Monday 30 May 2011

More cycle parking at Hoogeveen railway station

Hoogeveen is a town of 54000 people approximately 35 km south of Assen. It's railway station, like that of all towns in the Netherlands, has a considerable number of cycle-parking spaces. Our local TV station recently produced this video showing recent expansion of both cycle and car parking at Hoogeveen railway station.

The TV people interview both cyclists and drivers. Both groups are happy with the new development. They also interview a local councillor (wethouder Hiemstra, in a blue shirt) who talks about creating a logical route between the station and the centre of Hoogeveen. More work is still to be done around the station.

There are now 380 car parking spaces, which is quite generous. It doesn't say how much cycle parking is provided (I read elsewhere that it's about 1250). A far higher number of places for bikes than for cars.  Approximately one cycle parking space is provided for every 43 citizens, which is on the low side as other places can have better than one for every 20 citizens.

As well as outdoor cycle parking, Dutch railway stations almost always also provide other facilities. In this case, indoor secure cycle parking (explained on the railway company website), cycle repair, normal hire bikes and also the national public bike share scheme, OV-Fiets.

Another view of Hoogeveen railway station:

Grotere kaart weergeven

Hoogeveen is also testing a guarded cycle park in the centre of the city. That's a nice development. I believe this is going to be free of charge.

This is one of a series of posts about expansion of cycle parking at Dutch railway stations. Trying to provide enough space for an ever increasing number of cyclists is an ongoing process.

Between May 2004 and August 2005, the oldest person in the world was believed to be Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper who lived in Hoogeveen. She said "Don't smoke and don't drink too much alcohol. Just a small advocaat with cream on Sundays and holidays. And you must remain active." I guess that like most Dutch people, cycling was a part of her life. However, she also suggested that "breathing" was a good aid to longevity.

Thursday 26 May 2011

Multi-level roundabout - the safest solution for a junction

In my ongoing series about safer junctions I have covered Dutch junction design and how it differs from that of other countries. I then showed you that the Dutch have now discovered that urban roundabouts are safer than cross roads junctions when they are built to a specific design and give cyclists priority.

As stated in that story the first modern roundabout with priority for cyclists was in Enschede and as it turns out Fietsberaad has a file with a lot of background information about this good practice example.

So could it be any safer? Yes, multi level solutions are even better.
Multi-level roundabout in the former-ring road, now inner connector road of Houten
This roundabout in Houten has two levels of completely separate roundabouts. One for motorised traffic and one for cyclists. As you can see in the video there is no conflict at all anymore between these different modes. If you want a junction to be safe this is really state of the art design.

It is not a spectacular video, but you loose the “excitement” on the streets when you eliminate all conflict. It does show how junctions can be made safe to use for all.

This multi-level roundabout was part of the tour of the Australians when we showed them Houten last Saturday. It can be found in the former South part of the ring road of the first new Houten. When new Houten was expanded from the 1990s this road became the only shortcut for cars in the city.

Original Houten in red. The first new Houten (1) and the second new Houten (2). The former South part of the first city ring road is now a short cut between part 1 and 2. The arrow points to the multi-level roundabout.

So is this a rare example? No it isn’t. Multi-level solutions exist all over the Netherlands and they have been around for at least 70 years. The multi-level roundabout in Utrecht in the video below is showing that very clearly. (The roundabout for cyclists was in this case turned into a T-junction some years ago but the zero-conflict situation with the roundabout for motorised traffic remained.)

Of course,  not all junctions can or should be changed into a (multi-level) roundabout. But for some key junctions it can make the essential difference between a pleasant ride and a barrier that cannot be taken.

Why this isn't so important as you might think Exceptional infrastructure like this is always interesting to see, but what causes people to cycle in large numbers is the very tight network of everyday, but high quality, cycle routes.

Sunday 22 May 2011

Houten visit and discussion

Yesterday I went to Houten to meet once again with the group of Australians currently in the country (the same people as came to Assen a week previously). Herbert Tiemens from Houten lead a ride around the city with Mark Wagenbuur, while Marc van Woudenberg and myself where also on hand and talked a lot.

