Friday 14 January 2011

Policy and Progress in Assen

A little while ago I wrote about how the cycling rate in Assen had reached 41% of journeys. Today I was asked by another blogger if I had some other figures to go with this, and found that the link in the old article no longer worked.

While looking for the original web-page on the Assen local government website, I found a different article, the "Sustainability Vision" document. This document, dating from July 2009, gives a picture of how the local area is performing on environmental and sustainability issues, and how it will attempt to improve its performance between 2010 and 2015.

Last year, Assen made a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2020 and some of the ways in which this will be achieved are detailed in this document. As such, a very wide range of green issues are discussed in the document. However, it also includes some numbers on cycling, and that's what I'll write about below:

At the bottom of page 15 there is a discussion about how energy must be saved with public lighting. Assen has been installing LED street lights on roads and on cycle paths. There is discussion here about trying out dynamic lighting in Assen as well on cycle paths and smaller roads. This saves energy by turning the lights to full only when they are needed.

On page 18 there is a section about sustainable transport. Here we find out that "The central ambition with regard to mobility is that transport in Assen is by bike". There are figures about the present day: "At present, in Noord Nederland (the three provinces of Drenthe, Friesland and Groningen combined), 50% of all journeys are by car, 3% by public transport, 30% by bike and the remainder (17%) are by foot". It goes on to explain that "around 40% of journeys in Assen are by bike" and "Assen promotes growth of cycle traffic at the expense of car traffic".

The next page is headed "Assen Fietsstad" - "Assen Cycle City". Here, the introduction says that "for journeys within the city, journey times by bike must be competitive with journey times by car." I've noted before that this is usually the case. You see fewer traffic lights if you travel by bike than by car, and where there are still traffic lights, these are designed to make cycling as convenient as possible. For instance, you can turn right on red. Some of them default to green for bikes.

Under "Ambition", it says "The bike is the most used means of transport for residents of Assen. In the past, development always emphasized the convenience of the motorist. New developments are designed starting with the bike. The realisation of a safe cycle route network of good quality, improvements in the attractiveness of use of bikes and improvements in directness, safety and comfort are central. By 2015, so many journeys as possible must be by bike. Bikes must more frequently take priority over cars."

Underneath this are a number of examples of what needs to be done:
  • The primary cycle route network must be further improved and the secondary network must make a qualititive leap
  • New business and residential areas are easy to reach by bike
  • The bike can compete with the car if it flows freely. Traffic lights must be set up to give the bike higher priority than the car.
  • Where possible, roads which currently emphasize the car must be changed to emphasize bikes and tolerate cars.
  • Dangers for cyclists must be removed.
  • Bike signage must be improved.
  • Better cycle parking is needed.
  • More secure cycle parks are needed. In order for these to be favourable for cycle use, they must be free of charge.
  • The city grants subsidies for cycle parking at businesses and schools.
  • The city encourages the use of fiscal schemes to encourage cycling.
  • Drenthe is a province with much recreational cycling. Access to the area for recreational cyclists from within the area is as important as for those from outside the area.
  • For recreational cyclists, a touring route around Assen will be created. More connections are needed which get past existing obstructions such as the A28 (motorway), Canal and railway line.
Assen has featured many other times on this blog. And this is indeed a wonderful area for recreational cycling. Many examples of how cyclists are prioritized have already featured on this blog.

Assen provides an example in this blog post, but it's not alone. Other Dutch cities are also working hard in much the same way. It's quite competitive.

The photo at the top shows a view of part of the centre of the city on a Saturday. There are a lot of racks in the city centre, but they were already full and not one of these bikes is in a rack. 400 more cycle parking spaces are promised in this area. It may well not be enough. If the link in this article fails, it's also now at webcite (thanks, Daniel).


fairweathercyclist said...

A really inspirational post - thanks David. In England that level of commitment is a far off dream.

It would be really useful to have some context. What is happening to Dutch public spending? Are local authorities cutting back their spending like ours in England?

For Assen, what proportion of the city's spending is allocated to cycling infrastructure?

christhebull said...

