Monday 8 October 2012

They came, they saw... September 2012 study tour

We've been running study tours since 2006. We started doing this it became obvious to us that there was a rather large gulf between what was thought in the UK, where we then lived, to be best practice in infrastructure for cyclists and what was everyday normality in the Netherlands and used by millions of people every day of the year. This blog started as a supplement to the tours. It was a way of keeping people who had been on the study tours up to date with new developments, and to try to stop people who had been on the tours from returning to their normality and forgetting how significant what they had seen was.

In September, six people from Britain came on the September study tour. Each time we've done a tour it has been different and this was no exception. Our knowledge grows so we have more to tell, but that's not the only reason. The Netherlands is not standing still and the infrastructure improves between each tour. Approximately half of everything seen in the first tour has been replaced, resurfaced or redesigned since the first tour that we ran here. There is no option to stand still when things change so rapidly.

Older residential streets - demonstrating how they do not operate as rat-runs because of a one-way system for cars which prevents through traffic. Also the low speed limit (30 km/h) and noisy road surface help to keep residential streets as places for people. Cyclists can of course use all these streets in any direction so they also provide an example of unravelling of cycling routes from motor routes.

Heading out of the centre on a wide & smooth cycle-path. Near 100% Separation of cyclists from cars is vital to achieve the high degree of subjective safety necessary to get the whole population cycling, and without the whole population it is impossible to achieve a high cycling modal share.

The most extreme woonerf in Assen. This is a residential development from the late 1970s / early 1980s. These homes are still popular, but modern developments look different. Woonerven are not designed to operate as through routes for cyclists or drivers.

Cycle-path between Assen and an outlying village. Resurfacing work due to tree root damage.

In a modern development a wide network of cycle-paths give cyclists an advantage of more direct routes than can be taken by car.

The school run is always interesting. Wide cycle-paths like this are the necessary infrastructure which makes it possible for young children to cycle unaccompanied. No amount of training can achieve this without the infrastructure.

Routes used by school children always have litter bins which collect most of the rubbish.

The width of cycle-paths in this area makes it possible for a group to stop and look at the bins without causing much of a problem.

The new cultural centre (library, theatre, cinema, concert halls) in Assen has indoor guarded cycle parking. You can walk from the cycle-park directly into the theatre without having to go back outside. It's free of charge and it's open from early in the morning until after the last performance finishes. If you have a problem with your bike then depending on the time of day, the staff can often arrange to fix it before you leave.

A cycle by-pass. Four kilometres long and four metres wide, this cycle-path allows high speed cyclists to avoid going through the centre of the city, and also connects some of the outlying suburbs.
There is no shortcut to a high modal share. It won't come about due just to "soft measures" such as training and it won't come about by campaigners and planners aiming low. The Netherlands achieved the highest cycling modal share in the world, and continues to build on this success, by building the best cycling infrastructure in the world. This gives people the highest possible degree of subjective safety as well as very convenient journeys by bike and that is what makes cycling an easy choice for the whole population.

Cycling modal shares correlate well with the degree of investment in cycling and the Dutch spend more on this than any other nation. €30 per person per year. However, it has been shown that even with what some people might consider to be "gold plating" of the infrastructure, cycling infrastructure is cheaper to build than not to build. Any nation could do this and any nation could reap the same rewards.


Anonymous said...

I note you comment on "noisy road surface".

Why do you think this is effective in the Netherlands? In South London a 'noisy' road surface was added in central Brixton here - but seems to have done nothing to slow vehicle speeds - it's still a wide, multi lane road. Nearby on my residential road the road surface was in very bad condition. That made it noisy but did nothing to stop speeding, rat running, motorists. After resurfacing it's much more pleasant to live on and vehicle speeds seem unchanged.

It's the usual danger of the UK taking single elements from elsewhere without understanding how they integrate.

David Hembrow said...

