Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Segregated bikeways in the winter

Segregated bikeways are important for safety and comfort of the cyclists. Physical separation from the evil cars make us feel safer, and the noise level is lower. They are even more important in the winter.

The cars are weird vehicles. On gravel road their tires clear the road from loose gravel, and during the winter they try to do the same with the snow. The problem is they will only clear two tracks on the road, leaving rest of the snow and ice on the road. In the picture you can see the clear tracks and about 5 cm of packed snow and ice on other parts of the road. Now this is early in the winter, and we get three more months of snow here in Oulu. What happens is that later on, those cleared tracks will become narrower and narrower or maybe even fill up. If you cycle in the tracks, getting away from them will be difficult. If you cycle on the shoulder... umm, where is it anyway? Find the shoulder in the picture:
Well maintained road early in the winter.
Road maintenance crews remove the excess ice from the road every now and then, but they can't get it all away. The road surface will be uneven, with some parts of 5 or 10 cm higher (thicker layer of ice on it) than others. This is not a good surface to cycle on.

Compare this to a well maintained bikeway below. Snow is removed, some gritting and there you go. It does not matter much that there is ice under your tires. If it is even and gritted, you can cycle on it. Cold, dry ice is not even very slippery. That's because the surface is not smooth and the tires can get a grip on it. If the ice melts during the day and freezes every night, it becomes very smooth and slippery.

Well maintained bikeway early in the winter.

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