Paulo made a video of some of our conversation over lunch:

I took a few photos:
The centre of Houten. No cars are allowed here, except for access.

I could have stood here all day and taken similar photos. Note the wide demographics of cycling. In the Netherlands it is normal for children who are old enough to balance to ride their own bikes, rather than having to be carried on a bike ridden by parents.
Herbert talks about the city, how cyclists can take direct routes while drivers cannot. Herbert also told us about the road safety record of Houten. In the past 25 years there has been just one fatality amongst cyclists in the city, a pensioner who was unfortunately run over by a refuse truck. Dutch cyclists are the safest in the world.

OV-Fietsen - the national public bicycle system of the Netherlands. These distinctive blue and yellow bikes are available in almost all cities.

The new railway station cycle park is especially well integrated You can park your bike (there are 3500 spaces for a city of 50000 people) buy a ticket and then climb the stairs to access the platform directly.

Social safety is also important. This is cycle parking in which you don't feel you will be mugged. The flowers are a nice touch.

Most cycling in Houten takes place away from cars.

The demographic of "cyclists" in the Netherlands also includes disabled and elderly people. Cycling is accessible to all in one form or another. Note the subtle barrier to prevent motorists from using this cycle path (I'm standing at a junction with a bicycle road)

A relatively new development in Houten. This narrow bicycle road (bikes have priority, cars are considered to be "guests") is the only access road by car for 900 homes (a short silent movie showing it can be seen here)

Everywhere is most easily reached by bike.

Cycle paking in the historic centre of Houten. Amongst five adult bikes, which share three child seats for very small children, are two small bikes for 4 year olds. In Dutch cities, it's quite normal for such small children to ride their own bikes into the city centre.
The photos show many of the features of Houten. However, while this city was specifically designed to accommodate bikes, and does so very well, it would be wrong to get the impression that what works in Houten has stayed in Houten.

All other cities in the Netherlands, including Assen where we live, now have many similar features. Successful experiments in Houten as well as other cities have influenced new development and re-development all across the country. These days, the Netherlands doesn't really have just a few "cycling cities", but is in fact an entire cycling country. Cycling en-masse is not concentrated in just a few areas. This is the secret of why the cycling rate is so high for the country as a whole.

Friday 20 May 2011

New tyres - Continental SportContact

Continental's Grand Prix tyres are
fast, but don't like high speed
cornering and braking.
For a few months now I've been riding with Continental Grand Prix tyres on the front of my Mango. They're lovely lightweight and fast tyres, but unfortunately I have to say that they've not really worked out, at least on this bike. I used my pair briefly last year before removing them for winter, and re-fitted them only about a month ago. They've been used for about 800 km, which is not all that impressive.

The main problem, I think, is that they are simply not intended for use on a fast tricycle like the Mango. Sideways forces, especially when braking, are too much for them. On a two-wheeler it isn't possible to put such a sideways force on a tyre, nor to brake with a considerable sideways force on the front wheels without instantly falling off. The rubber was lost right outside our home, as I rode in quickly. A touch on the brakes, the wheel on the inside of the turn was in a skid, and there was a smell of rubber.

Even if I'd not had this problem, I was already planning to replace the tyres. Both Grand-Prix tyres already had cuts in them presumely due to small stones or pieces of glass (I didn't find the cause). This all happened a bit too soon for a practical tyre.

I'm now trying their SportContact
tyres instead. Hopefully these will
stand up better to everyday use.
I've not given up on Continental, but have replaced the Grand-Prix with the Continental SportContact. These are the same size, 28-406, but they are designed for everyday use. They weigh a bit more, have a bit more rubber, have the "SafetySystem" anti-puncture protection, sidewall reflectors, and a lower cost. they're also still supposed to be fast. It sounds like a promising combination, so I'll see how I get on with them over the next few months.

The advertised weight for the SportContact in this size is 295 g, however mine were actually a little lighter at about 270 and 280 g each.

