2 of 7 excuses why Ireland can’t copy cycling in the Netherlands

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: The Netherlands is just over 1,000km from Ireland. So, why does Ireland’s attempts at cycle routes continue to fall desperately short compared to a country so close to us? Myths around our differences don’t explain the full story, but they hamper progress. In this mini-series — one published each day this week — we explore seven of the main myths:

2. “It rains too much in Ireland to cycle”

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Copenhagen and Amsterdam both have slightly more ‘wet days’ than Dublin (as per the chart above scraped from data on BBC.co.uk a few years ago). As IrishCycle.com has long highlighted on our Myths: Weather page, Amsterdam and Dublin have comparable rain fall, while Copenhagen has extreme cold weather and snow in the winter.

That page also links to a study, Weather and Cycling in Dublin : Perceptions and Reality (PDF), which shows that the actual probability of getting wet while cycling in Dublin is low.

But since anecdotal evidence is often more persuasive in matters of myths, this is my anecdotal evidence: It rained the last three times I’ve visited the Netherlands in the last few years. On a visit to the Netherlands last year, it rained so much in Utrecht my camera suffered (temporary) damage from dampness and the next day in Eindhoven it rained so much that my shoes were water damaged (not temporary).

In Eindhoven, we visited the Hovenring — the city’s floating cycling roundabout — and the weather was so poor this was the best photo I could take:

Eindhoven Hovenring

The Eindhoven rain was said to be unusually bad weather, but the main point is that it rains in the Netherlands at comparable levels to Ireland. Yes, the west of Ireland (that’s where IrishCycle.com HQ is located!) gets more rain than Dublin, but, if the amount of rain was the main issue, Dublin would have more cycling than Amsterdam.

Drivers can be less predictable and more aggressive in the rain. Maybe it’s the rain-related congestion or maybe it’s some type of primordial reaction, but, in Irish cities, rain seem to make drivers go bonkers. On the other hand, while cycling in the rain in the Netherlands, you mostly only have to worry about the rain. Segregating cycling from main roads makes such a huge difference.

In the right conditions, people adapt to smaller problems such as rain. Traditional rain gear, things like waterproof rain skirts and even umbrellas can be used to keep you a bit drier if rain kicks up:

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Dutch cycling in the rain Amsterdam

Wind is also stated as an issue in Ireland but we’re not the country where the wind gets so bad enough of the time to justify “walk with your bicycle signs” in some locations. That’s the Netherlands:

Wind warning on cycle path in the Netherlands

2 Comments

  1. Barbara Connolly November 15, 2016 at 9:10 am

    Remember the Hovenring well, rain so heavy I couldn’t see through my glasses! Great analysis and you make a great case for a change of approach here

  2. And it gets fricking cold in NL too. One of the years I lived there, the canals and lakes in Utrecht were frozen solid for 6 weeks straight.

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