Flashback Friday – Cycling and Snow: It’s the Little Details

Bike Lane in the Snow

There was a little bit of excitement in Christchurch yesterday as a bit of snow showed up around the city, some of it flirting with sea level. Still, it pales in significance to some of the decent  snowfalls of the past, including the record-breaking “big snow” of 2012. At the time, biking around the city was an interesting experience, and even more so in the days afterwards, as noted in this blog post originally from June 2012

The big thaw is now underway in Christchurch, and it’s time to go back to work as well. So off on my trusty steed I headed this morning. Cycling after a snowfall is “interesting” because of the potential ice hazard still lurking. Unless you have some of Steven’s magnificent snow-chains, it’s all about straight, smooth lines…

One problem is finding your favourite bike lanes. Motor traffic is generally happy to carve their way through snow and ice and create some clear paths in the traffic lanes. Two-wheelers (not surprisingly) are usually less keen to blaze a trail on untouched white stuff; so the bike lanes generally stay hidden for some time (except for the inside corners where cars cut across them – funny that…). Even today, after quite a bit of snow melt has occurred, this was a fairly common sight on many cycle routes:

Bike Lane in the Snow
Snow/hail is another hazard that doesn’t easily go from bike lanes without a little help

The net effect is that I probably spent more time in traffic lanes than bike lanes getting to work. My thanks to the motorists who were patient enough to let me “borrow” their traffic lane for a moment – actually I find that traffic is pretty courteous when everyone has to take a bit more care than normal on the roads.

On getting to University, I faced another little problem in getting to my bike parking. One of the reasons that campus was closed yesterday was to ensure that all of the main roads and pathways around campus were reasonably safe and free of snow and ice. The University has some wonderful secure covered bike parking areas. However evidently no-one had thought to make sure that the way to them was also clear:

Bike Parking entrance in the snow
Would you ride on this?

I decided against doing my usual ride in featuring a sharp turn up the ramp to the parking entrance; the sections of ice were a little off-putting.  Gingerly walking my bike in seemed more sensible, and I hope no cyclists before or after me found out “the hard way” that discretion was probably the better part of valour…

We hear a lot about what Copenhagen does for cycling but, a bit further west in Denmark is the city of Odense (pop.190,000). Odense was actually designated Denmark’s national cycling city, with over 25% of trips by bike, and it features some fantastic cycling initiatives (maybe more of them another time). Being a fairly cool climate, Odense gets quite a bit of snow, but it is instructive to see what is first to get cleared on the streets:

Bike lane snow clearing in Odense
Bike lane snow clearing in Odense (courtesy Troels Andersen)

Perhaps this is why, even when it snows, Odense still gets more people on their bikes than we do normally…

What do you think about biking in the snow?

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