New tyres fitted and ready to go, on a cycle path wide
enough that riding an unusual bike is never a problem.
One very nice thing about both the SportContact and the Grand-Prix is that both are easily mounted on and removed from the rim without tools, and both sit well on the rim and run true straight away. This can be quite difficult to achieve with some tyres.

The maximum pressure stated on the side-wall on the SportContact is 6 bar ( 85 psi ), but the accompanying paperwork attached to the tyre says 7 bar ( 102 psi ). I'm using the higher pressure. I have suspension so don't need the tyres to contribute too much to comfort, and they'll roll faster at the higher pressure.

My rear tyre remains a Schwalbe Marathon Racer. This still barely looks run-in. Actually, it wouldn't have been a bad choice for the front wheels as well.

Visit our webshop for practical, genuinely useful parts of all types for all bicycles. Including fast hard wearing tyres for recumbents and velomobiles.

Tyres and tubes and other nice stuff can be bought at our webshop.

Playing Out

Playing Out is a project in Bristol in the UK which closes streets so that children can play. It's a great idea, illustrating the loss in freedom of children at the same time as giving a chance for proper outdoor play, even if only occasionally and not with a permanent change to the streets.

I quite often cover the rights of children playing in the street.

Dutch woonerven ("Home Zones") are similar in concept to "Play Streets" which used to exist in the UK, but the concept seems to have been forgotten.

It's worth bearing in mind that the turnaround in prospects for Dutch cyclists, adults as well as children, came about in large part because of looking at improving conditions for children. There are far more parents than "cyclists" in the UK. They're a much more powerful lobby group, and no-one can argue that the rights of children are unimportant.

The Netherlands also has an organisation which organises play in the streets. The Buitenspeeldag - Outside play day is on the 1st of June this year, and many streets across the country will be closed completely for play.

I came across this via Mark at IBikeLondon.

Thursday 19 May 2011

Dutch utility bikes are slow up hills ?

The Amstel Gold Race is the largest professional cycle race in the Netherlands. it is known to be "tough and selective, mainly because of the 31 hills that have to be climbed, some with angles as steep as 20% (Keutenberg)."

Since 2003, the race has finished at the top of the Cauberg - a hill which has a pretty steep profile. The red sections are in excess of 10%:

Anyway, this hill is of course not only used by racers. Also the mail has to be delivered. And the local postman, Ed den Houten, is probably one of the most experienced hill climbers anywhere. You can see him in action in this video, taking on Michael Boogerd:

The presenter talks about how if you say you can ride up the Cauberg at a good speed, that's worth telling people over a beer in a cafe. However, the fastest man up the Cauberg is not famous, and is one of the guests at the table...

At 2:15 in the video you see Michael Boogerd and the postman during the Amstel Gold Race in 2001.

As ever, this proves the point that speed is in the legs, not in the bike.

More on what makes for a proper reliable everyday bike - which doesn't have to be slow, and more on all those silly excuses for why cycling doesn't happen in your country, including the one about hills. Buy practical parts for bicycles at our webshop.

Sunday 15 May 2011

Assen Study Tour with Australian visitors

On Friday we hosted the Cycling Dutch Style group from Australia on a Study Tour here in Assen. We had a good day for it, covering a lot of the interesting infrastructure:
Entering Kloosterveen, a
new suburb of Assen
We also showed how it's used by everyone. Cycling here is not only by the sort of sporty cyclists that you see everywhere in the world but also for:
People often ask how the design of Dutch infrastructure came about. Concern about the vulnerable played a huge part in this. Not only does the infrastructure have to be safe, and Dutch cyclists are the safest in the world, but to achieve true mass cycling, you also need a degree of subjective safety sufficient that everyone finds that cycling feels safe enough that it's something they want themselves and their family to take part in.

You must also not disregard how important it is for cyclists to be able to make efficient, direct, fast journeys, because if cycling is less efficient than driving then people won't cycle if they're in a hurry. Many people always are "in a hurry". For that reason cyclists have to be prioritized, so that even an average person can make most of their journeys faster by bike.

