Wednesday, 10 November 2010
Non-stop relaxed cycling in Utrecht
Another of Mark Wagenbuur's videos. He says: A bicycle friendly junction in the historic city center of Utrecht in the Netherlands. A main hub for cyclists going to the city shopping center and back to its suburbs. It is actually a bridge with a junction on either side. Cars are discouraged to use this bridge. For motorized traffic almost all the streets are cul-de-sac streets. The result is a friendly junction with large numbers of cyclists that weave in a very relaxed way. Note that hardly anyone ever stops. The cycling really is non-stop.
Mistakes are made every now and then (there is even a near collision between a car and a child on a bike in the video) but mostly all traffic flows very well.
And now watch this video explaining about the junction:
Mark continues: A motorway was planned on this very spot in the 1950s and 60s. When building for that road began, there were increasing protests against it and all the demolitions that went with it. The opposition became so strong, that in the 1970s the works were stopped and the road was never finished. Building was stopped just before this area was reached. That is why the bridge stayed as it was.
Since then motorized traffic was diverted and it has decreased so much that even this 1930s bridge became too wide. Half of the bridge is now side walk. The other half is mainly used by bicycles. Cars driving here really have to be in the area.
The unfinished city ring road never really served a purpose. It took the city 30 years to realize that it was best to reverse the situation. After bringing the water back to a place where the road was never built (there the old city moat had been a parking lot for 30 years) it was clear to everybody that this was really what should be done. It took yet another 10 years for the works to start to bring back all the water. Soon the 1970s inner city ring road that should never have been built in the first place will be completely removed.
It could so easily have worked out completely differently...
This type of road often confuses outsiders. It looks initially like any road anywhere else in the world - "shared" equally by drivers and cyclists. Sometimes people who ought to know better but have actually missed the point entirely feel that they have a need to point out that "there are also lots of places when cyclists have to mix it with other traffic" in the Netherlands. However, that is to completely miss the point. Actually, cyclists are nearly 100% segregated from drivers in the Netherlands.
Due to the way that planning of roads works here, this "mixing it" is not on an equal footing at all. Cycle routes are unravelled from driving routes. The second video shows an example. This is is a through road for cyclists, but not a through road for drivers. In fact, drivers are strongly discouraged from using this road, and that's the reason why there are so few in the video. It's not an isolated case, but the norm for most such areas in most cities in this country. Similar results are achieved across the country by using one way systems and bicycle roads.
Cyclists are segregated from the majority of motorists even on roads like this where there are no cycle paths. That is why the majority of cycling happens without interaction with drivers, even though there are 130000 km of road in this country and "only" 35000 km of cycle path. That is how subjective and actual safety is maintained even when the road appears to be open to cars.
I should point out that the priority at a junction like this in the Netherlands works such that everyone, whether driving or cycling, should give way to anyone else, whatever mode of transport they are using, who comes from their right. The speed limit is 30 km/h. And yes, I tried responding directly on Carlton's blog to point out that he'd got the wrong end of the stick, but my reply did not appear there. Explaining such things is a part of what we have tried to do on our study tours.