Thursday 4 August 2011

Fietsstad (Cycling City) 2011 nominees announced

The Dutch Fietsersbond (Cyclists’ Union) has announced the five nominees that will compete to be chosen as Fietsstad (Cycling City) of the Netherlands for 2011. The jury chose the five cities out of a long list of 19 cities that had entered the competition.

’s-Hertogenbosch, the city I have been living in for 16 years now, is one of the five nominees.

Over the past 16 years I have seen a lot of development in the cycling infrastructure and climate of this city. Especially in recent years it went from mediocre to very good in my opinion so it will come as no surprise that I wholeheartedly support this nomination.

This election took place 3 times before. It is connected to a nationwide investigation into the cycling climate in the cities and villages of the Netherlands. Veenendaal, a small town in the centre of the Netherlands won in 2000. Groningen, 8th largest city of the Netherlands and home to a large university with many cycling students, was cycling city in 2002. In 2008 Houten was pronounced cycling city in the last competition. Interestingly enough both Houten and Groningen are nominees again this year. Together with Harderwijk (again a small town in the center of the country) and Pijnacker-Nootdorp which really is a commuter suburb of The Hague.

Tough competition, but I think ’s-Hertogenbosch does stand a good chance. From the nominees and previous winners it is the only city in the (originally catholic) South of the Netherlands. A region that strangely enough on average sees less cycling than the (originally protestant) North. The jury will put emphasis on the situation for school children. The theme for this year’s competition is ‘onderweg naar school’ which would loosely translate as ‘on our way to school’. In 30 years the average age of children starting to cycle to school on their own in the Netherlands has risen from 6 to 9 years old. Something which alarms the Cyclists’ Union. The city that best makes it possible for children to cycle to school on their own will have a good chance to win this year’s title.
’s-Hertogenbosch has put forward two examples of how they make cycling to school safer and more attractive. A primary school with a new side entrance and a new two way cycle path makes it possible for the school children to avoid contact with cars on the street altogether. A secondary school on the city’s busy circular road got a cycling bridge over that road so crossing it became much safer. The cycle paths around that school all became bi-directional. This makes crossing the road unnecessary for many children. Good examples of what a council can do to improve cycling conditions around schools.

I have put together a video to support the nomination of the city of ’s-Hertogenbosch.


Severin said...

1) Mark, you are VERY talented, love how you put together your videos

2) I was a little underwhelmed when seeing the new bridge, it looks a little scary and certainly not as stylish as I expected

3) Good luck to ’s-Hertogenbosch!

Steven Vance said...

I like the parts of the video that show cycle facilities going "from this" "to this." The transformation is beautiful.

I made a similar video about Chicago's very first protected bike lane.

David Hembrow said...

Nice video, Mark. About ten years ago someone told me they'd cycled to 's-Hertogenbosch and found the infrastructure a bit behind the average for NL. No-one could say that now.

I was a little disappointed that Assen didn't enter the competition. If you don't enter, you certainly can't win. However, I think it's a simple case of being busy doing things but having relatively little time for promoting them. I'm not complaining. I'd much rather it was that way around than doing lots of promotion but little on the ground.

Frits B said...

"It is the only city in the (originally catholic) South of the Netherlands."
I understand what you mean, but would the other cities South of the Rhine agree :-)?

Mark W. said...

Thanks for all the comments
@Frits B. you are right and not the first to tell me this, so I added a few words in that sentence to make clearer what I meant.
@David. I think Assen could have and should have entered. Maybe next time. You are right: 10 or even 5 years ago. Cycling wasn't a pleasure everywhere in this city.
@Steven V. those short scenes are quite telling aren't they!
@Severin, I think that bridge is about 5 years old now and I am not sure about the design either. But it does make a great crossing possible! And thanks for the compliment... I practise a lot! :-)

kfg said...

The bridge was obviously intended to get something usable in place as quickly and nondisruptively as possible.

While it is anomalous in style it's a rather interesting bit of engineering. I might have to play around with a model when I have time.

Mark W. said...

@kfg yes that's right. It was put there in very large prefabricated chuncks. So traffic was not interupted too much. You can study it in more detail here: Google StreetView

Slow Factory said...