Guest blogger Mark Wagenbuur came with us for the day, which was a great help with this large group (30 people). He also made the video at the top.

Judy made some photos some of which are below:

Bikes parked with those of local shoppers while we have coffee.

Children going home from school for lunch. The very young ones are accompanied by parents, but the average age at which children are considered to be able to travel independently is about 8 and a half.

Discussing details of the new suburb which encourage cycling over driving.

One of many bridges and cut-throughs which make cycle journeys shorter and more direct than car journeys.

The bicycle road which links the new suburb with the centre of the city. Bikes on this side of the canal, cars on the other side of the canal.

Our waitress at the lunch-stop asked us what we were doing. When we explained, she told us she had taken a holiday in Australia and tried cycling there. While she cycles every day in Assen, she tried it for one day only in Australia and gave up. Apart from the danger of the traffic and lack of subjective safety. Watch her video about how she really doesn't like to wear a helmet.

Simultaneous Green junction. Cyclists go in all directions at once, and while the lights are green for bikes, all motor vehicles have red lights. Complete safety, as well as convenience and speed for cyclists.

Some consternation at a major junction, but of course we pass it on completely separated paths, and in one stage with no barriers to swerve through or delay us further.

We are holding the next public Study Tour in September. If you would like to come along, please get in touch. If you think your local representatives would benefit from being shown how well the infrastructure works here in Assen, and how it has helped to create a cycling culture where everyday people make 40% of all their journeys by bike, please recommend that they come along.

Thursday 12 May 2011

Priority for cyclists on roundabouts in the Netherlands

The report above from SWOV in 2004 compares cyclist
safety of roundabout designs. This blog post recommends an
unsafe design.
Please read a later blog post which shows the safe design.
This post by a guest blogger is informative but draws an incorrect conclusion about the safest way to design roundabouts for cyclists, favouring a design proven to be seven times more dangerous for cyclists. Please see a later blog post which explains the safest design and provides a comparison of casualty rates at the type of roundabout proposed here vs. the safest design.

Roundabouts are safer than intersections because they reduce the number of potential conflicts between road users and lower the driving speed. In the Netherlands, replacing a four-arm intersection by a roundabout is estimated to reduce the number of severe casualties by approximately 70%. The traffic flow is usually better on roundabouts than on intersections, and exhaust emission and noise decrease, certainly when compared with signalized junctions.[1]
Potential conflicts on intersection types.
cross roads | T-junction | roundabout
In the Netherlands cyclists have priority over motorized traffic on most roundabouts in built up (urban) areas even when they are on the ring shaped separate cycle path around the roundabout.
Cyclists generally have no priority on roundabouts outside built up (in rural) areas.


There have long been roundabouts in the Netherlands. But they were large with only a small center island so cars could easily pass each other at high speeds. These old fashioned roundabouts were not very safe and because of the priority rules they were not particularly effective either. Under Dutch law all traffic on the roundabout had to give entering traffic –coming from the right– priority. This led to a standstill on the roundabouts when there was a lot of traffic.
Old fashioned roundabout in 1960 in 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands
clearly visible the lighter colored cycle lanes on which cyclists did have priority over motorized traffic exiting the roundabout
In the mid 1980s the priority rule was changed to be more in accordance with other European countries. From then on traffic on the roundabout had priority over traffic entering it. But because of the much higher number of cyclists in the Netherlands the question of how to arrange their priority arose. At first cyclists on the roundabouts and those on cycle lanes on the roundabouts had priority. The ones on cycle paths on the outside of roundabouts had to give priority.

Since the speed of motorized traffic on a modern roundabout is so low (around 30kph/18mph), the city of Enschede started an experiment in 1990. They reasoned that with those speeds it would perhaps be no problem at all to give cyclists on a ring shaped cycle path around a roundabout priority over motorized traffic that enters and exits that roundabout. The experiment was successful and soon other municipalities followed. This led to differences in priority between different municipalities and confusion with road users. Confusion leads to unsafe situations so this was unwanted. The government initiated action to remedy this.

