All about cycling in the Netherlands
The old road from Vlijmen to ‘s-Hertogenbosch has been upgraded as a cycle road. The road had become obsolete for motorised traffic when in 1978 a motorway was opened. The old road was closed with heavy blocks of concrete and had not been a through route for motorised traffic anymore. This made it a quiet route that cyclists have been using ever since. Now the road was finally due for maintenance. The municipalities of ‘s-Hertogenbosch and Heusden (to which Vlijmen belongs) joined forces and turned the road into a real cycle highway. (Note: not a ‘super’ highway…)
I contacted the department of city development of ‘s-Hertogenbosch and the traffic engineers gave me some facts and background information about this route.
The total route is 4 kilometers long, of which about 2 kilometers on the territory of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. In the 2009 six-year Cycle Plan to update all cycle infrastructure in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, this route was designated as one of the main cycle routes.
The costs of the transformation from ordinary road to cycle highway were 1.5 million euros for just the part of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. The largest part, 600,000 euro, came from the budget of the Cycle Plan. A further 500,000 euro came from the regular road maintenance budget and the final 400,000 euro were a subsidy from the provincial government.
The high number of cyclists (about 1,200 every working day) and the aspect of social safety made it necessary to have the route lit at night after the upgrade. However, from the point of light pollution it is not wanted to light the route in a conventional way. Especially since it passes right next to an area protected under European law, a so-called Natura 2000 protected wildlife area.
So ‘dynamic lighting’ was installed. When a cyclist passes a detection pole the lights for a certain length of the route are turned up and down again when the cyclist reaches the next detection pole that in turn changes the lights for a further stretch of the route. This reduces the light pollution. The masts are all equipped with modern led lighting which reduces the amount of energy needed. This system of lighting cost 130,000 euros (for the 2 kilometers on ‘s-Hertogenbosch territory) and that was included in the costs I mentioned before.
Part of the route is still used by motorised traffic as it is the only access to a trailer park. The people living there were not happy that “their” road was turned into a cycle road. They were very against the fact that the road was narrowed. As a compromise the width of the red part of the road in asphalt is the same on the entire route but the part that is the access road has wider concrete sides to make it exactly the same width as the former road. In turn the city created four speed bumps instead of the one that was already there. The city’s engineer explains: “The people living in the trailer park have been known to speed here in the past and you can’t have that on a cycle road. The former single speed bump was placed in a curve and could not be seen properly, so by adding three more we tried to increase safety. The results so far are more or less acceptable.”
Both municipalities have made some different choices. For instance: Heusden used a cheaper foundation for their part, but on the other hand they have planted 48 new trees.
The local branch of the Cyclists’ Union in Heusden (Fietserbond De Langstraat) is very enthusiastic about the route and they want to seize the opportunity to extend the route with about ten more kilometers to the West, to connect a further three towns with this high speed cycle route to ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Not that there is no connection for cyclists now, but the current more touristic route leads right through all towns and has some (for Dutch standards) problematic junctions, a high speed cycle route would take away those problems. The Cyclist’s Union has presented an integral plan to the Heusden authorities early May 2012. They believe works on the route could be finished before the end of 2016.
On the territory of ‘s-Hertogenbosch there is one part of the route still missing. For 150 meters there is no cycle provision at all. That has a reason. This is close to the new city hospital and there is still a discussion going on about how to build parking facilities there. It would not be very wise to build something now that has to be changed again soon. So once that is all cleared up the city wants to create a fully separated cycle path there too, to finish the entire route. The route connects to existing cycling infrastructure all the way to the city centre. I will show you more about that final part into the city centre in an upcoming post with video.
This post would not be complete with a before and after video of the entire length of the route, from the start in Vlijmen until just passed the edge of ‘s-Hertogenbosch built up area.