Simon: Yes, it looks like the usual "lost in translation" problem. This isn't a suitable treatment for a four lane through road which is remaining as a four lane through road, and you'd not find it used like that in the Netherlands. Rather, the roads here with such surfaces don't function as through roads for drivers.

(BTW, I hope I was looking at the right place when I looked on Google Maps. Bing Maps is a bit hopeless - as is so common for Microsoft products, it says for no good reason that "your computer isn't supported" and offers an "upgrade" which consists of sending them money).

r s thompson said...

is vital to achieve the high degree of subjective safety ......

is it actual safety and not your so called subjective safety?

David Hembrow said...

r s thompson: The same question again ? I've explained this at length before !.

It is of course important that cyclists are safe, and Dutch cyclists are, as I'm sure you already know, the safest in the world.

However, to grow the size of the cycling population, actual safety isn't enough. People have to feel subjectively safe in order to encourage them to get on a bike and ride.

Luckily there is a strong correlation between the most effective manner of making cyclists feel safe and the most effective manner of making them actually at less of a risk of injury and death. The design of infrastructure in the Netherlands, in all its forms, provides a working example of the very best way known to mankind of achieving both these types of safety.

If you want to know more, go to the right hand side of the blog and read the articles at the links under "Posts sorted by subject" from top down.

Anonymous said...

Veni, Vidi, Fietsi?

Dennis Hindman said...

Putting in even a simple unprotected bike lanes in the U.S. has two basic problems to overcome, getting enough space and money.

The cycling rate in the U.S. has averaged about 1% or less for decades. This makes arguing for taking away travel or parking lanes from motorized transportation to accomodate bicycles a very difficult sell to voters and politicians.

Even when space seems to be available there can be problems implementing changes.

An example of this is Wilbur Ave in Los Angeles. There was a problem on this street of pedestrians being injured in a crosswalk from high speed traffic. So, the department of transportation came up with a simple inexpensive solution of removing the crosswalk to eliminate most potential conflicts. A elderly man who lives on Wilbur Ave then proceeded to create a petition with hundreds of signatures in support of keeping the crosswalk.

Because of this petition the LADOT came up with another fairly simple solution of slowing down the motorized traffic by taking away two travel lanes (road diet). One of these lanes became a center turn lane and the other was made into two bike lanes--since the street was designated for the installation of bicycle infrastructure in the bike plan.

The community that lives in the surrounding part of Wilbur Ave on the northern end were furious after these changes were implemented. They jumped to the conclusion that this was done to put in bike lanes and that became their attention for their wrath.

What was the problem that developed that instigated this furor? This change created about a ten minute delay for car traffic in the mornings due to parents parking their cars in the street to drop off their children at a school on Wilbur Ave.

Putting in cycle tracks or a bike path so children could safely cycle to school instead of being driven by their parents would seem to be a good solution. But that would probably be even more upsetting as it would take much more space and far greater amounts of money along a corridor where few children cycle and that has a lower cycling rate than the estimated 1% commuting average for the city. Which means only occassionally would you even see someone cycling before the bike lanes were installed.

Don Ward, a prominent cycling advocate in LA went to the trouble of joining a neighborhood council in which his mother lives that covers part of these changes (he no longer lives in the area). He even came up with a blog to try and rally support for these changes.

This link to his blog has a couple of videos where some people who reside close to, or on Wilbur Ave give their view of the changes. It also shows Don giving a presentation to about 500 mostly hostile people who attended a neighborhood council meeting at a middle school in the area. Don even came up with a compromise that might involve removing the bike lanes.

In the end, the LADOT gave back some of the space to drivers in order to appease both the councilmember and to ease the anger in the community.

Anonymous said...

@David, re SimonS's location – it's a bit off on your Google maps link, it's slightly further east at the top of Effra Road, here:

By the way, Bing Maps wouldn't let me see it either! But I took the latitude and longitude from the URL.

And you're right, Effra Road doesn't work for the same reason that Byng Place doesn't work either – it's still a two-way through route for all traffic.