Who gets the right of way

After thorough investigations CROW (Dutch technology platform for transport, infrastructure and public space) finally came with recommendations to harmonize the dimensions and the priority rules on Dutch roundabouts in 1993. They were supported by the minister of transport, the provinces, most municipalities and organizations like VVN (‘Safer Traffic Netherlands’), ANWB (Dutch Motorist’s Union) and the Cyclist’s Union. The recommendations marked the end of the experimental phase of priority for cyclists on roundabouts in built up areas.

An underlying investigation showed how road users best understand who has priority:
1 by the so-called ‘shark teeth’ markings on the ground (which are more clear than traffic signs);
2 by having the color of the cycle path continue across the drive way of motorized traffic.

Roundabout in 2011 in 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands
with priority for cyclists on the separate cycle path around the roundabout
Note that this is not the safest roundabout design used in the Netherlands. This design is known to be responsible for dozens of injuries a year in the Netherlands.

By 2010 the recommendations were adopted by most municipalities. Cyclists did no longer have priority on nearly all of the rural roundabouts. But it is different for urban roundabouts: some municipalities refuse to adopt the recommendation even though they were repeatedly asked to change the priority on their roundabouts by even the minister of transport.

This could have to do with the fact that first investigations revealed that roundabouts where cyclists have priority were "slightly less safe" than those where they do not have right of way. However both situations are considerably safer than traditional cross roads junctions. Apart from SWOV (Institute for Road Safety Research) all the other institutes were therefore in favor of priority for cyclists in built up areas.

On VVN’s website this is explained: Although it is supposed to be safer for all cyclists to not have priority, Veilig Verkeer Nederland (Safer Traffic Netherlands) does not find this desirable. It would have negative consequences for the mobility of cyclists. Especially in built up areas cycling is to be preferred over driving. This should be reflected in the right of way.

Now that the rule has been in force for over a decade and all traffic users could get used to the priority rules, the Cyclist’s union sees a high and growing appreciation for these roundabouts. Interestingly cyclists also report a decreasing number of “near misses” and they give high marks for comfort.
The most important type of roundabout is the single-lane roundabout. It can handle 20,000 – 25,000 vehicles per day. With a steady arrival of vehicles, a roundabout can have a shorter waiting time than a signalized junction.

In general, the waiting time for cyclists and pedestrians is shorter on a roundabout, even without priority, than at signalized junctions.

When an intersection with traffic lights is replaced by a roundabout, the emission goes down by 29% for CO and 21% for NOx. The noise emission decreases in both cases.

[1] Information for this blogpost was gathered from the Factsheet Roundabouts from SWOV and websites from the Cyclist’s Union, VVN, Fietsberaad and other institutions.

Important note: Assumptions made by the author and other organisations about the safety of this roundabout design have proven to be incorrect in the light of actual crash statistics. While this roundabout design is safe for drivers, it has almost no benefit at all for cyclists over an un-signalled junction. What's more, it has been proven to cause seven times so many injuries as the safer Dutch roundabout design.

See all posts about roundabouts in the Netherlands including examples of real designs and a discussion about what is truly the most safe design including statistics about real life examples.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

The Aussies are coming, the Aussies are coming !

A diverse group of over 30 Australians, led by Paul van Bellen of Gazelle Bicycles in Australia, have just started an ambitious tour around the Netherlands, looking at infrastructure as well as other things while they're here and hoping to take some of the knowledge home with them.

"Cycling is an unknown phenomena in Australia"
They're also making headlines. This article was syndicated around the Dutch newspapers today.

We're meeting the group on Friday and taking them on what will be a condensed one-day study tour in this area, showing the infrastructure and how it serves local people by making everyday cycling a pleasant, convenient and relaxing experience for everyone.

In September we're organising another public Study Tour in Assen. This will follow the usual three day route, so we'll have a bit more time to look at things. If you're interested, book now.

