|The stencils show how to get|
to the centre and the Zernike
campus using an existing but
less busy route
My daughter explained to us what was going on. Alternative routes were being suggested to students at the Zernike campus on the North of Groningen to reduce strain on the existing route.
Cycling in Groningen continues to grow. Three years ago it was known that over 14000 cyclists per day were using Zonnelaan. I featured a bicycle counter on Zonnelaan in a blog post two years ago. Busy bicycle routes might seem like something to boast about but really they're a sign of a problem, a sign of too many cyclists being funneled into a single route rather than having a choice if routes which provide efficiently for each user.
|Marketing to students:|
Did you stay up too late last night ?
Stayed in bed too long ?
Too long in front of the mirror ?
All good reasons to try the new
The Zonnelaan cycle-path could be widened and upgraded, but it would still pass through several sets of traffic lights at which there are delays. In any case, high numbers of people on one route are not really a measure of success.
Cities in the Netherlands have an extensive grid of bicycle routes. This should avoid a funneling effect due to everyone taking the same route. Other viable routes to the Zernike campus already existed, but students are a transient group who do not necessarily look for alternatives. This is why it was decided to inform students about the alternatives. In this case, marketing worked because and only because the routes already existed.
There are many possible alternative routes, but the council picked options which don't have traffic lights on them. These routes are advertised as the "smart route" to take. If students follow these routes then the can make their way through the city with no traffic lights at all because the recommended routes are almost completely unravelled from the motor vehicle routes.
"Je bent op tijd als je de slimme route rijdt"
"You'll be on time if you take the smart route"
What do the new routes look like?
The route between my daughter's accommodation and the city centre was already of very high quality. Nothing has changed apart from adding stenciled guidance and signs to help students at Zernike to find the route.
|The alternative routes are of high quality and were already quite well used. This is a very good direct cycle-route with few reasons for cyclists ever to have to slow down or stop.|
The presence of students in a city almost always increases the cycling modal share. It only works, of course, if other things come together. The cycling infrastructure needs to be good, and that of Groningen, like other Dutch cities, is good by world standards. However, Groningen's infrastructure is not particularly good by Dutch standards - something which is in part hidden by the huge number of students cycling. The huge rise in parking of bikes at the railway station is also a symptom of this. The cycle parks are most full at weekends when students use the railway station to access free public transport at weekends.
Not everyone is happy about this
There are sometimes unexpected consequences of trying to solve problems like this. Quite apart from my daughter's fear that her route would become too busy, it turns out that local businesses don't like cyclists being redirected away from them:
"Businesses on the Zonnelaan are not happy with the new cycle routes"
In the Netherlands, shopkeepers like cyclists.
Three people from a courier business in Groningen tried out the new routes to see which was really fastest. First and second place in their race were taken by the cyclists who took the new routes:
The stencilled markings on the cycle-paths may look to American eyes rather like "sharrows". However this is a cycle-path, not a road. "Sharrows" are not real cycling infrastructure and they do not exist in the Netherlands. Thankfully. It's important that the good examples are used for inspiration not the bad.