This excellent bridge is one of many small bridges which provide cyclists in Assen with a more direct route than they would have by travelling by car. As you can see, it's the usual width for cycle facilities here, giving 4 metres width for bicycles and an additional 2 metres for pedestrians.
This bridge is a small facility in itself, and it's what has been done with the residential roads which link with it which I find really special.
While there are quite a lot of resident's cars parked along these streets, there are very few moving cars. These streets only provide through routes for cyclists, not for drivers.
You would only travel by car along these streets for access to properties on them.
The one way system exists in order to give cyclists greater permeability through the city. It makes cyclists journeys shorter and more convenient, and bridges such as the one shown help to make sure that only cyclists and pedestrians can benefit from these shorter routes.
There is no "rat running" in a location like this because driving here leads to longer and slower journeys by car. These roads do of course all have 30 km/h speed limits.
Due to the almost total lack of motor vehicles, the effect is of a segregated cycling experience without any actual separate cycle paths.
The map shows how it is useful. My marks in red show a cycle path which is part of my route in the top left corner and the bridge at the bottom. The pinkish line shows part of my route that day on these residential roads. You'll see that virtually every one of these small roads is one-way to motor vehicles. Every single one has an exception for bicycles. While there very many roads which are one-way for motor vehicles in this city, I have yet to find a single one which has the same restriction on cyclists.
This shows a fundamental difference in the thinking behind one way systems in the Netherlands vs. that in the UK. I can't claim to have seen every Dutch one-way system, but I've seen a few now. And they don't have the same emphasis that I've seen in Britain.
Rather, British one-way systems tend to look like this one, which was sometimes part of my cycle commuting route when I lived in Cambridge:
This is a race-track for cars. While it's right in the middle of the city, this is an A road - the busiest classification of road in the UK except for motorways.
There are several sets of traffic lights, the speed limit is 30 mph / 50 km/h and high levels of acceleration are the norm. There are always at least two lanes heading in any one direction, and as many as four at the North Eastern corner. It was difficult to ride around this on a bicycle at a sufficient speed not to feel in danger when changing to whichever lane you might need for whichever direction you were heading in.
A few skimpy cycle lanes around it didn't do much for cyclists. You can zoom in on the map and take a look for yourself. Or indeed, have the thrill of "cycling" along it yourself using Google's street view. Remember to turn right into Croft Holme Lane, and right again into Victoria Road. Look out for pot-holes as you go, as well as the cyclist in the wonderfully wide cycle lane outside the Portland Arms:
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Lately there was an addition of a way to cycle on the pavement through the middle of this mess in a North-South direction, which I found quite relaxing after years of negotiating the roads. However, it is far from perfect. It manages to increase an 80 m straight line route to about 110 m in length, and it includes no fewer than 3 traffic light controlled crossings (+ one zebra which pedestrians have priority at, but not cyclists) and a couple of rather too tight bends into this short distance. What's more, the part of the pavement marked for cyclists to use varies between 1.5 and a maximum of about 2 metres in width even though it's for bidirectional use. This is very far from adequate.
There is another type of one-way street in the UK. The type which exists in residential areas. An example from Cambridge is below. It may initially seem similar to what happens in the Netherlands, but it is not:
The emphasis here is on maximising car parking space at the expense of pedestrians. Cars are encouraged to park half on the already narrow sidewalk, leaving little space for pedestrians. Such streets have to be one-way for drivers as clearly there isn't room for cars to travel in both directions. However, they are also generally one-way for cyclists - meaning that cycle journeys to these houses are longer than they should be. In any case, travelling in the opposite direction on a bike leads to conflict with oncoming drivers. It is again an example of a one-way system which is designed to convenience drivers, and while this particular street has a 20 mph speed limit, drivers frequently exceed it.
On such a road it is no longer possible for pedestrians to comfortably walk on the sidewalk. People pushing babies in prams often have to walk in the road due to the obstruction of the sidewalk.
In the UK, permission has only just been granted for "except cyclists" signs to be tried out on one-way streets (follow the link and read the comments beneath to get a flavour of the usual anti-cycling vitriol which accompanies any such small step forwards). However, while road design remains biased towards motoring, this change will not be as useful as it should be.
The crossing shown in the first photo never makes cyclists or pedestrians wait more than 8 seconds. If I cycle this way into the city centre, this maximum 8 second delay is the only traffic light that I meet.
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