Thursday 24 December 2015

Christmas photos

I've been very busy with other work lately so blog updates have had to take a back seat for a couple of months. Over the last few days I've taken a few photos of people in Assen, out and about, enjoying the traditional pre-Christmas activity of spending money.

There was a continuous stream of people cycling past this spot yesterday.

All ages, all demographics.

All ages, all demographics.

All ages, all demographics.

All ages, all demographics. For cycling to achieve a high modal share, it must attract everyone. I.e. everyday cycling must be both convenient and safe. The experience should be pleasurable and not akin to an extreme sport. In particular, subjective safety is of paramount importance.

Shopping by bike is of course normal for many people.

Almost everyone rides a bicycle optimised over decades as a practical and reliable means of everyday transport

It's quite common to see a parent in a hurry giving a tired child a helping hand.

All age groups cycle

Let's not forget that cycling infrastructure isn't only for able-bodied "cyclists"

It's legal to walk one dog while cycling in the Netherlands... but two would be dangerous.

Bakfietsen are great for carrying small children, but of course it's more difficult to find a parking space for a larger bike.

Because there are no cars in the city centre, children can ride their own bikes in safety.

In the city centre square (which was once a car-park).

Outside a department store. Luggage racks, comfy saddles, capacious panniers, mudguards, coatguards, chainguards, permanently fitted locks and lights are all part of what makes for a reliable everyday bicycle.

Bikes next to the Christmas market. There were not enough racks so like most of the bikes in these photos, these are not parked in racks. Front luggage racks are a very popular and practical addition to any bike.

The city centre is officially completely pedestrianized. But the strip on the middle which looks like a road is for bikes. I explained about this in a post from last year.

A surprisingly large number of people make their journeys to the centres of Dutch cities by car, despite the queues that they have to endure to do so. It's important not to give a false impression of how many journeys are by bike vs. car in the Netherlands.

Standing in exactly the same place and pointing the camera in the opposite direction I had a fine view of the people who had chosen to cycle making their journeys without any delays at all. Unravelling of modes allows cycle journeys not to be affected by queuing cars.

Amongst the many parked bicycles everywhere you find some evidence of a real minority in he Netherlands: Approximately 1% of journeys in this country are made by moped.
Local shopping centres also attract many people by bike. All the racks were full today, and there were lots of bikes parked outside the racks.

But just as in the centre, some people come by car even if it means they have to drive around a lot to find a parking space


Oliebollen, a type of doughnut, are very popular at this time of year (and more so on New Year's Eve)

City centre cycle-parking after dark.

Pub(cafe) on one side o the street, shops on the other. Both with bikes outside

Lamp-post. Bicycle.

The Drentsarchief

The Nieuwe Kolk. Assen's combined library, cinema, theatre and concert hall. The sign points to the indoor cycle-parking. Unfortunately, the road outside this building isn't really very good for cycling.


The new pancake boat is extremely popular

The reflections from the traffic jam on the other side of the canal were quite pretty but I was glad not to be part of this queue.

Instead, I was happy to be part of the free-flowing cycle-traffic using the bicycle road on the other side of the canal.

Judy visited a hairdresser in a village 15 km away today. Longer journeys are hassle free when decent cycling infrastructure runs the whole distance.

A friend combines delivering the mail with impersonating Santa. It's safe to stop and chat because we were not standing on busy roads.
Study tours
If you wish to find out about how the "miracle" of mass cycling was achieved in the Netherlands, we're taking bookings now for our next open study tour in April.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Whatever and however you celebrate at this time of year, I wish you the best of luck.
I downloaded the design for this Koch snowflake hanging from our Christmas tree, but I've also made several of my own part designs, most of them for cyclists, free to download.

Saturday 17 October 2015

Good quality cycle-paths provide efficient cycling conditions from city to countryside and back again

In the last few months I've been busy with other work so have not had a chance to make so many updates on the blog as usual. However, we've still been cycling a lot. In this post you'll find videos showing efficient cycling routes from Assen out into the countryside

This video shows part of one of the routes which I often ride, starting from home and going out in the countryside before returning home. I work from home so 20 km or so ridden like this and returning home make up my "commute".

