Saturday 18 September 2010

Rush hour interactions with other traffic

The video shows the first part of my ride home from work a few evenings back. My route takes me from the industrial estate on the South East of Groningen towards the south, so I don't see the numbers of bikes that you see during rush hour in the centre of the city. Also it was a wet and windy day.

My route is around 30 km in length, about 28 km of which is on cycle paths, not roads. Normally my commute takes about 50-55 minutes - an average speed of 33 - 36 km/h. This is a far higher speed that I averaged on a shorter commute using roads in the UK, but naturally not as high a speed as I can average when racing on a closed circuit. This time I spent more time on the roads than usual because of the road works. The road work signs actually told cyclists to use the normally unidirectional 2.5 m wide cycle path on the other side of the street as a bidirectional cycle path, but I instead rode on the road for a while before going back on the normal cycle path.

In the video I edited out almost all the bits where nothing is happening, but left in every interaction with another cyclist or driver. While many kilometres of cycle path are edited out, most of the time I was on road is still in the video.

The velomobile parked outside the shop at the start of the video belongs to Marcel Prins. We had an interesting, though short (it was time to go home) conversation and he had some complaints about the route he took to Groningen from Leeuwarden. Nothing's perfect, of course, including conditions for cycling in the Netherlands. Personally, I find that the surfaces are not so smooth and that I get lost when I head west into Friesland as the signage seems not to work so well either. However, it's all relative.

Much of what is "bad" here would still be pretty good by the standards of many other countries, both with regards to infrastructure and the behaviour of drivers on the roads. While this sort of thing happened to me fairly frequently when riding in the UK, it's never happened here.

For those who think the first video doesn't look enough like Rush Hour (even though that's exactly what it is), here's another video of leaving the centre of Groningen at roughly the same time:

The scene of the first video with rather more bikes can be seen here.

The first video was made using a remarkably cheap and effective video camera. Another example video and instructions how to buy it can be found here.


Dr. Ray Niekamp said...

Very nice. As an American with Dutch ancestors, I enjoy watching your videos. I wish we had something similar here.

Jörg said...

I just came back from a few days in Groningen and found cycling there to be quite slow. If you are an everyday rider and want to reach your destination quickly, it must be unnerving to have the narrow cycle paths always full of slow riders, riding side by side. The feeling of subjective safety is not good if you have to deal with the erratic behaviour of many cyclists. Car drivers usually act more predictable, at least in Germany, and obviously the same is true for the Netherlands.
The "all directions green at the same time" at many junctions was also irritating. Being a usually rather fast rider, I sometimes had the problem that I wanted to ride straight on over the junction and found my way blocked by slow cyclists coming from the right. Not good! Certainly you can adapt your riding style to these rules, but it will slow you down considerably.
My conclusion is that the inner-city cycling infrastructure of bigger Dutch cities is designed for slow short distance riders. Since that description will fit the majority of cyclists, I am sure the infrastructure is the key for more cycling - but I must admit that personally I was less than enthusiastic.