Update 15th May. The Study Tour was successful on Friday. A further blog post has been made about it.

Monday 9 May 2011

How much does it cost to park a car ?

Our local newspaper recently reported that Assen tied as one of the two cheapest places in the Netherlands for parking a car in the city centre. It costs just €1.67 per hour, though actually you get to park for free if you visit the supermarket at the same time.

However, this still gives a mis-leading picture. Actually, most car parking in Assen is free. That's true even just 500 m from the centre for drivers who are willing to walk a short distance.

High prices for parking or for using a car don't make people cycle. Rather, if cycling is an attractive enough option people will choose to do it. That's why Assen has a 41% cycling rate. People choose to cycle here because it's extremely pleasant and convenient. They are not made to do so under duress and certainly not because they are "punished" for driving by the high cost of parking.

Free parking in Assen, 500 m from the
city centre. It's never full.
(read an update about this car park)
It is a mistake for cycling campaigners to get involved in arguments about the cost of fuel or parking of cars. People will readily change their behaviour if a better option comes along, but they don't like to be told what to do. For cyclists to do this makes enemies of people who could be our (future) allies. Most drivers don't so much enjoy their driving as endure it. This goes double for those who regularly get stuck in traffic during commutes, with time taken on the commute having rather an unpredictable nature when driving vs. the usually very predictable time taken when cycling.

Carrots work better than sticks.

Still free, or cheap
In another blog post which discussed how it's not necessary to alienate drivers with high parking fees in order to result in mass cycling, I included this photo.

Regular car commuters to the centre of Assen can hire a garage in the centre of Assen for just €28 per month. The reason why it is so cheap is that there is an over-supply of garages. This is not because there is an especially large number of parking places, but because demand is relatively light compared with cities in other countries.

The low price of parking in Assen and the relative emptiness of car parks is a demonstration of how successful the policy to increase cycling has been. Drivers benefit from more cycling.

At many other places in Assen, car parking is free of charge. That includes other shopping areas than the centre.

Thursday 5 May 2011

State of the art bike way design - a further look

Please note that this blog post has caused considerable confusion. It does not recommend a design, and the sketch presented is not supposed to be a guide for other countries to use to design their traffic lights. The design shown here has in some circles become known as "a standard Dutch junction" but was not the intention of this blog post and is a myth. Other blog posts show the multitude of different designs of traffic light junctions which are really used in an average Dutch city.

Last month I wrote about the new NACTO designs for cycle infrastructure and held the junction design against Dutch junction design. The video that went with the post was taken out of the context of this blog and discussed on forums and other blogs. Without the context some people completely misunderstood it.

Right: Dutch design of an actual junction with cycle paths in red.
Left: the same ideas used on an American road to see if it could be done.
There were of course comments that you can’t really take seriously: “Yuck. That seems like a parody of over-engineering.”

And if someone dares to criticize anything American there is always this: “could be some anti-American bias there.”

Other comments were more serious but reveal a completely different frame of reference:
“I'm not convinced about the safety aspect. I think that this video exaggerates the danger of crossing at a narrow angle. It's just a lane change.”

‘Just a lane change’? That is an interesting way of seeing it. Indeed the whole object of this design is to eliminate just that action. Because a lane change IS a dangerous thing to have to do.

Some commenters were concerned about the remaining space for motorized traffic.
  • “large vehicles are to move closer to the center of the junction, possibly disturbing traffic flow”
  • [there] “appears to be a sharper turning radius for the Dutch motorist”
The radius is the same as for the conventional US junction. But yes, it appears to be sharper, thus making traffic go slower. One more advantage.

Others were not convinced about the advantages this design has for cyclists. Summarized they:
  • believe the ‘swerve’ to the right and then to the left is slowing the cyclists that want to go straight on down;
  • fear there would be conflict between cyclists going straight on and right turning motorized traffic;
  • fear they would have to wait twice (and long) to make a left turn.

