Monday, 19 September 2011

Every Roundabout in Assen

In my last post I said that every roundabout in Assen had cycle facilities. Cyclists don't use the road on any of them. I thought it might be interesting to show what these roundabouts look like, as they're quite representative of what you might find anywhere in the Netherlands. I've ridden in all these places and they all work well by bike. Cyclists are thought of at roundabouts. Not just at a few special ones, but everywhere. This is an essential part of roundabout design for cyclists.

Here are aerial shots of all the roundabouts in Assen, all of which include cycle facilities. The images are taken from Google Maps. If you're interested, you can look for them, with their context, yourself.
Roundabout on ring road. The underpass from South West to North East, nearly as wide as a road, provides direct cycle access to the city centre without having to stop (previously seen here). The cycle path is four metres wide, and next to it (barely visible in the picture) is a two metre pedestrian path. The North-South road is the ring road around Assen. Cyclists are not permitted to use any of the roads in the picture, so not having access to them is not a problem. Going through the underpass is in any case quicker than going around the roundabout. See what the experience is like for cyclists at this roundabout in this video.
North of the city, this roundabout connects the motorway junction with the direct road North. High quality cycle paths go in all directions except onto the motorway. The paths heading North are unbroken for 5.5 km to and through the next village. They have an especially smooth concrete surface which has priority over all side roads and are well separated from the road to and through the next village. At this point there is no pedestrian path as there is little pedestrian traffic. The few people who make this longer walk use the cycle-path.

In a new and as yet undeveloped industrial area, the cycle (red) and pedestrian (grey) paths don't provide access to the road to the North East - towards the motorway junction.

Near "big box stores", a combination of cycle paths, and service roads provide easy access by bike, while pedestrian paths provide routes for pedestrians. Cyclists are required to cross two lanes at once in the bottom left corner of this roundabout and this makes it one of the less easy roundabouts to use by bike.

Near an industrial area at a ring road crossing. Cycle paths provide for all directions except along the ring road which is closed to cars (there are other routes for bikes).

The ring road is intersected by direct cycle route to the centre of the city from outlying villages.

Busy road to the East within a residential area. Cycle paths go in all directions around this roundabout, merging with 30 km/h roads to the North and South.

Industrial area. Cycle path approaches from the North, access road continues safe access to the South. To the East is a motorway junction. No cycle access there.

A junction on the ring road by which cars bypass the older direct route to Assen. No need for bikes to use the road West to East here as this is merely a bypass of the older and more direct route a little further North which remains open to bikes but is no longer usable by car. This roundabout has an extra lane which allows drivers to go from west to east without giving them the option to turn left. This combined with the requirement that cyclists cross two lanes at once makes it more difficult for cyclists to use safely. Happily it is not quite so bad as a turbo roundabout, and it is in any case not a heavily used junction by bike.

Junction inside residential area. Note that large "30 km/h" signs on the residential streets s are visible, as are cycle paths in all directions. 30 km/h roads sometimes have separate cycle paths.

On the western edge of Assen, motorists are now directed to the south instead of continuing along the canal. The old direct route into the city alongside the canal remains a through road by bike but not by car.

In a new housing development, cyclists mostly travel South to North-West or North-East. An extra access is provided for people who live on the West.

An asymmetrical arrangement. The main route is North to East, so the cycle paths are not the same on the west wide.

In a new residential area, the road to the south west has a 30 km/h speed limit and is relatively lightly used.

Residential area, cyclists can more easily access homes than motorists can.

A direct route to the new suburb on the west of Assen is provided here. The road to the North East is access to a natural gas extraction facility and does not need cycle access.

This area to the West is as yet mostly undeveloped. However, the roundabout has been built in preparation for cycle traffic which may appear in the future

Where the ring road passes close to a residential area and a route out of the city to the North West, a cycle path provides for the only direction that cyclists need to go in this location.

Between residential areas on the West and the centre of the city, this roundabout provides easy access for cyclists (See this roundabout from the point of view of a cyclist in a previous blog post)
Finally, just because someone will probably spot it on a map, there's also this "roundabout" with no obvious cycle facilities. However, actually it's not really a roundabout in the same sense. This is a residential area without through routes for motor vehicles:
This is a small "roundabout" in a residential area. All streets have a 30 km/h speed limit, and are arranged so as not to be through roads for drivers. However, it's not equivalent to the others. These roads are not for through-traffic. This is an example of segregation of modes without cyclepaths. The same rules do not apply. Take a look on streetview.
On this side of the North Sea, cycling facilities are not an optional extra to be omitted at any time that it's a little difficult to work out what to do, but a fundamental part of the design of roundabouts - just as with everything else on the roads.

To design a Dutch inspired roundabout adopting only the geometry but without cycle paths, as I've seen proposed in the UK, is to very fundamentally miss the point. This is just one of many ways in which what has been achieved in the Netherlands has been misinterpreted elsewhere.

For cycling provision to be able to influence peoples journey choices and encourage a high modal share for cycling, it must be universal and consistent. This way you get adequate subjective safety so that people will cycle. It is never too late to start building such a network, and it won't take as long you think.

