Sunday, January 10, 2010

Snow clearance in Vienna

Currently we have some snow in Vienna. Finally :). I'm very happy about that. I love the white beauty, and also the challenge to cycle in this weather. Snow clearance in Vienna works almost alright. Let me show you some examples.

Most bike paths I used so far have been plowed. Well, if the last clearance was a while ago then they were again covered with snow. That can be very dangerous if the snow freezes. I am always very careful to not ride in some existent tracks. Cyling like that gets quite exhausting after a while. And it makes me slightly angry when I see that both the street and the sidewalk are completely free of snow, but nobody bothered to plow the bike paths for the whole day.

Cycling along one of the major bike paths in Vienna -- the Gürtel: morning (left, center) vs. evening (right)

On the other hand, I certainly have to complain about the bike lanes. Although they make up most of Vienna's bicycle network, they are almost ignored in the winter. In fact they are often used as spare space and filled up with the snow of the car lanes and hence (at least partially) covered in snow, mud or grit. There are very few examples of cleared bike lanes. Still, these conditions are acceptable if I can safely cycle on the road, but it's very annoying e.g. in a one-way street when I have to move into the oncoming lane. It's also dangerous because some car drivers don't respect the circumstances and still overtake in the same way as they usually would (cycling in the middle of the lane is often not an option, because it might also be covered in mud).

It's not only the fault of the snow plows though. This muddy dirty snow is often created by cars pulling in and out of parking lanes beside the bike lanes. These problems, in fact, are closely related to the fact that bike lanes in Vienna are generally designed too narrow.

Rather poor (or simply no) bike lane clearance

Overall I dislike is the priority of the snow plowing in Vienna: all car lanes first, then sidewalks (if not to be done by house owners) and at the very bottom bicycle infrastructure. When I have to see that, e.g. at the Gürtel, car drivers have about 4 (almost dry) lanes in each direction and I have to struggle on a snow- or mud-covered bike paths then I get sad and angry. It's obvious that cyclists are not treated equally by the authorities. I don't even want to imagine the untroubled winter biking conditions in Copenhagen and other, similarly civilized, parts of Europe.

And I can understand people that don't want to use their bikes in the winter. No, cycling in the winter is not dangerous, but more efforts are needed to make it really safe and enjoyable. For those who still cycle in such conditions: don't forget good lighting etc., ride carefully and have fun. I will :).

Side roads often look like that (quite ok since one can choose where to cycle :))

If necessary, how does snow clearance look like in your country? Is your bicycle infrastructure cleared of snow regularly? Do you ride your bike when the roads/bike lanes are not plowed or do you switch to public transport or car? Why (not)?


Sox said...

We have precious little bicycle infrastructure tho' hopefully that will change soon.

l' homme au velo said...

The Councils do not clear the Cycle Lanes in Dublin of Snow only the Main Roads are cleared. The Pathway for Pedestrians suffer a similar fate and are not usually cleared either. But because of all the Pedestrians slipping and Receiving Injuries like Broken Wrists and Hips and Legs they sent out the Council Workers to clear some Paths in the City Centre where the Shops are .This is to keep People going to the Shops and Business'es open not for the Benefit of the Actual People just Commerce. People using their Bikes cannot use the Bike Lanes but have to keep out towards the Middle of Roads to avoid the Snow and Ice. Those very few Dedicated Cycleways cannot be used because they are not cleared of Snow. We suffer from very narrow Cycle Lanes as well and you can be Doored by Passengers getting out of Cars as there is no Gap between Cars and Cyclists on the Cyclelanes,so Normally when you go by a line of Parked Cars you have to keep out a Doors width where the Cars are Driving. Also the Government is Running out of Grit and salt and is using ordinary Sand mixed with the Grit and Salt to Eke it out. So they Prioritize which Roads will get Gritted like some Main Roads only.

Sonja said...

In Turku bike lanes are cleared at the same time with sidewalks, and usually snow doesn't cause much problems. Of course, there's nothing that you can do about drifting snow and blizzards. Also, no matter how often you plow, the hard packed snow crust will form sooner or later on less stressed paved areas such as bike lanes. They use salt in the high traffic car lanes, but gravel in the slower roads, sidewalks and bike lanes. No complaints really, I'm happy with the system :). However, the air can get really nasty in the winter. For some reason exhaust gases stink and cause breathing problems much more when its cold. Today I got really nauseous while riding next to a 4-laned road. I had to find quiter but longer paths to survive back home. I want fresh air, ban cars for the winter! ;)

Frits B said...

My experience in Assen in Holland (you know, where David Hembrow lives) is that both streets and cycle paths are clear whereas pedestrians have to struggle. Shows them the proper hierarchy on the road.

Velouria said...

You like snow because it presents a challenge for cycling?
Interesting point of view!

I love snow, but this is in conflict with my love for cycling; I prefer not to cycle in the snow and only do it out of necessity. I would gladly switch to nordic skiing in the winter, but there is not quite enough snow on the streets of Boston for that.

anna said...

@ Filigree: Of course I also like convenient cycling, but there's also a reason why I own a mtb :). I like to ride technically too, and I don't get to do it so often. Winter cycling, cycling on sand etc. requires more technical skills, and that's what I like. I like to get somewhere fast and safe. But I also like the fun :).

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