Monday, 12 September 2011

A new large roundabout for drivers

Our local paper recently carried this photo of a new roundabout near Winschoten. It's called the Blauwe Roos (Blue Rose) and is required to provide better access for drivers going to the new development of Blauwe Stad from the busy A7 motorway. The motorway runs left to right (roughly west to east) at the lower edge of the photo.

Cycle paths highlighted in red. The top horizontal part in red is actually a service road for those few houses but doubles as a cycle route.
Cyclists have not been ignored. Along with making sure that the existing cyclepaths still join up, a new cycle tunnel was constructued as a part of creating this roundabout. Cyclists have absolutely no need to go anywhere near the motorway exits and busy roads. Despite this being a large road junction, subjective safety for cyclists is preserved. School children can, and will, use this route.

The changes have resulted in there being two crossings for cyclists instead of one on the route from west to east. However, the busier route from west to south, between the new development and the existing town of Winschoten, now has no crossings instead of one. From East to South, there remain two crossings, the same as before. Overall convenience for cyclists has not been adversely affected.

Google Maps aerial photography still shows the old situation, with a crossing of the motorway junction for cyclists heading from the new large residential area at Blauwe Stad to the existing town of Winschoten.

Grotere kaart weergeven
Google Maps streetview has some images of the new situation. For instance, this view from the bridge at the South shows the cycle-path connected with the new tunnel to the west which keeps cyclists from having to cross a motorway exit.

Grotere kaart weergeven
Here is one of the level crossings of cyclepath and road. While cyclists have to give way here, the junction design includes a safe refuge in the middle so that it is only necessary to have a gap in motor traffic in one direction to start crossing. Crossing just one lane at a time greatly improves safety. Also, the road design makes it very obvious to drivers that cyclists will use this crossing, and the cycle crossings also form traffic calming features which should slow traffic and reduce the noise nuisance for people who live nearby.

Note that the road rises at this point to cross the cyclepath while the cyclepath continues on the same level across the road.

Here's another aspect of the works that is appreciated locally. Three 80 year old trees had to be moved to build this need development. However, they weren't just chopped down but have been relocated to the centre of the new roundabout so that they remain a part of the landscape.

Sometimes large works are required for the benefit of drivers. However, when this happens, there is no reason why conditions for cyclists should not also be improved at the same time, nor why conditions for local people should not be preserved as well as possible.

Another example
We've many examples of roundabouts on the blog. All are designed to make cycling pleasant by keeping cyclists away from motor vehicles. However, here's another good roundabout design suggested by Clément Pillette as "the best he's seen". This is 150 km south of the first example in Harderwijk:

I think it's fairly self-explanatory. Drivers use the road, while cyclists use the red cycle paths. As a result there is no cycling in heavy traffic as you cross this large roundabout. In fact, as is normal at Dutch junctions of busy roads, you barely notice that the huge roads and the traffic on them exist when you cycle. Clément's video demonstrates the roundabout from a cyclist's point of view:

There is a fundamental point about Dutch roundabouts which continues to be missed elsewhere. It's not just the geometry which is important, but cyclists need to be kept away from motor vehicles. This is often missed when attempts at building "continental style" roundabouts are made elsewhere.


Shaun McDonald said...

There's quite a few places in the UK where they have been removing the underpasses as people feel that they are unsafe, and so just cross on the road above. Most of these were designed in the 60's for pedestrians, with cycling generally being banned in them.

perthcyclist said...

That is very cool. My only bike vs car accident as an adult occurred at a round-about where the car failed to give way.

highwayman said...

You've pleased my inner transport infrastructure geek immensely! Two aerial shots of properly laid roundabouts --wonderful! I do favour the second aerial shot of the nested roundabouts, and the video of the ride through it is appreciated.

I do have a quibble: what about road signage for the bicycles through the roundabout (I speak of directionals & indicators)? Cars are not the only ones that need geographic guidance. It is the one thing I did not notice in either pictures or videos.

Other than that, keep on riding, keep on photographing.

David Hembrow said...

Shaun: it's a matter of design and maintenance. If underpasses are designed such that people feel and are safe then they are extremely useful. There are several examples of underpasses on the blog.

I'm surprised with the second example that you can't see out of the tunnel before you enter it. This is normally a feature of design these days in order to preserve social safety.

highwayman: Signage for bikes is different to that for cars as more routes are open to bikes than to cars, and cyclists often can make more direct journeys.

The big blue signs for cars are of limited value for cyclists. Cycle route signs on poles are white/red or white/green (as seen here). There are also different sign systems for recreational usage. In fact, there are a lot of posts about signage of different types.

Anonymous said...

Dear David, great blog, but a few remarks concerning De Blauwe Roos.

The old situation was a disaster, but mostly for motorized traffic. Cyclists had, except for the crossing East/South, right of way and there weren't really that many conflicts.
The new situation is a relief for motorized traffic especially for trucks, coming from the direction of Groningen, since it is now easier for them to get off the motorway and into Winschoten (South)(the old turn off the motorway onto the bridge was too tight)

But IMHO the situation for cyclists coming from or going to Beerta (East) is now a disaster and could have been handled a little bit different by construcing two additional tunnels (which would have been easy and only increased the costs slightly, since new the tunnel is nothing more than a large reinforced pipe with dirt put on it and the road on top of that.)

Traffic to and from Beerta is not as you suggest far lighter than traffic to and from Oostwold, Finsterwolde & Blauwe Stad) if lighter it is only slightly lighter. In the morning huge groups of schoolchildren come from both directions going to Winschoten, as does a steady stream of cars from commuters and added to that mix is also heavy agricultural traffic (Especially during the harvesting period).

so now cyclists to and from Beerta have to cross two busy roads, where in the past they had to cross only one.

