Day Three: Winter cycling data, maintenance, “Frostbike” & more

Day three included good content both in and outside the congress venue. Bike and bus tours gave participants insight into how and why cycling works in Leeuwarden. Photo by Annie Van Cleve.
Day three included good content both in and outside the congress venue. Bike and bus tours gave participants insight into how and why cycling works in Leeuwarden. Photo by Annie Van Cleve.

Great content just kept coming and coming and then all the sudden it was over! Here are summaries of a few presentations. Full presentation will be posted soon so keep checking back.

One last thing, in case you missed the announcement, the Winter Cycling Congress will be held in the United States for the first time ever in 2016. Save the date for Winter Cycling Congress Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota next February!

Before WCC Oulu, Timo Perälä collected some data about winter cycling mostly from Scandinavian traffic surveys and reports. Still, this is not a complete picture of winter cycling around the world. Slide from Timo Perälä's presentation.
Before WCC Oulu, Timo Perälä collected some data about winter cycling mostly from Scandinavian traffic surveys and reports. Still, this is not a complete picture of winter cycling around the world. Slide from Timo Perälä’s presentation.

Counting in the cold: Measuring & comparing winter cycling throughout the world

Winter cycling was ignored for a very long time and as a result, we don’t have enough data. But what data is most important to track cycling in communities around the world? Bike counts? Traffic surveys? Infrastructure data? Weather information? Economic data? Timo Perälä, President of the Winter Cycling Federation and Anders Swanson of CounterPoint talked about their experiences gathering data about winter cycling and the challenges and opportunities associated. Then, the group split into small groups to discuss the following questions.

  • The site – How do you define community? What is most important for research, advocacy, comparison, media interest, etc.?
  • Metrics – What are the metrics we can/should use? i.e. When measuring winter cycling what exactly should we be looking for? What methods already exist that we could refine/build on/combine? What new methods should we be pursuing?
  • Knowledge transfer – How do we share the word to academics, politicians, advocates, CNN, Oprah, etc.? What are the critical formats in each of the media types. If this info could appear somewhere, where, ideally, would you want it to appear?
  • You – How would/can you use this info? What are you doing already? Can you/how can you contribute to the effort?

If you have feedback about these questions, please leave a comment. Also, the data collected via the Winter Cycling Cities survey will be available soon. In fact, the survey is still available, if your city would like to share information.

Cyclists and other users of bicycle infrastructure, like the people shown here, have priority at roundabouts in Leeuwarden. Photo by Annie Van Cleve.
Cyclists and other users of bicycle infrastructure, like the people shown here, have priority at roundabouts in Leeuwarden. Photo by Annie Van Cleve.

Vrij Baan Tour: a look at Leeuwarden’s integrated multimodal transportation system

Dutch cycling doesn’t just work because of the cycle tracks – in fact, the general rule is to mix when you can and separate when you must – but also because they have an entire bicycle networks connecting origins and destinations and integrating with networks for other modes of transportation. This tour showed how the bike infrastructure fits into the entire transportation system for the city moving from the city centre to the suburbs.

Tunnels beneath the roundabouts in Leeuwarden make crossing safe for cyclists. Photo by Annie Van Cleve.
Tunnels beneath the roundabouts in Leeuwarden make crossing safe for cyclists. Photo by Annie Van Cleve.

In the centre, it is very slow going for motorized traffic. Intersections are commonly designed as roudabouts and cyclists have priority over cars. On the busy arterials, going away from the city, roudabouts are also used, but cycling infrastructure is grade-separated so cyclists travel through the intersection using tunnels that go underneath the roads for motorized traffic. They are also working to improve bike connections between the city and suburbs. Bike & Park is a form of bike-sharing that is funded by companies and free for commuters. People park their cars in a parking lot outside the city and then take a bike from one of the secure lockers for the last leg of their journey into the city centre. Every two weeks, a bike mechanic comes by to make sure the bikes are in good order. By 2017, there will be 200 bikes available through this system.

Park & Bike stations provide commuters the opportunity to make the final leg of their journey into the city by bike. Photo by Annie Van Cleve.
Park & Bike stations provide commuters the opportunity to make the final leg of their journey into the city by bike. Photo by Annie Van Cleve.