One person on a forum asked if there were Dutch people who have experience with this type of design who could give their view. Others too seem to think this is new and experimental design that should be tested. Well it was… for about 50 years now. Almost all junctions in the Netherlands with separate cycle paths were built exactly like the schematic design in the first video.

Further explanation

This second video shows the design ‘in action’. A number of Dutch junctions showing a number of situations that perhaps shed some light on all the questions. Now you can also see how the various green phases work. Not only do cyclists and pedestrians have their own green phase. Left-turning motorized vehicles get a separate green light as well, when vehicles going straight on -on the same road- have a red light. While this may seem like a bad idea because you would have to wait longer for your own green light, it is in fact the reason for very fast movements on the junctions. Once you get green you can proceed without any waiting for other traffic users that might be crossing your path as is usual in other countries.

More modern solutions

It is interesting that while other people question whether this design could work the Dutch actually have moved on to more modern solutions. The ‘simultaneous green for all directions’ David showed again in his last post is one more modern approach. But an even more radical change is that a lot of the junctions are being transformed into roundabouts. It turns out that these can handle more traffic in a quicker and safer way without even needing traffic lights.

This is still a cross-roads junction in Google Earth...

...but it was already transformed into a more modern roundabout
as can be seen in Google Streetview
Click for many other posts about roundabout design as well as about traffic light junctions, but note that unravelling of cycle-routes from driving routes means that cyclists often avoid such junctions altogether.

A note from David
Please note that while Mark refers to a "standard" junction design in the text above, junctions which exactly resemble this design are not actually common in the Netherlands. Only one junction in Assen closely follows this design and that's already planned to be replaced with a more modern and more convenient (for cyclists) design as used in the rest of the city.

Update 2014: NACTO adopt a similar design
It appears that NACTO took these criticisms on the chin and are adopting a design of junction very similar to Mark's sketch above. Be careful that it is not over-applied. This needs to be one of a range of solutions, amongst better solutions, not the solution or the best solution alongside lesser solutions.

Monday 2 May 2011

Peace breaks out between cyclists and drivers

Please note that this video has explanatory captions which are only visible if viewed on a desktop computer. You will not benefit from the explanation if you view on a mobile device.

The video shows one of the simultaneous green junctions in Assen. At junctions like this, which are increasingly common in the North of the Netherlands, cyclists travelling in all directions are given green lights at once and can cross in any direction including diagonally. While cyclists cross, the junction holds all motor vehicle traffic behind red lights. Therefore all conflict between bikes and cars is removed.

Simultaneous Green junction. Cyclists go in all directions at once, and while the lights are green for bikes, all motor vehicles have red lights. Complete safety, as well as convenience and speed for cyclists.
Simultaneous Green also can be combined with other measures. At this particular junction cyclists can make conflict free right turns against a red light at three of the four corners. On one corner of the junction it is also possible to make a left turn against a red light without conflict.

Note how even large trucks can pass through the junction without causing any concerns to cyclists because cycles are separated from motor vehicles in both time and space.

Disabled person on a tricycle leads
the charge diagonally across a large
SG junction in Groningen
Dutch roads are engineered to remove conflict. This is a large part of the reason why it is that cycling is subjectively safe enough that cycling is a common activity for all age groups. In the video you'll see many adults and children, and also disabled people using the cycle paths. None feel threatened. They do this not because of a false feeling of safety - the high subjective safety that they feel is backed up by conditions which make Dutch cyclists the safest in the world even if in many cases they are groups of distracted teenagers, people making telephone calls as they cycle, or whatever.

Very large junction in Groningen
with successful SG treatment
Drivers are not permitted to use cycle paths, and cyclists are not permitted to use these roads. This is something which people from other countries who don't understand often object to. However, in situations like this there is simply no gain to be had by riding on the road.

Very small example in Assen, equally
successful. SG junctions scale well
to all sizes and do not have to take
up a lot of space. See several
examples on our study tours
The delays here for cyclists are not so short as in the example which I showed a few days ago. Here, cyclists and drivers have the same timings at the traffic lights and are delayed equally. However, cyclists actually have a significantly shorter average delay than drivers because only cyclists can make some of their turns without stopping at all.

