On the Study Tours we pack into three days as much as possible of what took us many years to learn. Perhaps it's not surprising that people sometimes look a bit shell-shocked by the end of the tour as it can be quite hard to take it in. Feedback is always welcome, and happily it usually demonstrates very well that participants on the tour have understood what they saw. Today we were lucky enough to receive feedback from two different people.
Michel from Norway sent us this wonderful video made by Ingvild Stensrud and Herman Andreassen, two of the Norwegian students who came on a tour in March. I don't understand Norwegian, and there are no English subtitles, but it's a very watchable video which demonstrates much of what they saw on the tour:
The second item came from Claire Prospert of the Newcastle Cycling Campaign. Claire has written a wonderful and detailed blog-post for the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain which is both a review of the tour in May as well as being extremely thorough and informative in itself. Please read her post.
The following video is one of several shot on the tour which you can find on Claire's youtube channel. This video catches the first thing that everyone saw on the the first day, before the tour had even started - the full spectrum of Dutch cycling from a velomobile to a school trip heading out of the city went by right outside the door of the accommodation on a street which used to be the main route for cars into Assen from the South but now is a much more friendly space:
During the May Study Tour we came across three different groups of children from three different schools. While it would be quite exceptional elsewhere, this isn't an unusual sight at all in the Netherlands (read other blog posts about school trips by bike). This brings us back to what is one of the most important things with regard to campaigning for a high cycling modal share: you have to start with children, and indeed that is what the Dutch did.
Why come on a tour ?
Our blog, as well as others that we link to on the right, go to some effort to explain how things work in the Netherlands. There are also books on the subject, and many people refer to Google Maps. All of these things give an impression, however there is really no substitute for seeing it yourself.
When in the Netherlands, there is much to see, and it is very easy it is to miss things or to misunderstand the context or usage. I know from personal experience that on first visiting the country it is easy to ride past important infrastructure without noticing it at all - the ease of cycling in the Netherlands makes it very easy to take the reason for that ease for granted. What's more, very few Dutch people who have "always" been surrounded by the infrastructure realise that it is exceptional. People's memories are short and they don't necessarily recall how things used to be.
For these reasons, it is helpful to be on a tour which specifically takes in so many interesting features as possible, and on which there are explanations of why these things are interesting. Because you benefit from our years of experience on a three day tour, this saves a lot of time. We're native English speakers and understand the different contexts of cycling in both English speaking countries and the Netherlands. This is what is unique about our study tours and why people find them to be so informative.
Thursday, 21 June 2012
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:
Open in Google Maps - note that cyclists don't suffer from a "pinch" effect due to cars because there are separate cycle-paths either side of the crossing.
|When we first moved to Assen, there|
was no central reservation at this
crossing. Image from a leaflet
explaining the change
However, that this is very common doesn't imply that such crossings have existed forever. Actually, this one was retrofitted quite recently.
|Back of the same leaflet|
explaining what was
being done to improve
aimed at school children
The requirement that motorists have to swerve could be dangerous to cyclists due to a pinching effect if cyclists were on the street but because there are parallel cycle-paths on both sides of the street there is no danger at all.
See also videos showing the same crossing in use by hundreds of school children.
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 much higher than that of the Assen example, at 40 mph (64 km/h) and this is a major arterial road into Cambridge so there are usually far more cars driving here than you find at the equivalent looking crossing in Assen.
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. The closest equivalents we have in Assen would be this or this.
View Larger Map
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.
Monday, 4 June 2012
View Larger Map
When we were in Britain last October we drove from one of our parents to the other. It was an interesting experience being back on Britain's roads and making a long journey by car. One of the things we especially noticed after our absence from Britain's roads was how attempts had been made to limit speeds on roads through villages, but that they were inadequate. Speeds remained too high, and conditions for cyclists and pedestrians remained unpleasant.
The example above is of the A153 entering the village of Coningsby in Lincolnshire, and that's the example I'll use in this blog post. There are hundreds of villages along similar roads in the UK. but this is the one by which I stopped and took some photos:
The A153 has no parallel cycle or pedestrian path. Anyone who wants to travel the 4.5 miles between the next village, Mareham-le-Fen and this one has to use the road. Many journeys are made between villages separated by this sort of distance in order to shop, use sport facilities, go to school or to commute. Coningsby is a desirable destination from Mareham because there are more shops and other facilities in this larger village. However, because cycling along here means being overtaken by vehicles travelling at 100 km/h, very few people would consider it. We stopped for several minutes to take these photos and no cyclists or pedestrians were seen. Everyone who was making this journey made it by car, van or truck.
This design of road, and this design of traffic calming, is lethal. What's more, given the high speeds that remain through the village, it doesn't even result in particularly pleasant conditions for those who live there.
The reason why this particular feature of the road grabbed my attention was that a few days previously I'd pointed out something very similar in concept to the study tour group from Vilnius when they visited us in Assen.
If you had heard only a description of these two roads and not seen the physical reality then they would probably sound like almost the same thing. However, they are not the same in practice. Here is the "equivalent" traffic calming design in Assen:
Grotere kaart weergweven
The Witterhoofdweg has a speed limit of 60 km/h ( 37 mph ) before the signs and 30 km/h ( 18 mph ) through the village. This is the speed limit through most villages in this area. A third of the Dutch road network now has a speed limit of 30 km/h or lower.
The central reservation is much larger than the British example and requires drivers to change course quite dramatically as they drive around it. You couldn't drive through here at the speeds at which drivers in Britain routinely enter Coningsby.
subjective and actual safety right through this village and out the other side.
Written descriptions of these two traffic calming devices would sound the same. However, in reality they are different. Aerial views of both traffic calming features to the same scale:
Coningsby. The signs are above the top of this view, the central reservation is just behind the truck. No need to divert at all while driving through here. While there is space for a cycle-path, none has been built - View Larger Map
Witten. The signs are very close to the central reservation (see shadows to the right), motorists have to divert from a straight line to cross this point. Cycle-paths lead in all directions, all separated from the road, some by a considerable distance - Grotere kaart weergeven
Now I expect some readers to point out that the A153 is a larger more strategic road than the Witterhoofdweg. They'd be right of course. But larger roads in the Netherlands have rather more care taken to preserve the rights of cyclists and pedestrians to go about their everyday business in peace, not less. A traffic calming feature like this simply has no place on a busy road like the A153.
In Britain, the same ideas have been used as in the Netherlands, but they are often applied in a much weaker way, and often in staggeringly inappropriate places. That is what the blog posts tagged "lost in translation" show.
Saturday, 2 June 2012
Another item from our local TV station: Two months ago, I wrote about how the cycle-paths of Drenthe were being tested for quality. The results are now in.
|There are currently a lot of storks|
nesting in Drenthe
|Some of the flowers are out already|
It has to be taken seriously because recreational cycling is worth €670 million each year to the province. The attractions of the province are well known to the Dutch and Germans and almost all of this us due to Dutch and German visitors.
|Judy riding through an area of heath|
While The video description gives a figure of 2300 km of cycle-path in Drenthe, a spokesman in the video talks of 1700 km. He's asking for rural cycle-paths which are looked after by 12 different rural councils and maintained to 12 different standards to be unified under one responsible agency so that they will be consistent in future. The difference between 2300 and 1700, or 600 km, is just about the same as the total length of cycle-path in the two cities of Assen and Emmen combined.
All photos were taken by Judy and I last week when we were planning routes for this years' holiday customers