's-Hertogenbosch Rush Hour

Riding into a tunnel

Winter draws long this year, but there was a hint of change this week, with a bit of much needed sun and warmth! To refresh our memory, let’s see what summer was like. Imagine standing over the entrance of a tunnel under the railroad tracks in ‘s-Hertogenbosch aka Den Bosch in the Netherlands. It is Tuesday the 4th of September 2012. The weather had been splendid that day, almost 25 degrees C (77F) with almost 11 hours of sunshine. It is 5 pm and you look down on one of the busiest cycle tracks in the Netherlands. On an average day almost 15,000 people on bicycles pass here. If you would be standing there for 23 minutes*, this is what you’d see:

People returning home from their daily business by bicycle at 17:00 hrs in ‘s-Hertogenbosch

This post doesn’t need many words, so I won’t say much more, but here are some stills of things that stood out for me.

's-Hertogenbosch Rush Hour
Women with baskets, children together, man in suit, guy riding against traffic on the pavement (sidewalk), putting your hand on your buddy’s shoulder, and an annoying moped overtaking, … it’s all there.
's-Hertogenbosch Rush Hour
Child in a bakfiets and doing some deliveries by bakfiets
's-Hertogenbosch Rush Hour
People of all ethnic backgrounds cycling.
's-Hertogenbosch Rush Hour
Boy with big bag and boy with even bigger bag.
's-Hertogenbosch Rush Hour
“I’m almost home” texting and being on the phone or riding with big head phones.
's-Hertogenbosch Rush Hour
Contrasts: ordinary cyclists and racers in lycra (spandex).
's-Hertogenbosch Rush Hour
Cycling with crutches and an arm in plaster cast or without hands on the handlebars.

* I can imagine 23 minutes is too long for you, so there also is a super-sped-up version that shows you everybody passing in just 2 minutes.

The short and sped-up version of this rush hour.

This video was shot from the road over the tunnel you can see in the background on the picture below. There is a road and all the railway tracks at the Central Railway station in ‘s-Hertogenbosch on top of this tunnel. Note that the separated cycle paths do not go in as deep as the carriage way. That makes the incline for cyclists on the way out less steep and less of a barrier. The tunnel was built in the 1950s, it was designed including the separated cycle paths. Note that the paths on this picture are still tiled with the 1950s gray concrete tiles. That is because this Google Streetview shows the 2010 situation and the cycle paths have gotten a smooth red asphalt surface since.

's-Hertogenbosch railway tunnel
Looking the other way. The camera was positioned over the right tunnel entrance (image Google Streetview) Note that the cycle tracks got a new smooth red asphalt surface after this picture was taken.

Earlier, I filmed this road, before and after the new surface, and you can see that comparison as the second example in this post.

opening 1955
Flags fly on the opening day (18th December 1956) of the tunnel under the railroad tracks.

7 thoughts on “Riding into a tunnel

  1. I keep hearing how the Netherlands spends so much more per capita on bicycling than other cities or countries. It was reported that Amsterdam spends about the equivalent of $50 dollars per capita on bicycling. So I did some calculations to see how the city of Los Angeles stacks up to that level of funding per capita.

    Realistically, per capita spending on bicycling should be in proportionate to its modal share. If you consider that the Netherlands has about a 26% bicycling modal share, and Los Angeles is at about 1 1/2%, then Los Angeles would have to spend about $11 million per year on bicycling to get a proportionate spending per bicycle use as Amsterdam does. It turns out that Los Angeles does spend about that amount of money per bicycle use. In fact, its more than that for the city overall if you factor in the money that is spent by the county Metro transit authority to construct bike paths next to their transit lines in the city.