In Leeuwarden, cyclists ride even outside of the city centre. Efforts are made to ensure the cycle paths are as comfortable as possible. For example, on an aqueduct – or tunnel that runs under the canal – a grade separated cycle track runs alongside the road and is designed so the grade is as gentle as possible. Lights and artwork also make the tunnel more comfortable. Leeuwarden has created a new ring road to divert motorized traffic around the city. As these major investments are made in new transportation infrastructure, citizens are engaged through monthly tours, just like the one WCC delegates participated in.

Viewed from above, an aqueduct in Leeuwarden is designed so cyclists using the cycle track climb up a gentle grade. Photo by Annie Van Cleve.
Viewed from above, an aqueduct in Leeuwarden is designed so cyclists using the cycle track climb up a gentler grade than the cars. Photo by Annie Van Cleve.

Land use planning is the bed – land use as a part of winter maintenance of cycle routes In a winter city, good land use practices are necessary to ensure good maintenance.

Kalle Vaismaa of the Transportation Research Centre at Tampere University of Technology in Finland identified the following bottlenecks for winter maintenance: disordered bicycle networks, non-homogenous routes, too little snow storage space and the expense involved in clearing snow. In planning snow removal, he recommends the following be taken under consideration: maximum distance between snow storage spaces – in Helsinki, a study showed 200 metres is the ideal distance – topography, ice water, ground-bearing capacity and groundwater areas.

Kalle Vaismaa discussed the key elements necessary to good winter maintenance. Photo by Annie Van Cleve.
Kalle Vaismaa discussed the key elements necessary to good winter maintenance. Slide from Kalle Vaismaa’s presentation.

Calgary’s centre city cycle track network: Winter maintenance guidelines & strategies

The City of Calgary is building a pilot project consisting of four cycle tracks in their city centre, which means they needed winter maintenance strategies and recommendations to make it through the snowy Canadian winter. Anders Swanson spoke about his experience advising Calgary on this issue, which is complicated by the fact that in general guidelines or standards are lacking for winter maintenance of bike infrastructure. Further, the most efficient approach to winter maintenance is to start by clearing the sidewalk, then clearing the cycle track and finally the street. However in most cases, sidewalks are maintained by adjacent property owners, which means high-quality and consistent clearance can be problematic and depending on timing even conflict or undo work that has already been done on surrounding infrastructure. In developing an approach to winter maintenance, he recommends taking the following under consideration: level of service, cycle track design, maintenance techniques, operational organizations, monitoring & evaluation and communication & feedback. He also recommends including winter maintenance in the budget of projects.

Considerations for developing winter maintenances strategies & recommendations. Slide from Anders Swanson.
Considerations for developing winter maintenances strategies & recommendations. Slide from Anders Swanson.

Building the winter network: Policy to ploughs

Kaely Dekker continued the conversation about the City of Calgary where he works as a part of the Active Transportation Team. In Calgary, a little more than 850 kilometres of bicycle infrastructure exists and the city current ploughs a network of 350 kilometres in the winter. 30 percent of cyclists continue year-round. The typical winter cyclist is male, over the age of 25, riding a bike to commute and riding regardless of temperature. Typical trips for 46 percent of these cyclists are up to 10 kilometres one way. It will be interesting to watch Calgary as a North American example of a city working to be bike-friendly in every season.

Ole Kassow was not in attendance at #WCC15 but he shared a video about his work taking senior citizens on cycling trips in Denmark. Photo by Ole Kassow.
Ole Kassow was not in attendance at #WCC15 but he shared a video about his work taking senior citizens on cycling trips in Denmark. Photo by Ole Kassow.

“Frostbike: The joy, pain & numbness of winter cycling”

This is the title of a book by yet another Calgarian, Keynote Speaker Tom Babin. Tom described his experience becoming a year-round bike commuter. He identified three key factors to consider, including: the bike, the city and the attitude, or rather approaching winter with a positive attitude. He discussed the need for more positive depictions of winter and also touched on fat biking, which is a rising trend in North America. He told the story of a group of Calgary kids who are helping to normalize winter cycling simply by meeting every morning to ride to school together all year-round. Tom explained that since he started riding in winter and especially since he published his book, people often ask him for advice about how to ride in winter. His response is: figure it out for yourself, which he means in the best possible way, because actually winter riding doesn’t have to be that complicated, as Tom learned. Finally, he closed with this advice, “dress warm, ride safe and have fun!”

We’ll echo that sentiment. Happy winter cycling and check back again soon! The congress might be over but winter is not, we have more stories to tell.

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