This year, the Dutch recumbent bicycle club (website here) has existed for 30 years. To celebrate, a wreath was sent around the country to all 20 local clubs as a relay. I took part on behalf of our local club (the Huneliggers), first collecting the wreath from Henk and Monique of Nazca Ligfietsen on the 10th of September and then organizing a ride to deliver it to Groningen on the 20th of September (read that story here).

What these videos demonstrate
This is what I rode in those videos. Naturally, all my spares
come from, our business.
  1. From a Dutch home in the suburbs it's necessary to ride only a short distance to reach quality cycling infrastructure which leads to everywhere in the whole country.
  2. Cycling infrastructure which allows cyclists to ride continuously and gives them shorter routes and fewer traffic lights to stop at than is the case when driving leads to cycling being very efficient and attractive.
  3. Being kept apart from motor vehicles improves safety and makes cycling far more attractive.
  4. This good quality infrastructure stretches across the country. It's not limited by city boundaries and routes are not limited - you can go anywhere. This is the grid which I've written about often.
  5. Recumbent bicycles (and particularly velomobiles) are so efficient that even a not really so strong guy like myself can cover 11.5 km in 18 minutes entirely under human power.
Most of our daily cycle journeys (shopping etc.) are made on conventional bikes, but we use exactly the same infrastructure and benefit in exactly the same way from the efficiency and safety of available routes. Everyone benefits in exactly the same way from good quality infrastructure.

Camera trouble
One of the things which has held back getting around to making videos and blogging is that I've had a lot of trouble with cameras. Both of the videos above not only demonstrate good cycling infrastructure, but they also demonstrate two different faulty cameras.

In the last year I've bought no fewer than three cameras which have developed a fault. I was particularly shocked by the attitude of FujiFilm (I wrote elsewhere about this) to reporting a fault with one of their cameras which managed only a few months of taking excellent still photos and video before going wrong. When I found that this wasn't a unique occurrence but due to a manufacturing / design error which seemingly affects all cameras of the same model, this only made things worse. You might expect that a major company would admit such a problem and act on it, but it turns out that FujiFilm's guarantee is meaningless. Instead of admitting that an identical problem reported by hundreds of customers might be something real which required them to do something, they seemingly have an organised procedure to blame each customer individually for causing the fault. We're left with an expensive door-stop.

I spent months trying to get FujiFilm to respond and got nowhere. This rather put me off major manufacturers so I next decided to buy an action camera from a Chinese company which had received good reviews. I picked the SJCAM SJ4000 because many people seemed to like it. It arrived on the afternoon of the 10th of September, I charged it immediately and the very first time it was used was to make the "Verzamelen..." video above. It's the longest video that the camera ever managed to make, but note that at the end of the video the pictures stand still. It had crashed. The user interface was frozen and it could only be reset by pulling out the battery. This was not an isolated instance. Over the next few days, the same thing happened sooner and sooner until it got to the point where I was lucky to get more than 30 seconds of moving images before needing to remove the battery to reset the camera. Not actually useful at all, so this was sent back a couple of weeks ago. I've yet to receive any acknowledgement from the company that supplied it that they've received it and nor have I received a refund.

I then ordered a competing model, the Denver 8030W from a Dutch toy shop which happened to have the best price. At the time of writing this, I've only owned this particular camera for two days but unfortunately, as you can see from the first video above, this camera doesn't record any sound to go with the video. I've sent email to the company but they've not yet replied. I'm still hopeful of resolving this. They've not had long and at least I can take this back to a local shop.

In the last year I've paid for three cameras from three different manufacturers and none of them work correctly. What on earth happened to quality control and customer service ?

Saturday 29 August 2015

Deventer: An efficient route for cycling in a city which has much to offer.

A few days ago, Ranty Highwayman wrote about visiting Deventer. He covered the central streets quite well, but unfortunately, the central streets are not where you find the best developed cycling infrastructure in that city. Therefore, I've brought forward a long overdue blog post about Deventer, including a long video which I shot back in April 2014 just after a new cycle route had opened.

