When a new suburb was built on the edge of Assen, the new residents would be living 3.5 to 4.5 km from the centre of the city. Many may have been put off cycling into the city if the route was not of adequate quality, offering enough safety and directness.
The planners came up with a great solution. The most direct route from the city centre to the new development was to be by bike. That's the red line on the map. The driving route is in blue. The red line takes in no traffic lights, and is as cycled in the video above. The blue line has three sets of traffic lights on the route as well as a couple of roundabouts. It's also a bit longer.
Much of the distance covered in the video, and shown on the map, is on road. However, these are "bicycle roads" on which driving is made awkward due to restrictions. Residents can use the road for access to their homes, but it's of no use for a through journey as there are no "destinations" on the road. Motorists are expected to give way to cyclists. They are not supposed to park on the road (residents parking is provided alongside). For cyclists, though, it's wonderful. Direct. Pleasant. Car free (well, very nearly). When the work was being planned a couple of years ago, the local government made some very amusing cartoon versions of what it would eventually look like, including details of the four new (and one reconditioned - subject of a future post) bridges that would have to be built along here to help cyclists or to relieve motor traffic from this route.
I showed another part of the route in a video a few days ago. That video was shot from the hill which is where the yellow dot is on the map above. Also, there's a view of the last part of the road heading into the city centre, and a view of the rush hour at one point on the road. All three of those videos show a lot more cyclists than the one here, shot on a quiet Sunday morning to show you the infrastructure - which is really the star of the video. Also, the blue bridge featured in a piece about how cycling should not be an extreme sport.
Since the building of the new development, the cycling rate in Assen has risen, not fallen. 41% of all journeys in the city are now by bike.
I had to edit the Google Maps image to get the red line on. Here's a link to it without. The bike I'm riding is the marvellous Sinner Mango velomobile.
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The less positive stuff What not to do if you want a cycling "revolution" - Long list of interventions and policies which are not helpful. Copy the best examples from the Netherlands - a short list summarising the above. Important to copy the best examples, not just anything "Dutch". Bear in mind that the Netherlands is not perfect. Shared Space - this much hyped idea simply does not work well. It disenfranchises the vulnerable and claims of safety are exaggerated. Don't confuse the concept with far more successful nearly car free streets. Shared Use Paths designed to be used by pedestrians and cyclists together. These rarely work well because the two user groups are too different and it leads to conflicts. They are not built in the Netherlands (but cycle access to pedestrianized zones is good). Strict (or presumed) liability - If you think this is an important part of why people cycle in the Netherlands then it is probably not what you think it is. Helmets - one of several ways of scaremongering about the supposed dangers of what is actually a very safe means of transport
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A cyclist in a cycling family living in the capital of the cycling province of the world's greatest cycling country.
I was born in the UK, lived for over 8 years in New Zealand and have lived in the Netherlands since 2007.
I organise cycling infrastructure study tours, run an online bicycle shop, arrange cycling holidays and write a popular blog about cycling.
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