If you were to ride on the road then you would on average have to wait longer than if you used the cycle path. It is quite clear where the desire is: cycle paths sometimes have barriers to stop drivers from using them but roads don't have barriers to stop cyclists. There are many examples on this blog of places where cycling infrastructure improves speed for cyclists vs. drivers.

The video was made from the North East corner of the junction in this map, pointing the camera to the West:

Note how the four corners of this junction are each different from one another. Simultaneous Green junction design works at asymmetrical junctions and it scales from joining very small roads (one example is Assen is a single lane for cars with contra-flow cycle-lane to very large junctions. Click for larger map

The number of cyclists shown in the video is typical for an average morning in April. I tried counting, but it's rather difficult to do so. There are in any case over a hundred bikes in the first five minutes. Some times of day are more busy, some less so. Assen is quite a small city, with only 65000 residents, but on average they make over 70000 journeys each day between them.

How the junction was at the start of 2007.
The old-fashioned "protected intersection"
design which some people still think looks
. Don't campaign for this old design.
It is very much less convenient for cyclists
and certainly not safer. There have been
no reported cyclist crashes or injuries at this
location since the junction was improved.
While this video and blog post illustrates one junction, the pleasant conditions it creates for cyclists are not atypical but the norm. There is no need for everyday cycling to be a competition for inadequate space or a fight for dominance. It is not necessary that cycling should be about being strong enough (physically and mentally) to take on the roads, nor is it necessary that cyclists should need to be confident enough to "take the lane" to prevent larger vehicles from causing danger. Cycling does not have to be an extreme sport. Rather, for most trips, most of the time, cycling should merely be a way of getting to your destination, quickly, safely and without stress. That's what it's like here.

Finally, if you're thinking that this road is much wider than roads in your own country, you're probably wrong. This street, Groningerstraat, is actually the same width as a road in Cambridge in the UK which is supposedly "too narrow" for proper cycle provision. The excuse of "we don't have enough room" is rarely, if ever, actually true. The Dutch find space for bikes, no matter what the width of the road. In fact, this junction itself shows an example of this. The Western side is more cramped than the Eastern side, but both sides work as well as they can for cyclists, given the available space.

2013 update:
It's perhaps of interest that transforming this junction cost just €32K from the cycling budget. Transforming the entire road was not very expensive either by the standards of other countries. Not only is the Dutch budget for cycling larger than in other countries, it's also spent far more efficiently than in other countries. As well as matching the expenditure level, the efficiency also needs to be matched if you want to "catch up" with the Dutch.

This new video shows the same junction as at the top of this post from the point of view of a cyclist travelling from the South West to the North East of the junction.

More examples of what works.

Sunday 1 May 2011

Queens Day recreational bike ride

Yesterday was Koninginneddag. It's a nice event, very sociable. Judy and I decided that instead of staying in Assen we'd go to the village of Vries this time, have a couple of beers at the cafes, listen to a friend's music, and take part in the cycle ride which one of the cafes had organised. This was 33 km long, to be taken at a fairly relaxed pace.

Judy riding through the "desert" a few km from Assen

People celebrating in the middle of no-where.

We stopped at a bench to eat our sandwiches. At the left end of the
bench is space for a tree to grow through.

The plaque on the bench reads "listen to nature". As this is a stiltegebied,
or "silent area", nature is all you can hear except for the sound of passing

It turned out to be a very good spot for people-watching.

So we made a video showing some of the other participants in the ride we were taking part in.

Many of the riders were quite elderly. Over 65s make a quarter of all their journeys by bike in the Netherlands. They don't only ride short distances to the shops and back, but also quite often go for tours in the countryside. Retired couples are often seen on matching "his and hers" bikes, and increasingly these days they'll buy electric bikes to make tours like this a little easier.

Some of the other riders on the same route

Teenagers going in the opposite direction

And of course there was also plenty of evidence of people at the opposite
 end of the age range also cycling today.