I was talking with someone recently who said that all on road bike lanes should only exist for the non-winter months. It doesn’t make sense, in their opinion, to block part of a road off when so few people cycle. The problem is that even fewer people will cycle if there is no infrastructure, so shutting what little infrastructure there is down is going to reduce the number of people further.
At the same time, I get it. If you’re sitting in your car trying to get somewhere, and you see an empty bike lane, it’s frustrating. So, do we just shut down bike lanes in the winter or is there another option?
Hudde (2022) compared seasonal cycling rates in Germany and the Netherlands. The rate of cycling all year is higher in the Netherlands. And while there is a decrease in winter it is significantly smaller than what is seen in Germany. Surely, that’s because of the weather right?
Wrong, the weather did not account for the change. People’s reaction to the weather did. In other words, while the Netherlands promotes cycling as a year round activity, Germany is much more focused on promoting cycling as a summer activity. In fact, German even has a term for ‘the cycling season’: Fahrradsaison. Implicitly, this states that there is a season for cycling and a season for not cycling.
This is actually a positive finding because culture can be changed. Creating better infrastructure, promoting cycling through policies and incentives. Perhaps even having some ways that people could borrow some of the gear to try winter cycling before they commit could potentially help shift the culture towards being more accepting of year round cycling. This in turn, could help populate that bike infrastructure in the winter months so that drivers look and see the cyclists passing them and wonder how they could get involved.
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