Very nice. More two-way paths than I am used to seeing in NL. In the city centre where cyclists and peds mix what happens when people go too fast on their bikes? Do people stop them, verbally or even physically*? If in this area a pedestrian gets hit by a cyclist, is the latter always liable? Is there an interest in making people walk their bikes? (To be clear,I think carfree areas should also not be through-routes for cycling, so that cycling - especially at high speeds - is less interesting to do in these places.)

*Did this today here in Green-party controlled Berlin-Kreuzberg to a cyclist riding fast on the pavement against the traffic on the adjacent cycling path. He laughed at me. No one else seemed to notice.

Mark W. said...

@GIF the center of the city is always a destination, so there is no through traffic there. There are so many pedestrians there that you automatically ride slowly otherwise you would endanger yourself. If you have to be on the other side of the center, riding around it is always faster, so you do that automatically. The Dutch do generally not interfere with each other. Live and let live. So no telling, certainly no stopping, after all you are allowed to cycle there. It's not like in Germany where always someone says something if you even cross the street on foot without a car in sight at a red traffic light. That is unheard of in NL.
The two way cycle paths of Den Bosch are deliberate. They are mostly separate from car routes and a route themselves. So then you do not need two one way paths on the side of a street for motorised traffic since there is no such street to begin with.

Slow Factory said...

@Mark: Ha, yes... ped. vs. bike interaction seems very location/culturally-specific. I said something to this guy because he was a menace, not due to control freak issues (and in Berlin, no one generally says anything (including police in reaction e.g. cyclists without lights), but a lot of it is because they don't know how to communicate or more significantly predict/care about how someone like that cyclist might affect someone else.) Many people here simply do not cycle slowly around pedestrians.

Slow Factory said...

@Mark, should this have read: "In 30 years the AVERAGE age of children STARTING to cycle to school on their own in the Netherlands has risen from 6 to 9 years old."???

Kevin Love said...


Excellent video. I am envious of much of the infrastructure.

However, there is one thing that I am not jealous of at all. What's with having a cycle path in the door zone of parked cars? That's crazy dangerous. I would have thought that the Dutch would know better than to do something like that.

Mark W. said...

@GIF yes it should have read that. So I changed it.

Mark W. said...

@Kevin Love. The 'door zone' issue really is totally absent in this country. I have never heard of anyone being 'doored' in my life. If anyone would open a door without looking in this country there will almost always be a cyclist and who would want a damaged door? I fear it is that simple. And also education is important as can be read here: NY times:
"Dutch drivers are taught that when you are about to get out of the car, you reach for the door handle with your right hand — bringing your arm across your body to the door. This forces a driver to swivel shoulders and head, so that before opening the door you can see if there is a bike coming from behind"

Slow Factory said...

@Mark: Regarding the 50% increase in age... that is a national average, so it would be interesting to know or get some idea of the current rates in the nominated cities. I have a feeling that there is a huge disparity and that it relates to general cycling rates... so this begs the question if a city can win the contest by being "most improved".

Willeke said...

Mark, I have been doored in the Netherlands, on a 50 km village road without bike lanes. The speed there is now reduced to 30 km, but more cars still get up to 50 between the speed bumps.
The result of the dooring was one bend wheel and a damaged door. No damage on me. She paid for a replacement wheel and the damage to the car, after I told her not to make an insurance case without talking with her insurance agent.
That was roughly 17 years back, and it did teach me to stay farther away from the cars.

I have heard from others who were doored, one even died from it, hit a curb with his head. But non recent.
Now we can almost always take the space to stay away from the cars, by staying on the middle of a bike lane or block the cars which are supposed to stay down to 30 km if there is no bike lane.

Brendan said...

So the cars parked next to the cycle path were allowed to drive on the path to get to the parking? I thought the red paths were exclusively for bikes, but I guess there are all sorts of exceptions.

Mark W. said...

@Brendan those are not cycle paths but cycle streets. Cyclists have priority there and cars are guests also to park there. No cyclist may be overtaken by cars in such streets and to make that clear they have red asphalt and look like cycle paths. It is also a good indication to drivers that such a street only leads to people's home, they are never through streets.