So we have had a bit of snow and ice in recent days. I really mean a bit, here it has not been very deep but it did get very slippery where it was not cleared and got packed down (most residential roads and nearly all pavements).
So I have not done any cycling. A couple of years ago I fell off when the bike just slipped out from under me. Last year I had a bigger fall when caught out in a few inches on my way to Launde Abbey so I am cautious about going out cycling in icy weather.
There are several problems:
- Falling off on ice. Itself not a big deal, the problem is that you will be cycling on the road (we don't have much in the way of cycle facilities here and anyway I don't think any of them are cleared or gritted). When you fall in the road the danger is from cars etc who have not been giving you enough space and who you feel are likely to run over you.
- Lack of gritting: It is not a very priority so all the quiet roads where we normally cycle (as there are no cycle facilities) don't get cleared. They soon become sheets of ice as there are just enough cars to pack the snow without clearing tracks then a bit of thawing during the day and freezing at nice and you just get sheet ice. Terrible for cycling
- Lack of cycle facilities. As there are no cycle facilities (or they are not cleared of snow and ice) you have to ride in the road. On many roads there will be quite a long period of time where there will be clear tracks where the car wheels go but deep icy snow on the sides. This is very dangerous for cyclists. We have to ride in the tracks but then cars can''t overtake and they get very very impatient very very quickly. Then they either squeeze past using the same tracks or go onto the ice themselves. Both are insanely dangerous for the cyclist..
For any claim to be a nation supporting cycling as a sensible, practical, cheap, efficient, green means of transport we must have a proper infrastructure. That means:
- Good cycle routes fully separated from motorized vehicles. In towns and cities and between them as well.
- Proper maintenance of cycle facilities (repairs, lighting, routes around roadworks, snow ploughs, gritting, leaf sweeping)
- Legal protection. Vulnerable modes of transport (cycling, pedestrians) need to be assured that the law will automatically assign fault to the more powerful modes of transport (cars, buses, vars, lorries etc).
Here are a few blog posts demonstrating how it is possible to keep people cycling in winter:
- David Hembrow: Rural bike paths in the winter.
- David Hembrow: Happy New Year.
- Copenhagenize.com – The Copenhagen Bike Culture Blog: Winter Bicycles Continue.
Britain is falling further and further behind. We are simply not making the basic investments needed to transform our rates of cycling yet it is increasing essential that we do so for our health, our economy, our communities and our environment. Radical action is needed fast