Monday 27 July 2009

Country road - no centre lines

I took this photo a few days ago on a rural road riding back towards Assen. It's an example of a fairly typical Dutch country road. No middle line, but just a narrowed black area of tarmac, with what appear to be red "cycle lanes" either side. Except that these are not really cycle-lanes. The idea here is to optically narrow the road to make it uninviting to drivers. Drivers have to drive in these lanes in order to pass one another. They also use the entire width of the road (i.e. the red part on the other side) to pass cyclists. Avoiding painting in a middle line also makes the road look narrower and helps to reduce speeds.

Centre line removed on road next to cycle-path.
Note that the road in the top photo is empty of cars. That is the normal state and the result of a deliberate policy to unravel cycling routes from driving routes which extends right across the country and along country roads as well as within cities.

Where there is a higher level of use by motor vehicles, a segregated path is required, but the road can still look identical. The removal of centre-lines still takes place as that is part of the treatment of country roads with 60 km/h speed limits.

So how have motor vehicles been removed ? Well, of course there is more to this than initially meets the eye.

Cyclists have more possible routes to
follow than drivers and are sent by
different routes
The low usage by motorists and low speeds are not the only thing that is special about this road so far as cyclists are concerned. There is also the fact that the road signs actually suggest using different roads depending on whether you are cycling or driving. The sign illustrates this. Only two destinations for drivers are shown, four for cyclists, and the same destinations for cyclists use different roads than those for drivers. This is a form of traffic mode segregation without separate cycle paths.

Cycling in the countryside is more attractive in The Netherlands than most other countries precisely because options for drivers are limited and interactions between cars and bikes are reduced in frequency.

I covered some more extreme examples of rural traffic calming previously.


Frits B said...

It may help to stress that this isn't a new road. It has been there for possibly centuries, and has now been reworked for local traffic and cyclists only. Other traffic is being redirected to wider roads avoiding built-up areas.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this david, it's good to see how infrastructure works (or, could work) in rural areas like ours.

Maarten Sneep said...

One comment though: The red tarmac is not a cycle lane, it is used to optically narrow the area for cars, reducing the speed at which drivers will use these roads. The red tarmac can be much narrower in places (down to 30 cm). In my view this is unfortunate, as drivers expect more space in passing manoeuvres (and will end up in the soft side of the road in the dark), or will react aggressively if a cyclists rides on the black, simply because the red is too narrow. Technically the red part of the road is part of the 'berm' (verge?) of the road.

Daniel Sparing said...

David, thanks for the coverage, I was truly positively surprised seeing these arrangements all around the rural NL.

This is simply a brilliant idea, if we think about the _default_ space for cars & bikes on the road:
1) traditional road accommodates two lanes of cars, the presence of a bike needs an overtaking manoeuvre.
2) this setting accommodates two lanes of bikes and _few_ cars. Too many cars yield the manoeuvres of passing by.

Suddenly, bikes are normal and too many cars abnormal, on the same physical stretch of the road! Brilliant!

(ps. in some cases there is a barrier for cars at some point at the edge of the bike line, presumably to avoid the build-up of two lane car traffic.)

Koen said...

@ Maarten: you are right, it is not a cycle lane as such, but a 'fiets-suggestiestrook': a strip suggesting it's reserved for cyclists. Cyclists however are not confined to this, and can ride side by side, so that one of them rides on the black tarmac in the middle.

Torbjörn Albért said...

How would this work when the road passes a very very small village, say 5-15 houses on a stretch? Possible 30 km>/h zone if one of the houses is kindergarten. Would it be an effective way to keep speed down? Would it lure children and parents that they are safe on the sides?

David Hembrow said...

Torbjörn: It is quite normal for speed limits to drop to 30 km/h through Dutch villages. This is true even of very small collections of houses, including where there is no kindergarten. However, actual vehicle speeds are not much affected if all that is present is a sign post with a speed limit.

What civilizes roads like the one in the photo of the top of the page is that the amount of traffic along them is severely restricted.