Monday 3 October 2011

Resurfacing a canal cycle path in Assen

Before: The cycle path along the canal near our home in 2007
In the winter: Mostly kept free of ice
and snow
We've lived nearby this canal for four years now. When we arrived, we were amazed at the quality of the surface of this path and that it took such a direct line without interruption. I've blogged about it a few times before. While the harsh winters rendered it slightly less smooth than it had been, we remained impressed.

However, others thought there was more to be done. A better quality of cycle-path was possible. Part way through September, signs appeared warning that the cycle path was to be re-surfaced and that the work would take about a week. The work started on the 11th of September.

By the 14th, the first layer of asphalt was finished and I went for a ride:

Explanatory captions for this video are visible only if you view it on a computer and not on a mobile device. You will not fully understand this video if you view on a mobile device.

14 September: First layer complete
except at the very ends of the path
Though it was good before, the work on the damaged parts of the foundations and this new layer of asphalt on top made a huge difference. The path was now supernaturally smooth and efficient to cycle on.

Four kilometres of cycle-path with nothing to stop for or to give way to, and without even a slight bump in the surface.
16 September: Machinery applying the top layer of asphalt to the cycle-path.

The surface is wide enough
for racing rollers.
Extra work was required at
the fourteen connecting paths.

The edges aren't yet tidied up, so we can see how much thicker the new surface is relative to the old

21 September: The top surface is finished, to a quite normal width of four metres. On this day, we took a Study Tour group along the canal. After returning to the UK, Sally wrote about this and other things seen on the tour.

Video showing the equipment used to re-surface this cycle-path. It's constructed in exactly the same way as a road:

Explanatory captions for this video are visible only if you view it on a computer and not on a mobile device. You will not fully understand this video if you view on a mobile device.

This new surface provides part of a direct route following the canal from South West to North for cyclists. It is especially useful for those making longer journeys such as commuting from the West of Assen to Groningen or those who are riding past the city as it joins up with other similar quality cycle-paths at either end. Click for a view of this stretch of the cycle-path from its Southern-most point.
Before this blog post went live, the work was complete. The sides of the path are now level with the path, meaning no nasty surprise should you ride over the edge of the asphalt. Also, all fourteen entrances onto the path have been upgraded, so are super-smooth.

Afternoon 3rd October update
Well, I thought they were finished. However, when walking the dog today I discovered this going along the cycle-path, just making the edges just a little bit smoother and better matched to the asphalt than they already were:


Paul Martin said...

Fantastic to see.

In Australia, such a project would take a month, require dozens of workers (including traffic controllers to control the few cyclists we have and fencing, lots of fencing) and cost an absolute fortune to construct (not to mention the consulting fees).

The asphalt will be laid so thin that it will crack under the weight of the council trucks that will block it to dig it up to lay some pipes a few weeks later.

No wonder we see little progress here... but I'm very glad you're enjoying that path, David! :-D

Fonant said...

How do the locals on roadsters find a velomobile passing at 50kmh? And the pedestrians?

In the UK you'd have people writing to the local paper about hooligan cyclists, but I expect the Dutch are (a) more used to this sort of thing and (b) less scared of bicycles in general.

In the UK I think people copy some of their real fear of motor vehicles onto anything with wheels, and so think of cyclists are being almost as big a threat to pedestrians as cars are.

David Hembrow said...

Fonant, Dutch people aren't scared of bicycles. They're used to seeing them. It's not exceptional at all that someone should ride fast along that path. We have many cycle racers locally, including Rabobank and Skil-Shimano team members who use this path and many others for training.

As with all things, a bit of moderation is sometimes called for. Sometimes the path is full of kids. Fast people do then have to slow down.

A close pass at speed would be rude. However, because the path is as wide as some roads, it's possible to pass others and give quite a lot of room - rather more than some motorists driving at 60 mph give cyclists in the UK.

Fonant said...

As I thought. Good point about UK motorists almost always passing cyclists too close!

It does seem that decent infrastructure, that's wide enough for sensible passing, is also key to the public perception of the impact of people on bicycles. It seems that for cycle infrastructure it's not only "build it and they will come" but also "build it properly and everyone will be happy".

The daftest thing is that it's plain to see in action, even in rare spots in the UK: Worthing's Promenade is now a haven of happy people on bikes and on foot. And yet we insist on spending billions on making things nicer for motor vehicles, and pretty-much zero on bicycle routes to make things nicer for people.

Branko Collin said...

