stay upright. Especially the turns were challenging here.
The corner of Oudegracht and Lange Viestraat. For my right turn here, (very tight!) I did put my feet on the ground, I did not want to fall.
Vredenburg. This busy cycle route seems to have been cleared of snow. Even in such weather conditions people are brave enough to share one bicycle!
The former Smakkelaarsveld, now Smakkelaarskade has been a building site since about 2007. I added all the street names of the streets I rode in this route for those who want to look them up (see also the map below). The final building activities have just started here, it will still take a few years before everything will be finished here though. The cycle route at this location was different every time I visited Utrecht since the corona pandemic…
The entrance street to the station and the station bicycle parking is finally going to be finished. The fences left and right are around locations where trees will be planted.
The bicycle parking garage is well lit, day and night. But in the night you can see that it is dark outside at the locations where daylight enters during the day. This gives a sense of connection to the outside world that people perceive as comfortable. They feel safer in the space because of it.

The route I cycled in the video below. 4.5km long.

Video of the ride in the snow and in the dark.


The Dutch are far from the only people to keep on cycling in the snow. In London there was a similar light dusting this week:

I described how the Finns keep on cycling in their much more severe winter conditions in last year’s posts. See also the Not Just Bikes video about cycling in the snow in Finland compared to other countries (including Canada).

The people in Utrecht really enjoyed seeing their city in the snow after a record period without any snow.



2 thoughts on “A ride in the snow

  1. Chapeau for this determination to document a record!
    You should have halted for a hot chocolate at my home after that endless wait at the Theemsdreef. One of the most annoying crossings in Utrecht. Only 5 seconds of green every two minutes or so. This crossing is very wide. Combined with (needles) completely separated streams is it is extremely inefficient. This video shows this extensively. (Imho this slow television is even more attactive than the Rail Away show on the national tv.)
    At 01:30 you are pushed out of your safe track by a car driver (not by a car, which does this not by itself). Recognizable and rightout dangerous when there is less space. Does this only happen only in the Netherlands?

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