Tagwinter

It snowed in Amsterdam

And as we like to say in Chicago, Amsterdammers also said “it was no big deal”.

I love what you see happening in this photo. A person cycling across the intersection is looking back at a white van and a streetcar that seem like they’re going to collide. But no one will hit each other. The Netherlands has the lowest crash rate in the world.

The blizzard’s calming effect

Last Wednesday night, after the blizzard had stopped and the city had plowed arterial roads, I took two buses to Pilsen in 36 minutes. Transit buses have an average speed lower than bicycling and I don’t think I could have biked there in 36 minutes. (I didn’t want to bike because I didn’t know the condition of roads from my new place in Avondale to dinner in Pilsen.)

I credit the speedy journey to the complete lack of cars on the road and the few people wanting to go out on Wednesday, as well as ride the bus.

The blizzard gave Chicagoans a break. Hundreds of thousands of workers stayed home on Wednesday. Thousands more got the day off on Thursday. Car traffic remained light through Friday and the Chicago Transit Authority trains and buses were packed on Thursday (partially because of mechanical problems on the Blue Line but also because of new riders who couldn’t drive or carpool).

Chicagoans enjoy strolling through Humboldt Park. Photo by Joshua Koonce.

Many people took walking tours around their parks and neighborhoods, or went to see the calamity of Lake Shore Drive. Flickr is loaded with the explorers’ photos. Check out 2,000+ labeled “snomg chicago.”

The blizzard’s effect on traffic and roads

The snow plows inadvertently created a curb extension at the main intersection in Wicker Park, often used as part of a traffic calming project. This was gone on Saturday, but in addition to its removal, the entire corner sidewalk was cleared.

A lot of bike lanes are buried right now and people riding bikes are riding in the middle shared lanes, further calming traffic. I’m not sure how long the civility I noticed between drivers and bicyclists last week will last, even as bike lanes remain “closed” or have been illegally co-opted into backup parking lanes. See next photo.

These drivers have illegally parked their cars in the bike lane. The municipal code does not offer any relevant (i.e. snow-related) exemptions for parking or standing in bike lanes.

Riding and driving through town has been interesting. There’s no room for people riding bikes to share the lane with drivers side by side, so they must share it front to back.

Let me help you plan your next vacation

Head to San Francisco, where they bike year round! (Amsterdammers and Copenhageners also bike year round, partly because they continue to have safe places to bicycle whereas Chicagoans deal with snowed-in bike lanes.)

Taken in November 2010.

Taken in January 2011.

Taken in January 2011.

All photos by Adrienne Johnson.

November snow

November snow photo by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WsDOT).

I rode this train, the Amtrak Cascades, from Portland to Seattle, but in April 2010. I would love to go back and ride it again, through the snow this time. It looks so beautiful.

I commend the Washington State Department of Transportation for its good presence on social media and social networking websites. I’m tracking where other DOTs are online.

It’s 13°F right now in Chicago – what that means for bicycling

It’s very cold right now. I had to state the obvious. But what does that mean for bicycling in Chicago, Illinois, and other Midwestern cities?

A bicyclist rides in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Read more about winter biking in the coldest of the Bike Friendly Cities: iciclebicycle, or MnBicycleCommuter.

You may have heard that the bike commuting rate in Copenhagen during the winter only decreases by 30%, and that 400,000 Copenhageners ride each day. Except it’s 35°F there now, and will be in February, too (when Chicago experiences some of its coldest, harshest days). We’re having the kind of weather that demands you cover your face. Thankfully, this conversation has already been had, twice.

So if you biked today, I salute you. I cycled today to my last class of graduate school on my slowly deteriorating cargo bike. That means I’ve mostly graduated – I deferred my final project by one semester but my goal is to submit it by New Year’s Day (although I have until May, 2010).

If you’re interested in biking through the winter, I have developed a simple message. The key to winter biking is held in a four-letter acronym: SARF. Continues after the jump. Continue reading

Biking in the winter

Frank's bikeHow do you get people to bike in the winter?

  1. You educate about clothing
  2. You make it safe
  3. And you educate some more (but this time about lighting and defensive riding)
  4. Remind them about transit

1. Bikers don’t need technical gear. So many websites talk about clothing on the cheap. I really don’t want to reiterate what they’ve said, but the key points are: wool, layers, windbreaker, wool, layers, and a windbreak. Got it?

2. CLEAR THE ROADS. And then clear the sidewalks so cyclists can get to the bike racks (well, this isn’t that big of an issue if your city chose the right bike rack – U-racks and wave racks stick out above the snow cover – see photo).

3. Since the days are shorter and the darkness lasts longer, lighting is a necessity. Most states require a front headlight (that means a white, battery-powered light and not a reflector, which is worthless). Bicyclists need to know how to ride safe. Every major North American city publishes something about safe cycling in urban settings. Here’s Chicago’s: English | Espanol (both in PDF).

4. Transit is everyone’s winter friend! For those who can’t ride their bike all the way, make sure they have the right materials to connect their short bike ride with a transit ride. It might even eliminate a transfer (and reduce the trip cost). Most transit agencies in North America have bike racks on the front of buses. Check your local transit agency’s website or information center (try headquarters) for a brochure on how to ride the bus – or train – with your bike.

It can be done!

P.S. I cannot stress lighting enough. Motorists appreciate it. It allows them to make more informed decisions about their driving path and speed. It also reduces aggression because they see that the cyclist is doing the right thing.

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