All about cycling in the Netherlands
In Dutch road design a street can either be a through street or a street with so-called “end destinations” (homes, businesses) but not both. This way of thinking about mono-purpuse streets was formalized in the ‘Sustainable Safety’ policies, but the practice of building streets that way is much older. The problem with policies is that there is a reality with a design legacy that doesn’t always follow those policy principles. It is a fact that there are homes and other end destinations on through streets. So the Dutch had to come up with a solution to that problem, and they did. Meet the Ventweg. The literal translation of that word would be “way for door to door selling”. Such a street can probably best be described in English as service street or road.
In the Dutch tradition service streets run parallel to either side of a main center carriage way. They are usually one way and give access to the end-destinations in the street (homes or businesses). The service street is also the place where motorized vehicles can be parked. The service street is interrupted at (major) junctions so it does not provide an alternative through route to motorized traffic. The service street separates through traffic from traffic that needs to be in the street. It thus keeps the main carriage way totally free of movements that would slow down or endanger traffic, such as parking movements and entering and leaving private properties. It also makes it possible to have different speed limits on the main carriage way and the service street. Nowadays the main carriage way usually has the legal maximum speed limit for the built up area: 50 km per hour (31mph) and the service street has the normal speed for residential areas: 30 km per hour (18mph). This lower speed limit on the service street makes it fit for shared use with cyclists. By connecting the different service streets by cycle paths that do continue across the junctions, cyclists are provided with a safe route without the need of separate cycle paths all the way.
It is becoming more and more common that service streets are redesigned to be ‘cycle streets’. The difference being that they are even more distinguished from through routes. After the redesign cars are guests as the priority shifts to cycling. This is indicated by the red colour of the smooth asphalt. For cycling the route is improved by a better surface and that priority. This is precisely what was done to a street in ’s-Hertogenbosch recently. The video shows the before and after situation in the first part and then continues to show what the rest of the route looks like until it reaches a residential 30 kph (18mph) zone. The picture gives a schematic view of the same street. The video starts at the bottom right of the picture and shows the street all the way to the top.
Since about the 1970s newly built through streets in the Netherlands have been designed in such a way that they do not have end destinations. Most streets with service streets are therefore older. Sometimes the service street was retrofitted. In the original situation there could have been two streets next to water in the center.
The above pictures from Utrecht show a street in 1961 with two separate streets next to water and in 1968 when a central main carriage way replaced the water and the original streets became service streets. In other situations the center may have had a tram track or a narrow green zone. But streets were also designed with service streets from the beginning. The street from the video was designed that way. This can be seen on the picture from 1938.
The video shows a before and after: from ordinary service street to cycle street where cars are guests.