Monday 26 July 2010

Another new "superhighway" for bikes

Wilfred Ketelaar has been documenting the progress of work on the route between his home in a village west of Groningen and the city itself.

The first photo shows the previous situation. By the standards of many countries this would be a very good cycling facility. It's separated from the road, and fairly wide. However, it doesn't meet current Dutch guidelines. According to the provincial website this cycle path is narrow and too close to the road.

The first step was to start to prepare the new cycle path foundations alongside the old cycle path.

Note that there is to have a much greater separation from the road as it's positioned completely to the right of the old path, and the new cycle path will be somewhat wider than the old.

Another view of the works a little later when much of the concrete has been poured. The new surface is 3.5 m wide, and extremely smooth concrete. I have the same surface on a path of the same quality on my commute. It's smoother than the road. Smoother than some racing circuits I've been on - like a linear velodrome to your destination.

While works go on, it is necessary for cyclists travelling in this direction to cross the road and use the cycle path on the opposite side.

The speed limit on the road alongside the cycle path is temporarily limited to 50 km/h to avoid dangerous situations when cyclists have to cross.

And so it goes. Soon there will be yet another new "superhighway" for cyclists. This one being the green line between Z and G in the top right corner of the map (click on the map for more information).

This particular "fietssnelweg" is being marketed locally as merely a "fietsroute+". A list of what this entails is to be found in a previous blog post.

Also, I showed just how much separation from the road you get on another post about my local fietsroute+.

This sort of infrastructure makes longer cycle commutes far more practical. You can cycle quickly if you want to.

It's really an awful long way away from what Londoners are being fobbed off with


Anonymous said...

The first photo shows the previous situation. By the standards of many countries this would be a very good cycling facility.

I thought that the first photo was the new path! It would be funny if it wasn't so sad...

It's a shame we can't even have your second-rate infrastructure as a hand-me-down :)

Paul Martin
Brisbane, Australia

Joe said...

This is excellent! Where I'm from (Buffalo, NY) this looks like a cyclists Nirvana!


Wilfred Ketelaar said...

The cyclepath is now half-complete. Let me explain. This year the part between Zuidhorn (Z) and Aduard (halfway to Groningen) has been constructed. Next year the will repair/replace/maintain the brigde there and than they will also construct the second part of the cyclepath.

For now the first part is finished, but there is still some cleaning up to do for the workcrew. This grass still has to grow inbetween the mainroad and cyclepath. But that doesn't matter. You can cycle on it. And that's just what I'm going to do in 30 min. (off to work).

Nick said...

I think that if Groningen were cursed with the same kind of streetplan and space restrictions that London has to put up with, you wouldn't see such cyclepaths being built there. It's very easy to knock what's being done in London, but what's happening there is at least better than it NOT happening. To me, the comparison you draw doesn't seem either entirely sensible or completely fair (tempting though it is to make it).

christhebull said...

@Nick - London's streets can be incredibly narrow. Or they can be incredibly wide. Depends on the street. In the case of the Smurfways, available width would be greater if there wasn't acres of hatching, turning lanes, and traffic islands along the middle of the roads being used. Also, WHY is parking allowed - surely that reduces the available width??? And where there are 3 or more traffic lanes plus two narrow cycle lanes, surely 2 traffic lanes plus two decent cycle lanes is better? Oh, wait, "normal" road traffic takes priority over a "Super" cycleway.
Also, London is cursed - not with its street layout (surely Amsterdam has narrow streets?), but with bad drivers...

Nick said...

@christhebull - Everything you say is quite possibly true (except, I think, the implication that London's drivers are somehow uniquely bad). However, the only point I was making is that if Groningen had a similar urban infrstructure to London's you wouldn't see the kind of cyclepaths being built there that are shown in the pictures. Groningen is smaller (by far) than London and, if I remember rightly from my visits there, has more space available on the routes in and out, which is where this cycle path runs.

David Hembrow said...

Nick: There are of course differences between London and Groningen, not that this excuses how extraordinarily awful London's "superhighways" are.

By choosing such a name for what are merely blue painted bike lanes, London has set itself up for ridicule.

The Dutch are doing much more than just making lanes on roads and doing so without using such extravagant language.

Besides, London is not the only point of comparison in Britain. Where in Britain, in any size of town or city, can you find conditions for cycling which can compare with any Dutch city, even ones which don't make a claim to be a "cycling city"

You won't find it in Cambridge or York, or in the more recently crowned "cycling city" of Bristol.

Nick said...

David: I wasn't in any way disputing that what the Dutch do to foster cycling is far more than is done anywhere in Britain; you've already made that abundantly clear in many of your posts. But - at the risk of repeating myself once too often - my only points were 1) that to compare London with Groningen, as you did, is to compare chalk with cheese (i.e. not really sensible), and 2) that the fact that London is doing SOMETHING may at least be better than London doing NOTHING, if only marginally. (And now I'll shut up, honestly!)

Mark W. said...

@Nick: I do think it is fair to compare the lick of paint London dares to call "cycle superhighways" with anything the Dutch simply call "cycle path plus".

And it is simply untrue to say the streets in Groningen (or any Dutch city) are wider. If you look passed the four lane + parked car cluttered streets you will see that buildings in general are at similar distances from each other in most European cities. Apart from cities that grew relatively later (Berlin, Copenhagen) or those where whole neighbourhoods were knocked down to build boulevards (Paris). Old cities especially in the Netherlands and Britain are remarkably similar. These neighbouring countries both have houses of similar sizes which are also built in similar bricks at similar distances from each other. Yes, most Dutch cities created 4 lane ring roads with cycle paths in the 1960s and 1970s, and yes they did remove buildings for those roads that might indeed be wider than the entrance roads to English cities, but they really are the exception.

