The nitty gritty of how to keep the roads rolling
February 13, 2013 11:58 AM   Subscribe

"Hans explains there is a policy to keep certain routes clear. Since all streets in Dutch cities are categorised (also because of the ‘sustainable safety’ policy) it is very clear which streets are main routes that must be cleared. In the past, the cycle paths were not really thought important. But there were many complaints about it and the policies shifted slowly towards clearing the cycle paths more as well. Hans: “Especially when the city was elected Cycling City of the Netherlands in 2011, the department of public works felt it was our moral obligation to give the main cycle routes the highest priority. Now the cycle paths are cleared at the same time as the 8 main routes for motorised traffic.” -- Cycling blogger Mark Wagenbuur explains how one Dutch city, 'S-Hertogenbosch, deals with keeping the cycle paths clear during winter.
posted by MartinWisse (24 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
posted by MartinWisse at 12:00 PM on February 13, 2013

I can't begin to unpack the difficulties I have explaining this priority to my friends and family back in the US.

Also, my front break is locked up and apparently frozen...any help greatly appreciated.
posted by digitalprimate at 12:15 PM on February 13, 2013

SATW and bikes in The Netherlands and Denmark.
posted by Talez at 12:15 PM on February 13, 2013

I recently read the interesting story of how Calgary took on clearing pathways as an initiative. It started with volunteer cycle-activist types (dragging plows behind bikes) and expanded through more volunteers until one day we had a record-breaking 45cm (18") wet heavy snowfall:
Try as they might, however, the snow was too much. But something happened that day. All the runners and cyclists who had grown accustomed to a cleared pathway started complaining to City Hall. Why haven’t you cleared the pathway yet, they asked. Get out and do your jobs, they demanded. The trouble was, the city never cleared that pathway. It was Kerr and Gruttz and those volunteers. But after five years, Calgarians had come to expect it, and they assumed it was city workers doing the job.
Today, we have about 400 km of pathways that get cleared of snow, including 27km of bike lanes that are now in the same top-priority tier as our major motorized vehicle roads.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 12:22 PM on February 13, 2013 [8 favorites]

Well if only the Dutch were so enlightened when it comes to people on foot - which are the majority of people. I was in Amsterdam in the beginning of January and surprised to see the streets and bicycle paths cleared, but the sidewalks completely neglected. So much so that people were walking in the bicycle paths! It is not often that Dutch politics gets in the way of common sense, but when it comes to bicycles there you have it.
posted by three blind mice at 12:24 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Traditionally, the pavement is the responsibility of whoever lives there, so you're expected to do it yourself.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:28 PM on February 13, 2013

Man, it's a rare event when the street sweepers clean the debris out of the morbid joke of a bike lane system in my city. We need to hire some Dutch people.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:31 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, any North American city that gets a goodly amount of snowfall annually and prioritizes cleaning the bike lanes as much as the roads gets "you are effing awesome" in my book. My husband would probably continue to ride his bike to work in the winter if it didn't mean the possibility of frozen death 90% of the time.
posted by Kitteh at 12:43 PM on February 13, 2013

Minneapolis is quite excellent at clearing bike trails in winter (and not just bike lanes, but actual dedicated off-road bike trails). I stop commuting by bike in the winter though because a) COLD b) PITCH DARK AT 5PM.

But if I wanted to ride in the dark in freezing conditions, it's very much available to me.
posted by mcstayinskool at 1:25 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

digitalprimate: here.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 1:45 PM on February 13, 2013

British Cycling put out a who are cycle lanes for? video yesterday, and the Twitter hashtag is full of some good but mostly bad examples of UK cycle paths (full disclosure, there's some from me earlier today). I am reading that article and sighing a lot and plotting to move to the Netherlands.

