All about cycling in the Netherlands
Two weeks ago I showed you a huge junction in The Hague, which was actually only one junction in a much longer route. This week I’d like to show you the rest of the route I cycled in The Hague to visit my uncle in a home for the elderly. It was the first time for me that I went to this place. So, for this unknown ride, I planned a route in the Cyclists’ Union Route planner from The Hague Central Station where I arrived by train from my home town and where I would rent a Public Transport-Bicycle (OV-Fiets).
The route is 6.2 kilometres long and the planner estimated the time it would take to be 21 minutes. It turned out to be almost 30 minutes because I faced a strong head wind and my speed is a bit lower on unknown streets. I filmed the entire route and it became an almost 28 minute video. My longest ever. I kept it original speed because there is so much to see in this larger city and it gives you an idea of how connected and widespread cycling infra in the Netherlands is. But you don’t need to see the video first to understand the rest of this post. (At the end of the post you will find a link to the faster version of 11.5 minutes.)
The entire ride at normal speed (for the short sped up version see link at end of the post) Turn on ‘annotations’ for my remarks about what you see.
I will now share some of the things that struck me during the ride. Contrary to my nature of seeing the positive mostly, this time I focus more on the negative aspects. Even though there are relatively few in this long ride, they are what stood out.
Some of the traffic lights took a very long time to get green. In the far distance at 00:45 you can already see that one is red and two women are waiting. They wait impatiently (pushing the button several times extra) until finally at 01:55 it gets green. They had been waiting for at least more than a minute. This is unacceptably long. It provokes bad behaviour: and indeed two pedestrians and a moped go through red and who can blame them. On top of that, the second light to cross traffic in the other direction, that we reach at 2:13, is not coordinated and we have to wait yet again! Even though it is only 15 seconds this time, a second wait is even more unfriendly for people on bicycles.
Everything is then alright until at 5:23 the cycle track ends and turns into a cycle lane that is almost invisible because of the faded paint. Cycle lanes like these are totally useless and feel like there is no cycle provision at all. At this point I have to merge with heavy traffic that is getting in the right lane for a huge junction a bit later. This is 1960s design of which only very few examples have survived to this day. At least the ASL (Advanced Stop Line) at 5:50 is respected by the driver and kept clear.
From 6:35 there is a ridiculously dangerous left turn. (See aerial view below, marked with 1 and the picture above.) I have to go right over tram tracks and be careful I don’t get caught in them. Those tracks are combined with a right turning lane that I must cross while a driver who failed to give me priority drives there to go straight on! I need to cross that lane to position myself in the side street to cross the street that I was originally riding in, after which I can finally continue my journey. This is very bad design! It is allowed for cyclists to use the left lane to go the left, but I only saw the sign instructing me to go left when I was at the position of the far right cyclist. The directional sign can be seen just over the most right end of my red line. It is a blue-white pole with a white sign with red letters.
The route planner sent me straight on, (green line) but I didn’t know that at the time. If I had cycled straight on, I would have missed this bad left turn, but would have had to ride in a busy street in a door-zone combined with tram tracks. Not a great prospect either…
A short time later there was a second dangerous left turn (marked with 2) to get to a cycle tunnel under the railroad tracks and the Railway Station “Den Haag Holland Spoor”. Due to the parked van it was hard to find a spot to stop safely to see if I could make that left turn. These two horrible left turns alone will make me take another route the next time!
From 10:40 there is a detour. Interestingly enough the layout for the detour is how the street was until at least 2008 when Google took its pictures for StreetView. As can be seen below, the street had two cycle lanes on the outer side of the street. This was changed to a bidirectional cycle path on one side of the street somewhere between 2008 and 2012.
A bit further down the same street that new bidirectional cycle path suddenly ends (at 14:10) and we are back to street design of the 1960s. There is no cycle provision at all anymore! Something you really only very rarely see nowadays. Even though it is only a short stretch of road, it felt very uncomfortable. It is good to see the street is mentioned in the cycle plan of the city for 2011-2014 as a project for updating. (link to pdf in Dutch only.) The city must do something about this street because due to the enormous width and parked cars (contradicting signals) it is totally unclear what type of street this is (through street or residential street). Under the sustainable safety regulations that is the first requirement and it is clearly not met yet.
Fortunately from 15:40 a cycle lane begins again, that very quickly turns into a cycle track. A crossing takes us to the other side and there is a bidirectional cycle track again. Not very wide, but at least shielded from motorised traffic. The rest of the video then shows modern cycle tracks as we have come to know them in the last 10 years. Paved with smooth asphalt, wide and easy to ride on even at high speeds.
All in all this 6.2 kilometre long route was okay but certainly not perfect by Dutch standards. There were just a couple of awkward bits too many, I think. The city of The Hague is working hard to update the cycle network (lots of the red smooth asphalt I saw on this ride cannot be seen on Google streetview yet) but as a large city they have to deal with a design legacy; many streets were designed in an era in which the bicycle was not as important as it is now. On top of that I may be a bit demanding living in the city that is still officially the best cycle city of the Netherlands…
Link to the shorter version video of this ride.