Winter Cycling in Amsterdam

Because cycling isn’t considered a sport in Holland—it’s transportation, as any Dutchie will tell you—it doesn’t have a season. When winter rolls around, people still bike everywhere because the same rules of cycling apply year-round: it’s cheap, you never get stuck in traffic, you can always find a parking space (though you can be fined: see previous post) and as a bonus, it gets your blood flowing.

For the last few days in Amsterdam the snow has been falling, giving us our first real taste of winter. Day time temperatures dipped below zero (Celsius) and as I originally grew up in Minnesota (which locals jokingly call Minne-snow-ta for obvious reasons) I cycled for the first few days, determined not to let the snow, slush and stretches of black ice deter me.

But I will say, cycling through snow in an urban setting isn’t like cycling through the countryside, where if you slip, you might slide into a tree—as opposed to an oncoming tram, like you might in Amsterdam. Cycling during the winter requires extra diligence, alertness and a certain degree of faith that you’ve got enough traction to stay on course. Wherever it leads, because all the bike paths more or less disappeared under the snow.

Yesterday, I nearly froze my hands off after trying to remove the slush that had frozen solid on my front wheel. When I finally got on the bike, well, there’s nothing quite like trying to steer when you can no longer feel your fingers. It took me a long time to get home because I had to dismount frequently, long enough to shove my hands in my pockets to defrost, before continuing on my way.

Perhaps the owner of this bike felt similarly and just gave up, opting for something more practical, like a taxi:

Today was warmer and the snow was beginning to melt, creating that ubiquitous, unappetizing brownish slush around town. There weren’t too many people let alone cyclists on the streets, but as you can see, the snow plus bikes still makes for good art:

I don’t see the winter as being any reason not to cycle and use my trusty speed, though the elements have been harsher than I expected. So I am taking a hiatus but a temporary one. Still, there is no deterring most Amsterdammers from cycling to and fro because bikes are really like legs around here–an extension of the entire person.





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