I suppose the obvious comparison would be with British locations which set what can be fairly decent targets for cycling's modal share, but do sod all to meet them while continuing to wonder why congestion is so bad (but wait, weren't electric cars meant to get rid of that?)

kfg said...

"congestion . . . weren't electric cars meant to get rid of that?"

I have only heard this idea put forward of late. I don't know where it originally came from, but I can assure you that those of us working on electric cars back during Oil Crisis 1.0 may have been bit naive, but we weren't anywhere near that stupid.

christhebull said...

@kfg - I was making a sarcastic reference to our minister for peace on the roads (as opposed to RoadPeace) declaring an end to war on the motorist and basically saying electric cars will solve everything.

Frits B said...

David - Elsevier (the weekblad) has an article this week on a very serious problem which probably provokes a ROFLOL reaction from your overseas readers: we are apparently suffering a congestion crisis on cycle paths. They're not wide enough to cope with the growing number of bicycles and related two-wheelers such as scooters. Furthermore there is too much of a speed difference between recreational riders & commuters and riders on road bikes. As a result there are far more accidents among bikes themselves than car "sourced". Still no call for helmets, though :-).

kfg said...

Ah, I am aware of Mr. Hammond and ending the War on Motorists by withdrawing any support for cycling, but I was not aware that this included withdrawing support for trains to reduce road congestion with Magic Cars.

I admit I'm looking forward to being able to buy a Morgan constructed of glass by The Fair Folk and powered by Pixie Dust though. I assume they fly if I believe and clap my hands?

Frits - "probably provokes a ROFLOL reaction"

Nah! That was simply to be expected.

Slow Factory said...

Keep on Kicking Ass in Assen!

Frits B: I found that article online but am not registered, so if you could borrow the text somehow to show us (or email to me) would be great.

Without knowing more details.... well, I certainly would not be laughing (does Berlin count as "overseas"?) but actually applauding... so can I ask what is being suggested a solution, perhaps some of the following (but)?

* Widen the paths (claimed to be too expensive)
* Add second fast path (ditto)
* Allow bikes to use motorized part of road on 50km/h roads (slows down drivers, will increase collisions...)
* Slow roads with parallel congested paths to 30km/h and allow faster (self-selected) cyclists to mix with motorized traffic but keep existing separated lane
* More homeworking!

Frits B said...

GIF - I couldn't get at the online article either although I'm a registered user. I'll try again and send you a copy.

No solutions given, though. There have been talks about banning slow scooters from the cycle path; these are limited to 25 km/h but usually far exceed the limit. Also "sports bikes", the recreational ones in lycra with spaghetti handlebars, might be better off among cars :-). In the meantime paths are widened where possible. The main cause of these accidents is speed difference - if everybody moved along at roughly the same speed all would be well. The very idea of a train.

David Hembrow said...

Frits, GIF: We are relatively lucky here in Assen, having good quality infrastructure and not too many people using it. I've never seen a problem remotely like this. "Fast" people simply slow down a bit if the cycle paths are full.

Perhaps it is more of a problem in more crowded parts of the country, and where mopeds are more common.

However, I suspect that this is mainly a case of a few noisy people kicking up a fuss with the assistance of the media, rather than a reflection of a real safety problem. Dutch hospitals are not overflowing with people injured due to overcrowded cycle paths.

I think we have to be very careful about these things. If such complaints result in improved cycle provision for all then cyclists win from that. However, if it causes cyclists to be divided then their voice will be diluted.

Frits B said...

David - In my first comment I wrote "a very serious problem" without the "". I thought that "apparently" made it clear enough that the seriousness of this item was in fact not too serious ...
But I do agree that mopeds should move over.

David Hembrow said...

Frits: I didn't think you thought it was overly serious, but I wouldn't want other people to think it was.

kfg said...

"Frits: I didn't think you thought it was overly serious"

Neither did I. I will admit, however, to watching the scooters in videos and thinking, "Oh. hey, a motor pace. Cool beans, Frito!"