If I had a velomobile pass me at 40 kph, I'd certainly make a ruckus. There is no difference whatsoever between an electrical scooter going dangerously fast and a velomobile.

The bike path is not a race track. People using it as such should be sentenced to limit themselves to walking and public transport for a year.

There is a broad movement against having moped drivers and crazed bicycle racers on the bike path. People feel terrorized, and the sense of subjective safety plummets if you allow these speeding idiots on the bike path.

A proposed solution is to move these wheeled bandits to the car lane. I disagree, because I don't see why anti-social behaviour should be punished with physical violence. But bicycle racers and moped drivers most certainly do not belong on the bike path. Want to race? Why not go to the velodrome?

David Hembrow said...

Calm down Branko, I'm not out to frighten anyone. Where there is little room or lots of people of course I slow down, as would anyone else.

In this case it was almost completely empty because it wasn't open yet.

Velodromes are exactly where we go to race. Including a week ago.

Branko Collin said...

"Where there is little room or lots of people of course I slow down, as would anyone else."

Indeed, as would car drivers. I don't think Fonant's question was about just one specific velomobile on one specific path on one specific occasion.

David Hembrow said...

Branko: I really think you're trying to make something out of nothing.

What happens on this cycle-path isn't so different to what happens on many others.

Perhaps the biggest difference from an inner city route is that due to its relatively open location it is more of a magnet for people who want to ride fast.

This really isn't a problem. Even with the fastest cyclist, relative speeds are not great.

If you cycle at 20 km/h then when you pass someone whose standing at the side there is a 20 km/h difference.

That's the same difference in speed as a 40 km/h cyclist passing a 20 km/h cyclist. Not nearly as dramatic as you might think.

What's more, 40 km/h isn't as fast as you seem to think it is. With a tailwind, I've ridden my cargo bike at 35 km/h on this path and found that a pensioner was keeping up with me. These are the sorts of speeds that almost anyone can achieve at least for a short distance if they're in a hurry.

I walk our dog along the southern section of that very canal path every day. Quite frequently, cycle racers pass me as I do this. They do not cause any problem at all. The path is wide and there is plenty of room.

The last thing that cycling needs is people trying to divide cyclists into groups based on who is a "good" cyclist vs. who is a "bad" cyclist. Please don't do this.

There is no real problem being caused due to "speeding idiots" on Dutch cycle paths.

Branko Collin said...

"The last thing that cycling needs is people trying to divide cyclists into groups based on who is a "good" cyclist vs. who is a "bad" cyclist. Please don't do this."

I am not in the least interested in "cycling". I want to get from A to B in the most comfortable way possible. For distances up to 2 km (more if it doesn't rain) that means taking the bike.

"There is no real problem being caused due to "speeding idiots" on Dutch cycle paths.""

I suggest you Google for "wielrenners fietspad". The problem may not be "real", but it is certainly perceived as such. The web is rife with comments about "arrogante wielrenners", "mafkezen", "gaytjes" and so on. And a couple of years back a man in Limburg was so angry with bicycle racers that he tied a rope across the bike path to make them fall.

People feel less safe on bicycle paths if they have to share them with others who use these paths as race tracks. This is not about the real danger of certain speed differences, but about the perceived danger.

David Hembrow said...

Branco: There are always a few people who think the sky is falling. Changing policy on the grounds that someone thinks its a reasonable reaction to tie a rope across a cycle-path is to listen to such idiots.

Yes, there are a few search results for your search term. However, many of those are reactions to others. Actual reported problems are very few and far between. What we have here is rather too much publicity being given to a few people who are blowing a small problem way out of proportion. It's nonsense. I don't write about this because it's a non-issue. I have no desire to pander to fools.

It would be just as easy to make an argument that there is a problem caused by old people. You know the sort: they ride in parallel taking up the whole cycle-path, never look behind, and deliberately turn their hearing aids down so that they can't hear your bike or your bell even if they've slowed down to little over walking pace for a hundred metres and have tried ringing politely several times. These people simply don't respond.

I could go on to describe them with words such as arrogant, or any number of other unpleasant epithets. However, actually I won't complain about them at all. While I quite regularly lose a small amount of time due to people who almost certainly have no idea at all about what obstruction they're causing, I actually find it rather wonderful that people of that age group can and do cycle considerable distances. At some point in the future I hope to be one of them (but I will try to remember to look behind and let other people pass).

Parallel old people cause just about exactly the same amount of problems as fast cyclists. i.e. almost none at all.

It's very easy to make divides in society, and rather more difficult to heal them.