Monday 8 August 2011

Space under and over bridges

This is one of the very first photos of infrastructure which I took in the Netherlands, back in 2001. Coming from the UK, I was amazed at the allocation of space under the bridge. Two arches are for bikes and pedestrians, only the arch in the middle is for cars.

I used that photo in a recent article for the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, and it made me think of other examples. It's not rare that cyclists are treated well under and over bridges in the Netherlands. Sometimes there isn't a lot of space, but the need to keep cyclists safe isn't ignored.

Here are some other examples:

A few km north of here on a road connecting a village to a small town. Drivers have to negotiate a gap big enough for just one car at a time, while cyclists have a bidirectional cyclepath.

A main route into Groningen passes under a motorway. Here the cycle paths on both sides of the road are well apart from the motor vehicles.

This example appeared in a recent post about noise, but it is also an example of where a cycle path is well separated from a road under a bridge.

Another recent photo from a holiday a couple of weeks ago. On this bridge in a small fishing village near the coast motorists have to negotiate for the one car width space on the road while cyclists have a degree of separation.

I found the existing way over this bridge, a narrow service road to the left of the main lanes, safe enough when I rode across there a few years ago. However it wasn't considered to be good enough and therefore a new separate cycle bridge was built alongside the main bridge.

Is this common ?
Such consideration for cyclists at bridges is the norm in the Netherlands. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of examples of this type of thing. I doubt anyone has ever counted them. Here are six more examples just from my commuting route on or under bridges with widely varying traffic levels:

Grotere kaart weergeven

Grotere kaart weergeven

Grotere kaart weergeven

There's nothing unusual or difficult about this. Bridges don't have to cause problems for cyclists whether they're going over or under a bridge.

Why is this important ?
Any bridge, or any other point, which causes a problem and makes people feel unsafe forms another small barrier to cycling. This reduction in subjective safety causes a slight reduction in the number of people who are willing to cycle. Lots of bad examples add up so that the majority would eventually not feel safe cycling anywhere, because the chance of coming across such a thing is great.

And then there's Blackfriars...
So what's going on in London ? Why is one bridge, Blackfriars, causing such an enormous amount of trouble. Why are Transport for London planning to make conditions worse for cyclists on this bridge when the city is in theory trying to encourage people to cycle ? Why are so many people having to protest about it in order to try to prevent this degradation of standards ?

For most people considering cycling, a bridge which doesn't feel safe to cross by bike may as well not exist at all. This should be in the minds of planners at all times. It's not impossible to do. It's not difficult to do. The Netherlands provides examples across the whole country, at junctions large and small, with high and low volumes of traffic.

Many London bloggers have written about this issue. They're quite rightly outraged. You can find in-depth Blackfriars coverage, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Also in my later post about the problems at Blackfriars, including a Dutch example.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In Germany we can only dream of those conditions for cycling like you desribe them. I live in Cologne and especially the bridges over the river Rhine are showing, how little attention the city council is spending on the safety and comfort of cyclists. The little space for cyclists and pedestrians has to be shared in a mostly dangerous way. The main interest is going to optimize the infrastructure of the motorized traffic. Though the city I live in calls itself a "cyclists friendly city" the infrastructure and the slow reactions on submissions show that this is not the whole truth. Maybe our "cycling represantative" should visit The Netherlands...