Monday 25 March 2013

Keep Old Roads for Bikes ! How building new roads can benefit cyclists

When new roads are built in the Netherlands, the old road is often retained to function as a through route for bicycles. Maps from the 1940s show this as a direct through route for all traffic. A new ring road was built as a bypass of the city in the 1960s as this area was developed and the old main road was no longer required to operate as a through route. Over time, the older road became more fragmented and less useful to drivers, but it has retained its original purpose as a through route by bicycle. This video and blog post show what the old main-road now looks like.

The resulting route for bikes is only part cycle-path, but it is
almost completely car free because it is not a through route
by motor vehicle. A bollard which prevents drivers from using
this path has been removed for winter.
Motor vehicles are kept entirely away from bicycles. This results in a degree of subjective safety which is high enough to encourage the entire population to cycle.

It is not permitted to cycle on the ring road. However, there is also no reason why you would want to. There are a far wider range of routes available by bicycle. Using the bicycle routes avoids almost all traffic light junctions and allows shorter distances to be travelled to get to the same destination and therefore they lead to shorter journey times than would be possible if we cycled on the roads which are for cars.

The noise barriers were installed in 2007 when the ring road was widened to cope with increased traffic due to further expansion of Assen and this separated the old main road from the new ring-road.

In the video we travel from A to B along the wide red line. Not only do cycle-routes like this result in cyclists being very safe, but they also result in faster journeys by bike. We avoid one set of traffic lights which we have to stop at if we were in a car. We also have a far wider variety of side-routes which can be taken without stopping at any traffic lights. It is only the straight on route shown in the video which involves cyclists stopping at traffic lights.
It's important to note that not just any back roads will do in order to make an efficient cycling route. This example works well because the old road was a direct and useful route, so the cycle-route is also direct and useful. i.e. this works well because this was once the main route. In other locations the only way to create an efficient route for cycling is by building cycle-paths, because otherwise cyclists would be shunted onto inefficient indirect routes in order to maintain safety. It is important that cycle-routes, whether they use old roads or new cycle-paths, are always direct and preferably that they avoid delays such as at traffic lights.

The same road in 1962. The white rectangles
are where the apartment blocks in the video
were being built. The few houses on the left of
the road were demolished at some point.

This photo dates from the early 1970s and is a view of a tunnel which passes under both a section of cycle-path which now joins up segments of the old road and the new road: This tunnel still exists and is visible towards the end of the video above but these days the view is different because of the noise barriers which have been built.
There are many places where it is possible to cross the new ring-road in safety by bicycle. Some of them are illustrated in other articles (linked here: 1234).

Other articles show how more segregation of modes can be achieved without building cycle-paths, and how unravelling of modes makes conditions better for cycling.

Note: This is a particularly obvious example because the new road has been built beside the old. For our purposes this makes it particularly useful to demonstrate how this works because it is so obvious. However it isn't necessary for the space to exist to make parallel roads like this. In most cases the new road is built at a greater distance and as a result after a few years have passed there isn't necessarily such an obvious connection between the two roads as is the case here.

Read another article showing the position of every traffic light in Assen for an illustration of how traffic has been routed away from the places where cyclists mostly are to be found now, and how cyclists therefore avoid traffic lights at far more locations than merely along this route.


Fonant said...

The classic example of a HUGE missed opportunity to do just this was Devils' Punchbowl and the Hindhead tunnel. Instead of retaining the old road that followed the contours, it was ripped out completely forcing cyclists to climb and descend a pretty big hill instead.

In the UK it seems that cyclists and walkers have a bigger impact on the environment that motor traffic does.

Fonant said...

The classic example of a HUGE missed opportunity to do just this was at Devils' Punchbowl when the Hindhead tunnel was built (for £371,000,000 - we have plenty of money for cars!). Instead of retaining the old road that followed the contours, it was ripped out completely forcing cyclists to climb and descend a pretty big hill instead.

In the UK it seems that cyclists and walkers have a bigger impact on the environment that motor traffic does.

Bob said...

Sometimes I just think we're doomed to repeat the same thing over and over. (When I say "we", I'm only talking about the rest of us, not the Dutch or the Danes etc.)
While I'll admit that our councils are unwilling to bury themselves financially on the one hand, that then results in no room to do anything with any long term results/thinking. It's all about the "now". Never looking ahead.
I think I have 'bike path envy'.

carltonreid said...

Some of the 1970s Dutch-style cycleways of Stevenage used the old roads, with cars getting fast, new roads.

Sadly, residents of Stevenage never took to the Houten-like cycleways, and despite having excellent separated routes, drove everywhere instead.

Al said...

In Clackmannanshire (and partly Stirling), Scotland, this approach has been used, well, with the A907 Alloa-Stirling Road that was realigned some years ago, with the old road retained.

It fails though that on meeting the A91 Stirling distributor, the cycle route entirely gives up. Travelling to Stirling, you're then face with a hostile roundabout and a nasty, narrow, continuation of the A907 on the other side.

David Hembrow said...

Carlton: From what I've seen, people have already pointed out the fallacy of your argument that in Stevenage somehow people didn't "take to" the cycle-paths.

As I've pointed out many times, a few sparse cycle-paths are not enough. What is needed to encourage a higher modal share for cycling is a comprehensive grid which allows for everyone to make all their journeys by bike with a high degree of both safety and convenience.

I've also pointed out how common it is in the Netherlands for cycling journeys to be more direct than driving journeys. This post gives an example, and there are many more.

Stevenage, on the other hand, favours driving over cycling. What's more, Stevenage's network is no longer so comprehensive as it used to be. Recent developments in the town have expanded the roads but not the cycling network, meaning that it no longer serves all destinations. Therefore it can no longer be expected to work so well as it did at its peak.

Simply put, the cycling network is not as comprehensive in Stevenage now as it was 40 years ago and therefore it should be no surprise to any of us that cycling is no longer so popular in Stevenage as it was 40 years ago.

It is unfortunate that Stevenage has quite clearly gone backwards with regard to the two things which are most important for encouraging cycling.

Anyway, you're a visitor who only seems to turn up here when there's something to gain. I wish you all the best with your book, however one free plug is enough. Given experience of your manner of contribution in the past I ask you to keep it civil this time.

Clark Nikolai said...

In British Columbia many towns are linear because of mountains and they follow the road. Sad because children on tricycles have nowhere to ride them except on the single road that semi-trucks go on.
In many places though when they make a newer road, the old one becomes a "service road" for local usage. It tends to be in sections with interruptions. If they were simply connected for cycling then there would be long continuous cycle routes created.