Thursday 28 August 2008

Cyclists Dismount !

We've now lived in the Netherlands for a year, and I've still not found a proper "Cyclists Dismount" sign.

I know what they should look like. the Dutch equivalent is "Fietsers Afstappen", and I have plenty of experience of encountering these things from cycling in the UK so I know what I'm looking for. However, they appear to be a theoretical possibility rather than a reality.

All I've found so far have been temporary signs erected around roadworks (though roadworks don't normally hinder Dutch cyclists), and cyclists are (quite reasonably) asked to dismount here in Assen when the market has completely filled the street. However, as of the time of writing I've not ever seen a permanent sign.

At the start of the 2006 Study Tour I offered €10 to the first person to spot a sign which read "Fietsers Afstappen", knowing that even though we were going to places where I'd never cycled before, there was very little chance of finding such a sign. I kept my money.

These signs can be seen as a bit of a joke, but they're much worse than that for cyclists. The problem is that each time you slow down and stop you lose a lot of momentum. It's like increasing your journey length by several hundred metres. This is why direct and uninterrupted cycle routes are such a good idea. Luckily, the planners here provide exactly that.

Of course it's not just important for commuters that routes should be convenient. It also makes cycling holidays far more relaxing and enjoyable.

The photo above was taken in Cambridge near where I used to live. At one time I had a plan to try to take photos of all such interruptions for cyclists), but I quickly realised this was an infeasibly big undertaking and the web page where the project started languishes out there in "cyberspace"...

The best photo of cyclists dismount signs that I've seen is to be found on Warrington Cycling Campaign's amusing "facility of the month" website. The Netherlands can't begin to compete with that...

At the end of this you may be wondering what happens in the Netherlands to avoid this problem. Try looking at these examples of making cycle routes direct.

(Sorry about no picture of a genuine "Fietsers Afstappen" sign to accompany the above. I've not been able to find one...)
Update 2010: I found one at last, built new here in Assen. There are extenuating circumstances...


  1. The sense I have is that (in Cambridge at least) traffic planners seeks to limit cyclists ability to conserve momentum, rather that help them to keep going. In particular, the barriers at Newmarket Road Tescos are remarkably effective.

  2. I used the picture from of Harlow in a presentation in Australia and it created enormous mirth. But there is a serious question - how could any highway engineer be fool enough to put up all these signs? And how could the council sanction such a decision? I wonder if there is anyone in Harlow who knows whether they are still there. Christian Wolmr

  3. This is one more of those horrible details about German cycle facilities - you can see a "Radfahrer absteigen" sign on almost every occasion, especially at construction sites.

  4. I claim my 10 euro: there are fixed ones each end of the Maastrict pedestrian/cycle bridge -- telling you not to ride down the flights of steps.

    (Almost as useful as the ones in the Woolwich Foot Tunnel telling you not to cycle up the steep spiral staircases.)

  5. I have met these in the Netherlands, but those were temporary. They were used where the road and/or cycle track were blocked by roadworks, and the detour route for bicycles consisted of using the pavement. Rather than creating that terrible piece of pseudo-cycling infrastructure called a shared space pavement, cyclists were told to actually become pedestrians and walk those 20 meters. Knowing Dutch cyclists as well as I do, you will not be surprised that cyclists interpreted these signs as 'ride carefully' instead.