17 December 2010

Winter Cycling NL/DK

A fine little winter cycling video from Alicia over at the Cycling Without a Helmet blog, filmed in Leiden, Netherlands. In a tweet someone mentioned the difference in speed between bicycles and cars.

I filmed this last year outside of my flat window during a snowstorm. Seeing the cars crawl like that was brilliant and it gave me a taste of what safer, lowered speed limits would look like if any visionaries suddenly appeared at City Hall one day.

By the way, I know many people in other countries find it mind-boggling, but none of these cyclists have studded winter tires. Just regular bicycle tires. Works fine.


Teemu said...

If there's few centimeters of snow over clean asphalt, the snow doesn't matter at all, as tyre cuts right through it.

Likewise, when it's constantly below 0 Celsius, like in northern scandinavia (f.ex. Oulu, Finland), layers of snow pack harder and harder, still maintaining very good friction. It's like cycling on dirt path.

Sleet and slush are no problem at all, except for your fine pair of shoes.

However, here on Helsinki / Stockholm level, temperature varies between plus and minus Celsius, so there's much more ice. Wet ice and surprise-ice (the one hiding under fresh patch of snow) are the worst.

I cycled daily all year round for 20 years in Oulu without ever considering studded tyres. Here, most days between November and March, I wouldn't consider cycling without at least one on front, especially if I have kid on the safety seat.

There's also the added danger of getting run over by car or bus when you fall down, as a lot of streets here have no bike lanes. Especially bus drivers, annoyed by cyclist who slow things down, leave only a gap of meter or two between them and cyclist on front. It's ok at summer, not so when there's ice everywhere.

I don't need Mikael's permission to use studded tyres, but I wish he was a bit less derisive to those who use them for practical reasons.

dr2chase said...

Mikael, in the US at least, it is a rare bike path that gets plowed (there is one that I ride on). Even when it IS plowed, it is not gritted or salted. Every year it develops sheets of ice, wherever there is the right combination of sun puddle uphill of the pavement.

For that, studded tires are extremely helpful. There are times when it is even necessary to have one on the rear; I tried one last year that I found substandard on the front (recall that people are supposed to feel comfortable while biking -- this tire was terrifying on the path-ice) and so I put it on the rear where it was less important, and pushing up a 1% grade at more than about 16kph, I could feel it intermittently breaking loose.

The alternative, of course, is the road that we "share" with the cars. You rarely need the studs there.

Studded tires are quite annoying when you don't need them, so for now, until the ice sheets start to form, I only have one on the front. Having the rear tire slide is not scary like the front, but you might not be able to climb the hill.

Frits B said...

In NL, studded tires are not allowed, for any roadgoing vehicle. There's a simple reason: winters tend to be moderate (sea climate), there's usually little snow and ice on the roads, and roads and cycle paths are cleared immediately. In such conditions, studs would do too much damage to the roads.
That said, we have just been hit by blizzards. Motorways are blocked, airports are closed (Amsterdam airport has provided 1500 beds for transit passengers), and trains run very irregularly. But the mail and newspapers were delivered as always, by bike.

ZA said...

Requesting advice - A friend in the UK suffered a nasty brake freezing when the damp of her ride froze in place during her commute to work. Suggestions for this sort of icy biking?

Frits B said...

Pics by Henry-in-Amsterdam:

And ZA: look here:

Alicia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alicia said...

Sorry, my link was broken before...

FYI. My favorite Dutch blizzard bike story so far... The Travelling Two :) They were at Schipol ready to depart to Spain for a bicycle tour, all packed to carry everything on their bikes... Not a bad way to be if the planes, trains and buses are all delayed or cancelled.

AnchBiker said...

Yup, regular tires work just fine. Except for when they don't:


A video of a bunch of Dutch cyclists eating sh!t on the ice, conditions that I ride on daily with nary a slip or even much notice. Glare ice is my riding surface for about 75% of the time between November and April. I haven't seen pavement on my street for over a month. The only roads here that get salt are high-speed throughways, side roads just get scraped down the smooth ice, bike lanes become snow storage lanes, and the multi-use paths are groomed for skiing. Welcome to Anchorage, Alaska.

Yet there are easily ten times as many winter cyclists now that there were ten years ago (still not very many, less that 1% of Anchoragites). And judging by how fast studded tires fly off of the shelves, they likely have something to with that, probably by allowing more people to become comfortable with sharing icy roads with cars.

Not that you need studded tires. I'v known a few people who eschew them, usually because of the cost. All you have to do is ride slowly, carefully, and be OK with falling a few times every winter. Usually you just slide out, pick yourself and your crushed groceries up, and continue on your way (slooooowly). This is hardly conducive to riding in the road, though, so studless cyclists are pretty much relegated to the sidewalk. And since sidewalks can take days or even weeks to get cleared (and are often re-buried by the road plows after being cleared), this makes it difficult to rely upon your bike for transportation. It sucks when you're halfway to work, only to find that your route is now buried under 2 feet of plow spray, roughly the consistence of Elmer's glue. Now you're late, and the boss is ragging on you about "reliable transportation."

So you don't need studs, but they are awesome if you choose to ride them. You can ride like there is no ice, you can enjoy persistent icy conditions, you can relax. Studs on glare ice is about on par with rubber on wet pavement; don't be an idiot and you'll be just fine. Better than fine, you'll have fun!

Obviously Copenhageners don't need studs, your snow rarely sticks and you're as like to get rained on as snowed on in winter months. Add that to the fact that you have separated cycleways which are rigorously plowed and salted. Mild winters and well maintained bicycle infrastructure makes for easy and approachable cycling, in which regular tires work fine. For cyclists in areas with no chance of the former and no access to the latter, studded tires, while not necessary, are incredibly useful, and go a long way towards making a bike a fun and reliable form of transport.

P.S. - Anchorage funkin' rocks! All you eurotrash haters can suck my urban-American hillbilly BALLS! So you've got excellent public schools, universal health care, and top-notch bicycle infrastructure; so what? We're drunk on both liquor and power, and heavily armed to boot. If we really wanted top-notch bicycle infrastructure, we would just come and take yours!

P.P.S - JUST KIDDING (except about Anchorage rocking, 'cause it does)! This blog rocks at least as hard as my home town, and Copenhagen Cycle Chic is a beautiful thing. Y'all just keep doing what you do. :)

William said...

@ZA regarding frozen cables.
I think there was a post with a lot of comments here recently, but the condensed version was:
re-route your cables (if possible) so water cannot pool inside the cableguide.
Fill the cableguide with silicone grease before you insert the cable.
Don't use WD-40, but real synthetic oil.

amoeba said...

I'm guessing this is fresh snow over asphalt. That isn't much of a problem. What I have a problem with is compacted polished snow, especially over ice with ruts. And falling-off with an impatient idiot driver following too close behind isn't good for one's health.

In the UK, there seems to be hardly any gritting and the roads are reduced to skating-rinks. Far too dangerous for cycling, given that UK drivers have no concept of driving on snow or ice.

They drive too damned close.

I'd like to to tow behind me a length of 'spike-strip' on a suitable length of breakaway line. That way, if a car got too close, it would break the line and safely puncture all four car tyres.