Cyclists have more direct, safe and pleasant journeys if their routes are separated from the routes taken by drivers. This video shows examples of how on the west of Assen, cycle-routes are mostly quite separate from driving routes. By this I don't only mean that cycle-paths run alongside the roads, but that the routes themselves are different. It is increasingly common in the Netherlands that cycling and driving routes are unravelled from one another.
The map (courtesy of Google Maps) shows many of the routes featured in the video. Blue routes are for cars, red routes for bikes. The traffic lights featured in the video can be seen on the map, as can the blue arched bridge, one of four bridges clustered together, three of which make part of viable routes for cyclists, and two of which make viable routes for drivers.
The blue arched bridge, the largest of four bridges close together in the centre of the map and the only one of the four map on which cyclists can't ride, was actually built to benefit cyclists. It adds nothing for drivers over the flat junction which was in this position until 2008. In fact, the construction of this bridge removed the option to makes turns left and right to use what is now a cyclist only through route. This bridge was constructed to take the dual carriageway ring-road above the cycle-path so that cyclists neither had to wait at a crossing, dive through a tunnel or climb over a bridge.
I've shown all the possible through routes by car on the map but note that they do not join up in the top left corner where a road runs under the motorway bridge next to a cycle-path. By comparison, I've only shown the relatively heavily used bicycle through routes. In fact, while drivers have relatively few through routes to choose from, every road and street on the map except for the one car only road (on which there is a traffic light) and the motorway can be used as a through route by bike. The majority of the map have been drawn as solid red for bikes, even though these residential streets are not useful through routes by car.
|Driving between one traffic light and another, on a road|
between noise barriers. Would you prefer this ?
Note that not only car routes but also bus routes are unravelled
from cycling routes. There are few things less pleasant than
riding with buses.
These signs are sometimes misunderstood by people in English speaking countries, who think that cyclists being banned from roads like this one leads to having to take less direct, less convenient routes than would be the case if cyclists could ride with the cars and trucks.
Actually, of course, this is completely incorrect.
In this case, should our intrepid cyclist defy the sign and cycle with this bus and van, he/she would simply find another set of traffic lights four hundred metres from this one.
Fighting for the "right to ride" on roads such as this one would be a meaningless gesture. No-one is interested in doing so, because it makes no sense at all to prefer to ride in those conditions. This is a road which exists to deal with the consequences of cars.
|Or this ? It's the same bridge and this is the direct route to|
town. However, cyclists have not just direct routes to
places that they want to go, but also ride in places
designed for an open feeling leading to a high degree
of social safety.
Motor vehicles do nothing to lend anywhere a sense of "place", and they are rightly removed not only from city centres and residential areas, but also from main routes for cyclists. Stick to cycle-routes and a cyclist finds not only fewer traffic lights and more direct routes, but also he/she will ride along real streets where there are people, shops and cafes and not between noise barriers erected to separate motor vehicles from people.
Freewheeler once said to me "I do wish cycling campaigners would drive more". He made a very good point. Without knowing what conditions are like for drivers, cyclists can't really make a valid comparison.
This is particularly true when considering the subjective and social safety of different modes. In most countries, driving wins over cycling hands down when it comes to subjective safety, and this is a very strong reason why many people don't see cycling as a viable alternative. However, in the Netherlands, the most pleasant and safest conditions are usually to be found when cycling. This is so because motor vehicles have been removed.