I remember from my youth that Dutch streets in the 1970s looked very much like the streets in Britain today. That is why to Dutch eyes the streets in Britain look so old-fashioned. We have changed them since and Britain hasn't. I am not sure that what is happening in London today is "better than it NOT happening". Bad cycle infrastructure could be worse than no infrastructure at all for a number of reasons that we have seen passing on this Blog so often.

The difference is not in the street plan of cities, it is in the hearts, minds and will of the people.

Anonymous said...

The country side and crowded inner cities demand different facilities. The unfortunate result is that you simply cannot compare the Dutch and the Londoner's use of the word 'bicycle highway' as if they are just two points on a scale because the differences are intentional. The one is an accurate use of the word 'highway,' the other one is a romantic label for marketing purposes.

Are the English wrong to use the word highway for something that clearly isn't? I think they are. The intended audience for the word is not the bicyclist, who already knows what the advantages of cycling are, but the car driver. And the latter will simply have gained a new way to think lesser of his/her fellow road users.

London implementing better cycling infrastructure, no matter how slight? Good. London putting more effort in singing the praise of the smell of manure than in growing roses? Bad.

christhebull said...

Here is a clear example of wasted space on a road in Plymouth.

It consists of a dual carriageway with a narrow cycle lane, a traffic lane, and a hatched area [the diagonal markings] in each direction. Surely it would be better if the hatched area were eliminated, and the cycle lane widened? There wouldn't be a reduction in motor vehicle capacity because there was only one lane each way to start with, and yet the cycle lane would be a lot more comfortable to use.

Anonymous said...


Bad cycle infrastructure could be worse than no infrastructure at all for a number of reasons that we have seen passing on this Blog so often.

I totally agree. We must stop accepting any old scraps. I'm trying to point that out to people here but nobody is interested... yet.

Paul Martin
Brisbane, Australia

Isla... said...

This post is unbelievable & very difficult to relate to.

Pauls comment, I thought that the first photo was the new path! It would be funny if it wasn't so sad... rings true over here in the UK also.

Poor Boris should read your blog more often ;>D

inconvenient_truth said...

Bad cycle infrastructure could be worse than no infrastructure at all for a number of reasons that we have seen passing on this Blog so often.

The problem in the UK is not so much the quality of the infrastructure, but the ideology that lies behind its construction - or non-construction. And Cyclist Advocacy Groups don't help by doing the macho pose and arguing for "vehicular cycling". It would help immensely if we, as cycling campaigners, could ALL agree some simple fundamentals. E.g.:
* the busier the urban road, the more need there is for high quality cycling infrastructure.
* cycling infrastructure should be built upon space removed from motorist use.
* cyclists must be given priority over motorised traffic where cycle paths cross side roads.

If infrastructure is developed according to these principles, it might take London 25 years to catch up with Groningen, but at least it would be moving in the right direction.

Brightcetera said...

I'd be more than happy as well with the path in the first picture! I'm totally green with the new lanes. I agree with Joe ... here in Windsor that would indeed be Nirvana.

My city has built a few paved paths but they aren't connected very well with each other yet but I'm hoping ...
My ride to work consists of riding on unmarked roads, a bike lane on the road, designated MUP, and a very wide lane beside a main road which is a collection point for road debris but I make do. I hope that it continues to improve.

Isla... said...

IT, arguing for vehicular cycling isn't necessarily a macho thing. You've seen what we usually get over here with regards to infrastructure - a lot of resistance probably comes as a result.

I've yet to see a cycle path with priority over the roads it crosses, and from my own local council, have yet to hear anybody with any responsibility suggest that it could even happen. At least more 20mph zones are popping up.

If offered the alternatives shown on here, with decent surfaces & no barriers, then I'd use them - who wouldn't?! The problem us Brits are lumbered with, is that the alternatives we get usually don't offer a better experience - and nobody has the balls to provide anything better.

Anonymous said...

Can I ask how the Dutch persuade the landowners to sell the land adjacent to the road. Are they also enlightened or is there some form of compulsory purchase involved?

Bob said...

These are the times when I completely dread moving back home to Canada. I just know I'll be the absolute worst former Ex-pat you'd ever want to encounter. Bicycle infrastructure is one of the many things we miss about the Netherlands.
We could also do with some Dutch "hand me downs" here.
Thanks for the report.

Vienna, Austria.

Anonymous said...

Let's hope Nick isn't actually someone who is in charge of anything to do with cycling in the UK. Maybe comparing Groningen with London is not entirely correct, but what about the whole "Randstad" - i.e. Rotterdam/Amsterdam/the Hague/Utrecht? It is incredibly built-up, very densely-populated, has areas with very narrow streets and yet has excellent cycle infrastructure (unlike greater London). Nick - the simple fact is that Brits are not interested in spending money on decent infrastructure. The shoddy infrastructure which exists in the UK has nothing to do with lack of space etc etc. It is simply a question of priorities. The Dutch and other countries spend more (and make better use of the money they have). The Brits simply enjoy the use of hype. Frighteningly similar to the English football team..........

Branko Collin said...

Peter, a bicycle path *is* a road, so I guess exactly the same considerations as with land purchases for any other type of road would come into play.

Why would a land owner discriminate against types of transport? Perhaps I don't understand your suggestion because I come from the land that pretty much invented capitalism, and not closing a deal based on silly beliefs just sounds like bad business to me.

zix said...

David, how well does the concrete work in rain? I thought that it would be too slippery to use when wet. Or is there a layer of asphalt on top of the concrete?

David Hembrow said...

Zix: It's a great surface in any conditions. It's not completely smooth like a mirror, which might well cause problems in the wet, but slightly textured.

I've a video which shows a different path like this in rain. I've also ridden along it in snow. It works very well in any conditions.