Huge roads can be huge barriers for cyclists. But they do not need to be. It is possible to design crossings and junctions that are safe for cyclists, both objectively and subjectively even in major high speed and high volume roads.
I recently came across a video of a crossing of London’s North Circular Road. The way cyclists have to maneuver through traffic, some of which heavy goods transportation, is shocking to anyone I believe. But if you are familiar with the situation on Dutch roads even more so.
I will show you how crossing such major roads is done in the Netherlands. The Eastern part of the ring road around Utrecht was originally built as a national motorway from the 1940s to the 1960s. It has since been downgraded to an inner-city ring road with a maximum speed of 70km/h (43.5mph) but it still has all the characteristics of a motorway (freeway). It is not allowed to cycle on this road. Where the road meets another major road, a very large traffic circle (it is officially not a roundabout) was constructed in 1971. The perfect circle has an outer diameter of 120 meters (394Ft) and is mostly 3 lanes wide. The whole junction area (including the separate cycle paths) is 150 meters (494Ft) wide.
The picture shows the traffic circle just after its completion. The city had not yet expanded across the road to the East on the left hand side of the picture. But the large traffic circle was built in anticipation to that jump. The road to the left was completed in the early 1980s and it forms the only access for motorized traffic to an entire borough (Lunetten) that houses thousands of people. What is clearly visible is that the design included separated cycle paths from the very beginning.
The second picture shows the traffic circle as it is today. The trees grew considerably in 40 years. But the bright red cycle paths peek through the foliage at a number of places. Giving you an idea of how they were constructed around the huge intersection. The video will make clear how this junction with the separate cycle paths functions. It shows how the cycle paths and the timing of the traffic lights separate people cycling from motorized traffic in time and space to make this enormous intersection very easy and safe to pass. At the same time it also makes the flow of huge amounts of motorized traffic possible.
– There was a ride on Sunday 25th of March called “Barnet’s Great Divide Ride” to protest against the poor cycle provisions around the North Circular Road. Cycle facilities can be designed and constructed a whole lot better. The Dutch have an experience of at least half a century with designs that work. Also on high volume, high speed roads. If only people would want to see it.