H. Ekamper

Klaus Mohn said...

Great post. I don't have much experience with extraurban desigs, but one point mentioned in passing in this post is very important to me: cyclists should enjoy relatively level routes. Making bikes use steep ramps to stinky underpasses while car traffic stays on the surface, as can be found at the Porte Maillot in Paris, is a clear indication that cyclists are being treated as second-class traffic. If I (healthy twentysomething male) have a hard (and sweaty) time with it on a three-speed city bike, it's not appropriate. No kid, elderly person or cargobike mom is gonna use that. Even my wife wouldn't.

christhebull said...

@Kalus Mohn - Absolutely. I think the point here is that this is a major rural junction. The UK has far too many town centres ruined with contextually inappropriate traffic schemes which utilise underpasses to get pedestrians out of the way.

This is an excellent example of an underpass I found on the Fietsberrad flickr site. It almost looks like the road is on a bridge, rather than the cycle path in an underpass.

This is an example from Guildford that has since been removed, much to this distaste of motorists due to delays at the puffin crossing (the sort with no far side signals for pedestrians). However, another reason aside from unattractiveness for its removal was that it was prone to flooding.

Zmapper said...

One thing that is a bit foreign to me living in the United States. Why are there sharp 90 degree bends on the freeway on/off-ramps? How does a full size semi/lorry drive through them?

I can see the traffic calming benefits for the exiting traffic, but to force those entering the freeway to slow to 5mph/10kph and then gun it up to 75mph/120kph to merge safely into the stream of traffic is just strange.

Do you happen to know how much a single basic "culvert tunnel" costs?

Anonymous said...

@ Zmapper
because curving fly-overs would have been too expensive and taken a long time longer to built.
Since the local municipality had to pay for it (instead of the national government), they opted for the cheaper alternative with 90degrees angle.

A sidenote: Before someone says cheapskates, one should realise that with the Blauwe Stad project there are a lot of infastructural works going on: new roads, new canals, new locks, marinas, new bridges etc. So they'll have to spend the money wisely.

They got it wrong the first time though, in the weeks after opening the roundabout and the new on and off ramps, they realised that the corners leading on and off the two new fly-overs
were too tight for semis longer than 20 meters (It took only a few damaged railings for them to notice). It has been corrected since and semis of all sizes can pass it easily.

The off and on ramps are pretty long, there is enough room to get up to speed before entering the motorway or to slow down before reaching the corner.

H. Ekamper

Son of Shaft said...

And truck/HGV's aren't allowed to go faster than 80Kph. So they don't need to accelerate to 100/120.

highwayman said...

Son of Shaft,

is there not a 100 kph exception for modern buses, trucks, and HGV's?

christhebull said...

I do believe that I have found what is possibly the worst roundabout for cyclists in the Netherlands - a multi lane roundabout in The Hague with cycle lanes that seem useless for continuing around the roundabout. However, although the geometry is a bit weird with traffic exiting before the previous road's traffic has joined in the north west corner, it otherwise seems pretty typical by UK standards - it even has pedestrian crossings over the exits which is an improvement from the UK.

But IIRC, The Hague has one of the lowest rates of cycling in the Netherlands (but still higher than Oxford). Didn't they get extra money to rectify this?

Son of Shaft said...


Not as far as I know. At least not in NL. Although the government site mentions t100 buses (whatever those are) can go 100Kph. Looks like hgv's/trucks can go 90Kph in places where regular cars are allowed to go 130Kph.

Zmapper said...

I should mention that the Ohio Turnpike recently voted to get rid of the split speed limits for trucks, bringing the speed limit for all users up to 65mph. Having split speed limits, in Ohio's case, traffic collisions were higher with the split speed limits.

The limits in Ohio were 55/65mph. The Netherlands is 50/75mph. Why such a stark difference in the Netherlands?

christhebull said...

@highwayman - the 90 km/h limit is an EU wide restriction with HGVs and there are speed limiters fitted to the vehicles. In the UK HGVs over 7.5t actually have a 60 mph speed limit which they cannot legitimately reach due to the limiters. Same with the 100 km/h limit for buses.

highwayman said...

@Zmapper: If I'm not mistaken, Ohio has a uniform speed limit of 65 mph (approximately 105 kph) for all on-road vehicle classes throughout the State as of last year the latest.

My source is "Landline" --the magazine for the Organization of Owner-Operators and Independent Drivers (OOIDA).

Andy Preece said...

Hi, I wonder if you are aware of the cycle roundabouts in East Kilbride? A few of the town centre roundabouts have one roundabout for the dual carriageway motor traffic and a second in the centre for peds and cycles, accessed by underpasses, much like your video. See

David Hembrow said...

Andy: Thanks for that. I'd not seen the East Kilbride roundabouts. It's difficult to get a sense of scale or to know how usable they are from one photo.

By the look of what else is around there on cyclestreets, and on your own web-page, they suffer from being rather out on their own and not really part of something larger.

It's rather unfortunate that when something is done to a reasonable standard in the UK it has always up to now been left to its own devices rather than backed up by continuing to add other connected decent quality infrastructure.

Andy Preece said...

David: Two of the East Kilbride roundabouts are connected by continuous cycle paths and some of the others have routes that can be used to get between them (footpaths not intended to be cycle paths mostly), although you have to know your way around. Signage is poor. The original cycle routes had one-way on and off ramps, and expected cyclists to use A725/A726 dual carriageways, only leaving them for the roundabouts.

In recent years a couple of two-way cycle routes have been created and signed, building on the original routes, but signage has not been well maintained. There is potential for more routes to be promoted, such as along Whitemoss Grove.

Nonetheless, it is possible to get about East Kilbride on a bike without touching the busiest roads, such as on this recent journey: