Saturday 26 February 2011

The importance of direct cycle routes

One of our readers drew our attention to a video that shows a cycle route in Rijswijk which is in effect a suburb of The Hague. It shows a road where cyclists have to make a detour while motorised traffic can go straight on. The man in the video calls this a daily annoyance. And he is right. Most cycle routes in this country are as direct or (more often) more direct than routes for motorised traffic. In this case (see picture below) the green line (about 100 meters/yards) would be the logical route. There is ample room for a cycle path there, but curiously cyclists are required to take the route represented by the red line. This includes going up and down and even an extra level crossing of a light rail line that would otherwise be crossed on the overpass. There is a shortcut (red dots) using the pedestrian stairs. But all in all the red route is at least double the length of the desired green route.

It is clear from the video that this man is not the only one who feels this is wrong. Many cyclists find a short cut by riding over the grass. The city council doesn’t like that but instead of tackling the problem by making the cycle path more direct, they put up a fence to protect the grass. The fence is of course consequently damaged. Another option is to ride against traffic on the opposite side of the road. Which is not a good solution either.

But it could be fixed: a bridge in this road (just left of the picture and seen in the beginning of the video) is due for maintenance. The man in the video urges the city to correct the mistake while they’re changing the bridge.

As can be seen on the picture, the rest of the cycle routes (on the other side of the road for instance) are direct and up to standards so it is most unusual to have this strange situation. It does make clear that cycle routes must be direct, people don't settle for less and rightly so.

The city of The Hague, third largest in the country and the seat of national government has a bad reputation when it comes to cycling infrastructure. One of my older videos shows an example of shared space gone wrong in the center of the city. David (while still living in the UK) has visited The Hague on a study tour of the Netherlands. The cycling experts in the city confirmed they know they are doing below average. This reflects in the ‘low’ cycling rate of 22% of all journeys. But The Hague is working hard (see picture above) to catch up with the rest of the country.

Link to Google Streetview


Anonymous said...

It is worth noting that a €12 million bridge is about to start construction just north of there to allow cyclists to avoid the whole area.

Mark W. said...

Thank you for this link. An impressive project! This only underlines the fact that The Hague is indeed doing everything it can to catch up on infrastructure.

Slow Factory said...

Didn't the EU rule that it was okay for the Dutch to use the grass but not foreigners?

J.. said...

It's worth noting that the 12 million Euro bridge crosses the A4 Highway and not the waterway the Hoornbrug crosses. It's not a good substitute.
Fixing the problem stipulated in the video would be a quick win for the local authorities, but in my experience Rijswijk council is not interested in cycling. Their paths are often badly maintained and while they have one of the busiest and most important cycleroutes in the region (the path along the east side of the canal), they fail to do all but the most rudimentary maintenance tasks. I hold out little hope for their residents.

Frits B said...

Apart from the general desirability of direct routes: we are talking here about 200 yards/metres vs. 100 yards/metres. Negligible, and really not worth whining about.
I live in a compound with a private parking lot, 20 x 20 metres. A cycle path runs around it. Still cyclists force their way through the hedge to cross the parking lot - for a gain of maybe 10 metres. We now have installed wires within the hedge to keep them out, as cyclists worming their way through between two cars parked alongside do leave their marks.

David Hembrow said...

Frits: I have sympathies both ways. In Britain, cycle routes tend to be made up of one small detour after another (with a few longer detours also included) so each one just seems like yet another insult.

However, even here in the Netherlands, it's not always realistic for cyclists to expect everything to be absolutely direct at all times, so I can understand putting wire up too.

Frits B said...

David: What I really wanted to point out is that people often have unrealistic expectations. In this example (Rijswijk) the cost of making a direct route may be too high to be feasible, the more so as there already is a reasonably short detour. There are more important things to worry about.

As for shortcuts over private property, we also had cyclists entering our communal garden on their way to the hospital, simply because our entrance is directly opposite to the cycle path (Oosterhoutje). Finding that the path ended at our front door, they then simply rode on through bushes and flowers. We had to stop those forcibly, too. Cyclists are not always considerate road users :-)

Mark W. said...

Frits while I agree that some minor detours are inevitable and no big deal, this case is different in my opinion.

There is ample room where the cycle path should be. The overpass over the light-rail line is even already constructed wide enough.
The detour is not level, it involves a steep incline and that railway crossing that could otherwise both be avoided.
It is just a question of turning a patch of grass into a genuine cycle path. That is not too much too ask. Especially since this is a main cycle route and cyclists (many school children as is mentioned in the video) now go against traffic on the other side of the street. Making it a matter of traffic safety too.

Daniel Sparing said...

To give some good examples nearby, I use the path mentioned by J.. on the east canal bank from Delft to the Hague on a weekly basis and it is one of my favorite routes, no disruption for an unusually long stretch.

Also, if you do continue on the red/green bridge you eventually get to the Ypenburg VINEX (centrally designed new low density residential area) which does have brand new wide red asphalt bike paths. (But there are not that many reasons to go to Ypenburg..)

Finally, that light rail is the last old interurban tram line left in the Netherlands.