As you probably know I bike all year around. No weather stops me from dragging my bicycle out of the shed in the morning to bike the 7 km to work. Most days I really look forward to doing that. I do have days I don’t look forward to it tough. Like the day it started raining just before I left, still being below freezing. Or maybe any day when I realise that if I just would have gotten out of bed half an hour earlier I would have gotten to work dry.
In general winters are more of a challenge than the rest of the year. Snow and ice just makes it harder and slower to get anywhere. And it also makes it just a bit more unsafe.
This year’s winter was (maybe is still, who knows if it actually is on its way out) an easy winter. Not much snow and the snow that did come came late. Still the city managed to make life harder than necessary for us cyclists. Getting the snow of the bike paths is not always easy. But most of the time it is done acceptable. Getting the snow of the bike lanes is a bit harder. Sometimes they get it right and you can use it, but most of the time it is used as snow deposit for the snow from the sidewalk and road. The connections between bike paths and lanes along the route I bike every day were almost never cleared. Most times they were actually used to put up extra big piles of snow.
This creates a dilemma: Do I bike on the sidewalk, or do I bike on the road? Most of the time the sidewalk is the better option, but at bus stops and in other places where there are many pedestrians it’s just not a good idea. I sent this question to the city officials but I haven’t gotten any answer yet and now I don’t need the answer anymore this winter, the snow has melted far enough to bike the right way.
The other day the city released a program to improve the conditions for bicyclists in the town. It looks like a good thing. They want many more to choose the bike to get to work. The only way to actually accomplish this is by improving the winter conditions. During the spring, summer and autumn many people already bike to work, but when the snow makes it tricky and in many cases dangerous it is a totally different story. To get more people to bike at times when the public transport and the roads are most overcrowded one has to have speck free bike paths and lanes. In fact they have to be better than the roads.
When I lived in Denmark they used rotating brushes to clear the last layer of snow on the bike paths, making them almost free of snow. If there came to much snow to clear with the brush, they used a plough and then the brush, always making it easy to bike. Stockholm could learn from that.
Leaving piles of snow on the connections is just not acceptable. If it isn’t possible to clear the snow from these places then they should be rebuilt to make it easier to clear the snow (some of them are very narrow now, making it impossible to clear them with a machine).
Yesterday I had to get my bicycle fixed. The pedals have felt a bit stiff for a while now and the gears started to malfunction letting the chain jump when I needed extra power. As I biked home on Tuesday the left pedal fell off. Luckily it was only the bearing that held it place that broke, so as long as I held it in place with my foot I could still use it. This left me with no other choice than to get it to the shop and get it fixed. So I did and with the spring not really here yet I got it done within the day.
Now it works fine again. I just have to get it clean. But that will wait until the night are not freezing, pouring water on our road that would freeze during night would not make me the favourite neighbour. It is slippery enough without me adding extra ice to the road.
As to the icy roads: I have spiked winter tyres on my bicycle during the winter making it sometimes harder to walk to the bike-shed than to bike to work. They really work wonders. (They don’t let me bike like there is no ice, but I don’t have to be afraid to slip as long as I’m not too fast). Like the day when it started raining just before I left home and the night had been cold. I saw cars that had a hard time stopping. Even I had a hard time at a traffic light; when I put down my foot it slipped (I stayed up though). But I had no problems with breaking or taking turns.
I’m so happy I work in a place where I can bike to. It wakes me up in the morning, gets me some basic exercise and saves me something like half an hour or so every day on commuting.
I recommend everybody to give it a try. You’ll feel better. (If you have a too long distance all the way, try to do a part of the way).