    Now its a question of how should that limited amount of money be spent for bicycling in Los Angeles. Should these limited funds be used to build only the highest quality bicycle infrastructure like the Dutch do? If that’s the case, then very few miles of the 6,500 total miles of streets in Los Angeles would get bikeways annually. Experiments in the 1980’s in two cities in the Netherlands indicated that even with high quality bicycle infrastructure that was within a short distance, there was only about 3% of the increased ridership was from people who normally drive. It would take some time before people would change their habits from driving to riding a bicycle. A unprotected bicycle lane appeals to 4-7 times more of the adult population than riding in mixed traffic on a busy street, according to two surveys that I have seen. It only costs about $50,000 a mile to stripe bike lanes. So, the three million annual revenues for on-street bikeways in Los Angeles could be spent for at least 50 miles of bike lanes. If only Dutch quality bikeways were installed, then less than 6 miles would be installed annually That would not reach many of the existing people in the city who would be willing to bicycle on a daily basis.

    There is not only a question of how to spend the limited amount of funding, but also how would you get adequate amounts of space to put in Dutch style bikeways when such a low percentage of the public rides a bicycle regularly. The resistance by the public to taking away space from motor vehicles would be fierce. The reaction of the public recently to reallocating space from motor vehicles to bicycles usually goes like this: If many of the streets are congested with motor vehicles during peak hours, then why would you take any of that away to put in bikeways for a low single digit proportion of the population?

    Dutch bicycling consultant Marjolein de Lange goes through an example of this dilemma when she discusses what can be done with a roundabout in London to improve bicycling. This is room to fit a Dutch style bikeways, but there are too many motor vehicles to do this in practice:

    Here’s part one of her presentation where she shows how it fits:

    Part two, where she shows the idea isn’t practical:

    Here are the slides that she was using during her presentation:

    Click to access Marjolein%20de%20Lange%20-%20LLGD%20Workshop%20feedback.pdf

    1. I love how you went from “spending per capita” to “spending per capita by modal share”. I am not sure if that is fair, but I’ll ignore that for a moment to make this remark: Remember that Amsterdam is spending that much to *maintain* its cycling modal share; after reading your comment I have no doubt that Los Angeles, with its “equal” spending, will do nothing more than maintaining its low cycling modal share.
      If you want any improvement, you’ll have to invest (that is, spend more money now for future benefit).

      1. The lowest point for cycling in Amsterdam was when its overall modal share fell to 25%. Moving the rate of cycling up when the modal share is 1%, or less, involves difficulties that are not present when a much higher proportion of the population already bicycles.

        Political and societal changes are the biggest challenges to increasing the cycling rate when its in the low single digits. Having the political courage to take away space from motorists on a congested street for bicycles can cause a uproar. Los Angeles is going through that right now, and New York City has run the gauntlet of livid resistance since stepping up the pace on bike lane installations in 2007.

        Some actions that are very effective in getting the political will to support bicycling and to get people to bicycle when the rate of cycling is in the low single digits would not do much for cycling in the Netherlands.

        One of those is bicycle sharing. Having access to a bicycle is the most important step to being able to ride. This seems perhaps silly, but only about a third of the population in London or New York City even have a bicycle. Having bikes readily available that are secured and kept in good condition that can be easily rented and dropped off at your final destination makes cycling much easier to try. This would not have much of an affect on the cycling rate in the Netherlands if it was tried there as most of the population already bicycles.

        Having a ciclovia type event gives people the opportunity to try bicycling without worrying about traffic and having a large amount of people on bicycles at one time at these events can create much more political support. The CicLAvia events in Los Angeles played a big part in getting increased funding and political support for installing bicycle infrastructure from a average rate of 6-8 miles a year previous to 2010, to about 50 miles in each of the last two fiscal years. Would this type of event have a large impact in the cycling rate in the Netherlands? Probably not, again, they already have the political support and a high cycling rate.

        Installing bike lanes on busy streets does have a positive affect on getting people who already ride to do so more frequently. A graph on this UBC report of motivators and deterrents for cycling indicates that the appeal of bike lanes is mainly for those that already bicycle:


        The rate of installing 50 miles of bike lanes per year in Los Angeles might give an increase of a tenth of one percent in the bicycle commuting modal share if this gets the same average increase that the 90 largest cities in the U.S.obtained from this rate of bike lane installation per population size. That might not seem like much, but it would be a 10% increase in one year. This also gives a way to quickly grab territory for bicycling.which can then be upgraded to a higher quality later.

