By Stephen Kurz
Growing up in Canada, winter cyclists were few and far between. Admittedly, I too was a seasonal rider. In the past ten years however, winter cycling has become increasingly common in my hometown, especially in the city center. Still, my main association with winter cycling at that time was either hardcore bicycle messengers who looked like they were dressed as though they were preparing for battle, or the increasingly popular “fat bikes” for which a lucky few had the funds to invest and the space to store them.
When I moved to the Netherlands in 2016 for graduate studies, I realized that winter cycling could be different. Of course, the Netherlands gets nowhere near as much snow or is as cold as most Canadian cities. Dutch winters are instead mainly characterized by wind and rain, and lots of it, but for the most part, this scarcely stops the Dutchies from hopping on their fiets (Dutch for “bikes”) to get to where they need to go.
Having worked with both European and North American clients, many consider the CROW “Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic” as the bible of Dutch cycling design. Many cities look to this manual as one of the guides on cycling infrastructure design, but once they seek to implement any of its recommendations, they throw in the towel when confronted with winter conditions.
In the first few months as a consultant, one of my colleagues suggested I take a good look at the CROW’s winter maintenance manual. I thought, “Sure, get the Canadian guy to read about winter road maintenance. I get it…” Needless to say, like many manuals, it was a rather dry read, full of tables, figures, and more information on salts and brines that I will ever need or want to know. Despite the heavy content, it did contain some valuable lessons about winter maintenance for bicycle infrastructure.