Winter is when infrastructure really matters

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:

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

9 thoughts on “Winter is when infrastructure really matters

  1. Rachel

    As a regular but cautious cycling commuter I’ve only fallen off 4 times in the last 26 years: once on slimy algae (on a pavement I was cycling on illegally so fair cop); once when I attempted steps on a canal towpath that were too steep; once on loose grit when I lost the cycle path to Rothley and ended up on a hard shoulder – but the first time was 25 years ago when I was coming downhill to a traffic lights in icy weather and braked – and yes, the bike just slid out from under me leaving me lying in the middle of the road. The bike is staying firmly in the garage whilst this spell lasts! But you’re right about the infrastructure – I wouldn’t mind risking a fall if it stood no chance of putting me in the way of 4 wheels.

  2. Olive Morgan

    Both of you can at least go out! Apart from the fact that you haven’t got as much snow where you are as we have here in Berkshire and Hampshire, you are able to get out walking. With my Completely fused ankles fixed at 90%, I can’t get into wellies or boots and the snow is too deep here for my ordinary (hospital provided) shoes, so I’m having to stay indoors unless my friends take me to church.

  3. Dave

    I know what you mean. I had to take my Mother-in-law to the podiatrist today. Getting from the wheelchair in and out of the car was scary with all the ice. She also did not appreciate the 180 degree skid just outside her bungalow on the way back – oop’s

  4. Olive Morgan

    My podiatrist appointment was cancelled – indefinitely! All the hospital outpatients’ appointmeents are cancelled. My neighbours can’t take their cars out now! One has walked down to Waitrose to do my shopping and she says all the shelves are very empty and there was no milk or bread. (She got some elsewhere though.) Our milkman hasn’t managed to get to deliver as usual, so I hope he can resume soon. More important, I’m wondering if anyone will be able to take me up the hill to church for our Covenant Service on Sunday!

  5. Dave

    You have it a lot worse. But we are taking many people to church by car and today I forced one lady to ride in the wheelchair from the car park into chapel and then back afterwards.
    Yes, the link is in my post above.

  6. Olive Morgan

    A former neighbour walking past this morning stopped to ask if I needed anything, and he cleared and salted a narrow pathway down my steep front drive for the milkman if he ever manages to come again while this deep snow lasts. All my friends who normally take me to church email to say that they can’t take their cars out of their drives! Tonight it is forecast that it will be as cold, or almost, as the Polar region!

  7. Dave

    Glad to hear about your former neighbour. It is fortunate you are able to be online and so still connect with people.
    Hope this won’t last much longer.

  8. Olive Morgan

    The Senior Church Steward has emailed to say that I must stay put on Sunday because, even if any of my friends can take their cars out, it’s not sensible to attempt to drive up and down the steep roads up the hill to Caversham Heights. He says that even if he could get his car out of his drive in Henley,he would not get much further. They can walk to the shops but there’s no way they could walk all the way to Caversham Heights.
    So he’s relying on people who live near the church, saying ‘I’ve got stewards, music, an AV team and a preacher; and the Minister will conduct another Covenant Service in February for those who can’t make it on Sunday.’
    Another Steward has just emailed me ‘The Property Steward has advised no one drives to church as parking in Highmoor is awful and even if cars could get into the car parks they would never get out.’
    So it looks as though I shall have to stay indoors.


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