        Los Angeles spend about $2.5 million to install 50 miles of bike lanes. That amount of money wouldn’t go very far towards installing Dutch style bike paths. Its costing about $2 million a mile to create bike paths next to major transit lines in Los Angeles. That cost includes the installation of lighting and asphalt. You wouldn’t do much to increase the rate of cycling in Los Angeles with its 6,500 miles of streets, and 3.8 million population, if you only create less than five miles of bike paths per year.

        Other factors have an affect on the rate of bicycling in Los Angeles, such as the price of motor fuel and the CicLAvia events. The bicycle commuting modal share for Los Angeles increased about 45% in one year when the price of gasoline made a large increase from 2007 to 2008. The bicycle commuting modal share has stayed at this higher rate since then.

        1. “You wouldn’t do much to increase the rate of cycling in Los Angeles with its 6,500 miles of streets, and 3.8 million population, if you only create less than five miles of bike paths per year.”

          Exactly, that’s why the $3 per capita is not enough. You tried to make the point that the $3 is somehow ‘equal to’ the $50 per capita Amsterdam is spending, but it isn’t really, is it?

        2. Peterk, its a lot more complicated than stating that the funding for bicycling does not equal what it is per capita in the Netherlands, and so therefore it is not enough. It should be more a question of is the funding enough to increase the modal share of bicycling,, keep it steady,, or prevent it from falling? There is always going to be room for improvement no matter what the level of funding is.

          The rate of installing an average of 6-8 miles of bikeways annually in the city of Los Angeles was not enough to increase the commuting modal share of bicycling from 1990 to 2007, according the Census Bureau data on modes of transportation for commuting. However, there was a 45% jump in the commuting modal share of bicycling in Los Angeles from 2007 to 2008 when a sharp increase in the price of gasoline occurred.

          A study that averaged the commuting modal share of bicycling for the 90 largest U.S. cities and the amount of bike lane installation per population indicates that 50 miles of bike lanes installed in Los Angeles could increase the modal share of bicycling in Los Angeles by 1/10th of one percent if it equals the average results of the 90 largest cities.. This doesn’t seem like much, but if this holds true, then the level of funding for bikeways was adequate to increase the commuting modal share for bicycling in Los Angeles. This in turn would bolster the case for keeping this level of funding, or perhaps even increasing it.

          Getting the space required to put in any form of bicycle infrastructure in Los Angeles is another problem. Asking to take away a lane from motor vehicles that moves at least 10,000 people a day for the installation of a bikeway that will only initially attract perhaps a few hundred people a day to bicycle does not make a lot of sense politically. There has been less than 15 miles of streets in Los Angeles where space has been taken away from motorists in order to create bike lanes in the last two years, yet this has already starting to cause a great deal of backlash from the motoring public.To the motorists point of view, it doesn’t make any sense to cause more delays in their peak hour travel in order to create space for a few people on bicycles.

    2. ‘Funding’ is not the problem in the Netherlands. There is some bicycle-specific funding, but most of the bicycle-facilities (bike paths, bike traffic lights, simple bike parking) aren’t paid for by bike-specific funds. When a road is ‘renovated’, it gets new sidewalks and pedestrian crossings, bike paths, parking spaces for cars and bikes, et cetera, but these aren’t individual projects paid by specific funds. Just like there’s no ‘pedestrian funding’ needed to create sidewalks.

      When it comes to ‘bike-specific’ projects (huge bike parks near train stations, specific bicycle bridges, long-distance high-quality bike paths), there might be some earmarked funding, but even without those, a lot of the infrastructure would still be there.

      1. To add to that: It’s not more expensive to do so! The cost for renovation of a road is more or less the same per meter, whether you create 4 car-lanes, 2 car-lanes and parking, or 2 car lanes, 2 bike lanes and less parking, or whatever layout you choose…

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