Safety ?
In Assen, cyclists do not have priority where cycle-paths cross roads approaching roundabouts. This has been shown to be slightly safer than the design used in some other parts of the Netherlands where cycle-paths have priority over the road crossing. Whether or not to give cyclists priority has long been a contentious subject because of this balance between safety and convenience. However, overall safety is good at both designs of Dutch roundabouts.

2014 update
Since this blog post was written, Assen has built one new roundabout in a residential area which is very similar to the tenth example above complete with similar cycling infrastructure and begun construction of two turbo-roundabouts. Turbo roundabouts are a special kind of roundabout designed to deal with high volume of motor vehicles. They are not intended to be used by cyclists. Assen's two new turbo roundabouts are being built to cater for a new motorway junction well away from any cycle routes. They are not easy even to approach by bike.

11 comments:

Martin said...

Now that's a lot of roundabouts, people in Aus. always complain about Canberra being the roundabout city. Yet compared to the Netherlands it would be the norm in road planning.

Green Idea Factory said...

Looks superb for suburbs and rural areas. Can you do a focus on Dutch urban crossroads, also from the top?

Frits B said...

Isn't the car park on the right of the second photo part of a bus station, or at least a place where all buses pass and allow for changes?

The small "roundabout" on the last photo is the only way to connect five streets in an orderly manner. It's a lot smaller than it looks on Streetview, and has so little traffic that people often cut corners (I know, I live in the cul-de-sac in the top right corner). The birds are ravens; the original greenery were shrubs and trees which blocked the view so were removed.

Reaperexpress said...

What about pedestrians? I notice that some of the roundabouts only have cycle paths, no sidewalks. Do pedestrians walk on the cycle path?

It's the opposite here in the Greater Toronto Area. Sidewalks are everywhere, but cycle paths are rare.

David Hembrow said...

Reaperexpress: Good point. I've updated some of the descriptions. In general, anywhere where you might find an appreciable number of pedestrians you'll also find separate pedestrian paths. The cycle-paths in the town usually have pedestrian paths next to them. However, where there are rarely pedestrians, such as outside the city boundary, there are no specific paths for pedestrians and the few people who walk here use the cycle-path. They're rare enough that this doesn't cause a problem for either group.

Shared use paths intended for use of large numbers of both pedestrians and cyclists are not built in the Netherlands.

David Hembrow said...

Frits: Yes, the second photo is that roundabout, at the very top of the city. I really ought to write something about the Dutch concept of a "transferium", where people can swap modes between bike / car / bus.

Zmapper said...

We call them park 'n' rides.

Here is a typical "bicycle friendly" roundabout in the United States. Notice how the bike lane transitions onto a widened sidewalk.

http://g.co/maps/dsn73

Notice the High School on the 1/2 * 1/2 mile property to the Northeast. What a lot of excess land devoted to grass, which in near-desert Colorado isn't the wisest of ideas.

Clark in Vancouver said...

I love that to bike past a highway you go under it instead of waiting for a gap in motor traffic to cross it.
These types of things could also be applied to other highway interchanges other than roundabouts. Even just where a highway is raised they could just make it a little higher to put a tunnel underneath. The nice wide, open ended tunnels you've shown before are great to avoid any worry of social safety.
In Richmond, BC, Canada there's a main highway that crosses through it with really no way to get across it by bike except to go way out of your way to underpasses.
Something like this would work well at the interchanges. All they would need to do is make the ramps start earlier and put a tunnel underneath.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else notice that roundabout #9 looks like a smiley face? Brightened my day no end.

Kevin said...

There is a new one added lately:
http://i51.tinypic.com/minu48.jpg

And yep there are alot roundabouts here :) though it does work really well!

At the moment they are still creating another one, which isn't on google maps yet.

if you want more information about one of the roundabouts here in the netherlands feel free to ask :)

Contact me at:
http://pexer.nl

Peter Furth said...

Great inventory! You're right to distinguish that last "roundabout" from the others; in the US, we call it a "neighborhood traffic circle" to distinguish it from a circular intersection that carries through traffic.

My students recently did a study of bicycling facilities at roundabouts in the Netherlands, focusing on the Delft / The Hague region. They managed to find one older roundabout without bicycling provisions -- a solution permitted in the CROW Dutch design manual, but not used very often. All the rest had cycle tracks or bike bypass tunnels. We also found a rare case of bike lanes in a roundabout, a practice not recommended by the latest CROW manual, but allowed to remain because it hasn't shown any safety problem.

http://wiki.coe.neu.edu/groups/nl2011transpo/wiki/8b3f6/8_Bicycles_at_Roundabouts.html

Another student group did a study of the roundabouts in Pijnacker, a suburban community near the Hague, Rotterdam, and Delft. While the study's focus is more on traffic safety, the Pijnacker roundabouts all have bicycle facilities.

http://wiki.coe.neu.edu/groups/nl2011transpo/wiki/8eebc/5_Roundabouts_of_Pijnacker.html