Monday, 18 June 2012
Of course, such a reservation needs to be adequate in size. The crossing shown above, in a residential area in Assen by the local shops, allows two cyclists travelling in each direction to pass each other, and is long enough for a bicycle with trailer to stop safely in the middle. it also has a completely separate crossing for pedestrians, and of course both the cycle and pedestrian paths on both sides of the street. The speed limit for cars is 50 km/h (30 mph).
Here is another view of the crossing:
Grotere kaart weergeven
This is an example of a crossing which works extremely well for cyclists, but it is not in any way an unusual or unique design. This is normal. There are so many crossings like this in Assen that I couldn't possibly count them. You need look no more than a hundred metres to the South from this one to find three more which are similar (see them here on Google Maps).
Note five features on and around this crossing which make motorists slow down. Firstly, the shape of the crossing requires that motorists must decelerate and change course to go around it. Secondly, the width of the lanes either side of the central reservation is narrow which makes maneuvering difficult at speed. Thirdly, the road is narrow and there is no central white line. This makes motorists less sure of their position on the road and further reduces speed. Fourthly, the speed limit is 50 km/h (30 mph) on this street, which provides access, and 30 km/h (18 mph) on surrounding streets. Fifthly, there is also a pedestrian zebra crossing here for which motorists must stop if a pedestrian is crossing (cyclists don't have priority in this case, but often receive it anyway as you can see from videos showing the same crossing in use)
The requirement that motorists have to swerve could be dangerous to cyclists if they were on the street, but because there are parallel cycle-paths on both sides of the street there is no danger at all.
This can be seen as something which is easily "lost in translation" when implemented elsewhere because while the same concept might appear elsewhere, the implementation is completely different. For example, here's the same concept as implemented in Cambridge, UK:
This reservation is much too small. Only one cyclist can use it at a time because the path on it is too narrow, and it doesn't provide nearly enough space for towing a trailer. It also doesn't feel safe because there is not much separation from high speed traffic. While the example in Assen is on a relatively minor street with a slow speed limit, and that is where such a crossing if built to a high enough standard, can work well, this one is on a major arterial road, which is is one of the busiest in Cambridge. The lanes on either side of this central reservation are much too wide, and they are shared with cyclists heading along the road who are provided with the narrowest of on-road cycle-lane.
What's more, the speed limit here is more than double that of the Assen example, at 40 mph (64 km/h).
When we crossed at this point with our children it was difficult to accompany them and cross the road safely. What's more, when I pulled a child trailer across this junction it didn't fit, so I had to make the crossing in one step.
It's an example of something extremely inadequate being installed in completely the wrong situation.
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If your only reference to good infrastructure design comes from books, websites and looking at Google Maps, then it is very easy to misinterpret what is seen on the ground in the Netherlands. This is why it is important that planners from English speaking countries should see for themselves what good infrastructure actually looks like, and see it in the country which has the best standards. Referring only to what is in, for example, the UK can only result in copying from bad examples. It is to try to help to prevent this problem that we organise study tours.
See other examples of ideas "lost in translation", enabling of crossing the road, and perhaps most important, examples of what works in the Netherlands.