Efficient cycling infrastructure isn't limited to one corner of the Netherlands. Actually, there are great examples of infrastructure across the country. We run our study tours here in Assen and sometimes look very closely at particular aspects of the infrastructure in this city. Assen is better than average even for a Dutch city, but there are quite a lot of places which have better than average infrastructure and had we settled elsewhere in the country we'd have taken a closer look at what was on offer there instead.

A ten minute long video (sorry!). This shows most of a very high quality newly reconstructed route for cyclistswhich runs all the way from suburbs and villages to the east of Deventer right to the centre of the city. This is very good infrastructure even by Dutch standards.

A friend of mine (who does something entirely different on youtube) lives near Deventer so Judy and I have visited that city several times. I've cycled every cm of several possible routes along the 100 km which stretch between Assen and Deventer and occasionally written a little about the city on this blog or elsewhere. Deventer's a very pleasant city to visit. The ancient central streets are popular with shoppers and also a pleasure to cycle in. When people have asked me about other places which have good cycling infrastructure, I've sometimes suggested Deventer as another of those relatively unknown places in the Netherlands which is better than average.

Between villages and suburbs to the east of Deventer and the centre of the city, there's this cycle-path (featured in the video above)

Another day, another view. This is top quality infrastructure for efficient cycling. Efficiency is essential to make cycling attractive even for longer journeys. It's only by addressing all journey lengths and all journey types that mass cycling becomes possible.

Deventer also has other good examples of infrastructure in its suburbs such as this bicycle road.

Another view of the same bicycle road. The through route for bikes has priority over the minor route for motor vehicles.

Just as in other Dutch cities, through traffic has been diverted around the city centre in Deventer. The old central streets now carry a great deal fewer motor vehicles than they once did. When routes have been unravelled and motor traffic removed, city centre streets don't require obvious cycling infrastructure. The old streets in the centre of the city don't look the same now as they used to at the height of car oriented thinking back in the 1960s and 70s.

Free of charge guarded cycle parking, surrounded by historic buildings in Deventer

Cafe "culture" appears when cars are removed from cities.

Occasion delivery vehicles, but otherwise the central streets are for cyclists and pedestrians.

The centre streets of Deventer are used only by cyclist and pedestrians, except for service vehicles and those which set up and remove stalls on market days. Note how quiet these streets are: while tidying up, this driver can pull four trailers at once without causing any problem for anyone. Ranty Highwayman's blog post, linked above, shows many of the central streets.

I've cycled between Assen and Deventer on many occasions. In this case, catching up with racing cyclists who are as is entirely usual in the Netherlands, using the same high quality cycle-paths as everyone else.

Here entering a village with a low speed limit on a quiet country road. Country roads in the Netherlands have traffic unravelled from them in just the same way as do city centre streets. My route sometimes includes the town of Raalte, a town where cycling success was achieved for just the same reasons as elsewhere in the Netherlands, though a mistranslated article suggested otherwise.
Nowhere is perfect
Just because something exists in the Netherlands, that doesn't imply that it's good. Just as with other Dutch cities, not everything is perfect in Deventer.

Like other places, Deventer has a mixture of newer and older infrastructure. In particular much of cycling infrastructure near the city centre appears to be quite dated. Some things have been done better than others and in some places mistakes have been made. For instance, Deventer has at least one safe Simultaneous Green junction which has a perfect safety record for cyclists, but the adopted a less safe roundabout design resulting in a roundabout being the most dangerous junction for cyclists in the city. More worrying, recent removal of separate cycling and walking provision within an industrial area mirrors a change in Hoogeveen which had awful consequences.

Because I don't spend much time in Deventer, I don't know the details of what is happening there so it wouldn't be wise for me to organise study tours in that city.

Study Tours
While there are good examples across the Netherlands, on our study tours we take a very close look at the two cities of Assen and Groningen. These are cities in which we spend a lot of time and which we know well. We don't travel from place to place on these tours as that would mean giving a helicopter view of highlights which would be misleading. Instead, by looking more closely at a small area we can present a balanced and representative view of the whole, including examples of what works and what should not be copied. To find out more about Dutch cycling infrastructure, book a tour.