digitalprimate: There could be water stuck between the brake cable and the plastic housing outside, and when it freezes the brake will stop working. For a temporary fix stick hot water on it to see if it frees up, if it does then you'll need to clear out the water - if only part of the cable is covered you might be able to shift it up and down and clear it, then you can regrease the cable and put it back. If the cable is fully housed I don't know how to fix it short of a new cable.
posted by penguinliz at 1:47 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here's the American solution to winter biking and unplowed paths. I ran into a guy yesterday who rode one of these across the frozen Utah lake.
posted by mecran01 at 3:31 PM on February 13, 2013

Anchorage did an excellent job of clearing the bike trails using huge drivable snowblower things. It was great. Unfortunately this blessed event was frequently followed by someone in a plow plowing the road directly onto the nice clear bike path.
posted by fshgrl at 3:37 PM on February 13, 2013

Incidentally, drying out brake cable housings is one of the few things that WD-40 does well. WD = Water Displacer. Just disconnect/rearrange the cable housing enough so there's no low spots, spray some in the top, and watch black goo pour out the bottom.

I recommend against greasing the entire cable housing - just pack the points where water seeps in (usually the top, by your brake handle).
posted by anthill at 3:49 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do some cities not keep the bike paths clear? That's outrageous - how do people get to work?

On a more serious note, recently, I've visited London, Rome and Paris, all cities where they try to encourage bikes rather than cars for local traffic. But also all cities where riding a bike is associated with biking as a sport, with special bikes, costumes, helmets etc. This seems exotic and uncomfortable to me, and I'm a person who grew up to see a young man in a car, on a scooter (or God forbid) in a bus as unmanly, because a bike is the natural and macho choice. (Really, I have several adult friends who don't have a drivers license).

The images from Holland, of normal people doing normal things seem important to me.
posted by mumimor at 3:55 PM on February 13, 2013

oh and DP, I usually carry an oilspray during winter, to prevent frozen gears and brakes. It's not entirely preventable, but well-oiled gear helps
posted by mumimor at 4:05 PM on February 13, 2013

Do some cities not keep the bike paths clear? That's outrageous - how do people get to work?

I have bad news for you: a lot of cities don't have any bike paths, or have badly planned ones.
posted by Kitteh at 4:17 PM on February 13, 2013

MartinWisse: Here in Den Haag, no one clears the sidewalks. At all. Even a few cm of snow gets compacted into ice within a couple of days, and the entire city's sidewalks turn into an impassible mess. My landlord was the only person on our entire street to clear the snow away.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:47 PM on February 13, 2013

Chicago does a pretty decent job of clearing the paths through parks and such, like the much-travelled Lake Front Trail. But bike lanes just become places for plows to displace the snow to on most streets, in my experience.

I am happy to take the lane as needed, but I am sure bike lanes full of snow, slush and ice discourage some less aggressive/confidence cyclists from getting on their bikes in winter.
posted by misskaz at 5:01 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am happy to take the lane as needed, but I am sure bike lanes full of snow, slush and ice discourage some less aggressive/confidence cyclists from getting on their bikes in winter.

I'm also a very comfortable urban cyclist and will ride to work in the rain or in temperatures down to the teens (Fahrenheit) , but I do not ride once the snow comes and the plowing narrows the streets. I'm lucky that I have good public transit in my city (Boston) and I have a ton of respect for those who ride to work year round.
posted by Aizkolari at 5:42 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine recently did a bike tour of the Netherlands to learn about their bike infrastructure. He did a presentation on it last week....there is some information here (including a nice video about how bike commuting is so culturally different in the Netherlands compared to USA-ian transportation planning). Also, Boulder, when I lived there at least, did a great job of keeping the bike paths cleared in the winter. Of course, that is Boulder.
posted by fieldtrip at 7:35 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here in Den Haag, no one clears the sidewalks.

Well, what can you expect from Hagenezen? In my Amsterdam-Noord neighbourhood I never get the chance to clear the pavement, as my retired neighbour is always quicker.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:26 PM on February 13, 2013

damning failure
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 12:48 PM on February 15, 2013

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