In this post I show a few streets in the centre of Assen and show how they work for cyclists and drivers such that despite their appearance, they are optimized for cyclists. After watching the video, read further to see a map showing the layout and towards the bottom of the post for photos of what the same streets looked like in the 1960s when they were optimized for drivers.
Note that this video has many captions which explain what you are looking at. They are only visible on a computer and not on a mobile device.
This video shows the route for bikes directly through the city centre along Noordersingel, Nieuwe Huizen and the most Southern part of Groningerstraat. It's shown on this map in red:
|Click for Google Maps. The video follows the red line from bottom to top. Drivers are directed by the one way system along Javastraat, Jan Fabriciusstraat and Het Kanaal. This removes them from the route through the centre taken by cyclists.|
Here are some photos of how it used to look:
|In the video we ride from right to top/left from approximately 0:45 until 2:02. This photo shows how the same streets looked in the 1960s.|
|This is how the junction at 1:15 in the video looked in the 1960s. Note how pedestrians had to walk on narrow sidewalks behind barriers which prevented them from crossing the road wherever they wanted to and how there was "not enough space" for cycle-paths on these streets. This is similar to many current British road layouts.|
|This junction appears at 1:38 in the video. In 1965, this was the busiest junction in Assen and traffic lights were needed in this location. There is a blog post and video specifically about this junction.|
This is an example of segregation of modes without cycle-paths. It works. Even in the city centre. Due to their central location, and that they remain a through route for bikes even though not for cars, these streets are very popular with cyclists. A count here showed nearly 9000 cyclists per day using these streets: a very impressive figure in a small city of just 67000 people.
Streets which some commentators from outside the country think are "shared equally" with motorists are in my experience never anything of the sort. This is not a rare arrangement, but a very common one in streets like this - optimized for cycling, but allowing access to drivers. Where there is significant through traffic, cycle-paths are required to preserve an acceptable level of subjective safety. That includes just North of where the video in this post ends.
While cycling always benefits from segregation from motor vehicles, that does not mean that all cycling is on cycle-paths. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for all streets. Sometimes segregation is achieved by moving cars elsewhere. It is very easy to get an incorrect impression and to miss things like this. Unfortunately, some people visit the Netherlands and go home again still with the wrong impression. This is why we offer study tours and encourage campaigners and planners to come on them. They are a means to explain how details like this work, and to show people actual working examples.
The photos come from the book "Assen Verandert" which we reviewed. There are a number of other posts about Groningerstraat, showing more about the road North from the end of the video in this post. You'll note that where the road is busier, there are cycle-paths because you can't achieve a high enough level of subjective safety for mass cycling on roads with a large number of motor vehicles.