Riding around the bus stop

One of the things that I had planned to show you for a long time is how the Dutch can cycle around a bus stop. That there is an interest for this came up in the past several times. So I had been trying to film good examples and my collection was steadily growing. And then the need for a good explanation became more obvious when in the UK Transport for London had a “Dutch Style Bus stop bypasstested. On top of that there were some so-called ‘Dutch style’ bus stops built in Royal College Street in Camden (London). These Camden examples caused a lot of controversy on the internet, because it was rightly pointed out that they are not at all a Dutch style bus stop bypass. That is why I decided to finally finish that long planned post and video, to give you even more examples of what is done in the Netherlands.

Biltstraat Utrecht 1953. This street had at the time been reconstructed because the tram tracks had been removed. The reconstructed street featured the most modern street design of the time and it included several bus stop bypasses (here one is highlighted in red).

Most of the Dutch traffic measures have a direct relation with the Sustainable Safety policies. One of the key principles of that policy is to separate types of traffic with a large difference in speed and mass. It is very obvious that the mass of a bus and that of a person cycling is hugely different. But the practice to separate people cycling from buses at the bus stop pre-dates the sustainable safety policies by several decades. The picture proves that the Dutch have been separating those two types of traffic from at least 1953 at some places. Separating the types of traffic at a bus stop eliminates the conflict between the bus and the cyclist. But of course it introduces a new conflict between the cyclist and the bus passengers / pedestrians. However, the speed and mass between a person cycling and a person walking is much less different and so that new conflict is to be preferred over the first since it can only be less serious.

That bus stop bypasses could be seen 60 years ago doesn’t mean they were implemented everywhere at that time. Later pictures of different locations show situations that are designed in another way.

This picture of Nijenoord in Utrecht in 1969 shows that not all bus stops had a bypass even at that time. (Even though there is a separate cycle track under the rail road bridge).
Nijnenoord in Utrecht in 2013. There is a bus stop bypass at this location today: a separate cycle path that connects to the cycle path under the rail road bridge.

Nowadays most of the bus stops do have a bypass or – even more common – a cycle path that runs behind it. There are also still some locations where there is no separation at all (which is only acceptable under Dutch guidelines if the bus speed does not exceed 30km/h) and there are modern versions of the original bus stop bypass. Utrecht even plans to build new ones as I showed you in an earlier blog post.

A modern version of the bus stop bypass in a street that has no other cycling infrastructure. Note that the shelter is not always on the floating island even though that is the preferred situation especially when there is a higher number of cyclists at such a location.

Not every bus stop has a bus stop shelter. The further to the end of the line in a suburb, the more likely it is that people will mostly exit the bus at that location. Such a bus stop is then considered an “exit bus stop” and doesn’t really need a bus stop shelter. At the beginning of the line most people will board the bus and so that type of bus stop is more likely to have a bigger floating bus stop island and a bus stop shelter. Two bus stops in the same street can therefore be very different depending on the main flow of bus passengers.

Video explaining how Dutch bus stops work. You see interactions between bus passengers and people cycling. There are really no interactions between buses and people cycling and that also becomes apparent from the video.

To further enhance the safety of people cycling, I think it is a very good idea to study if this type of infrastructure can be implemented in the United Kingdom or elsewhere and adaptations to the local situation are fine. The Dutch themselves have different options for different places. But one fundamental feature of the Dutch design was not copied in Royal College Street in Camden. That is the fact that Dutch bus passengers never set foot in the cycle path right away as they can be seen doing in Camden. There is always an island (however small sometimes) that they step onto. That has a reason: in the Netherlands cyclists are not obliged to stop when a bus has stopped. This is different in Germany and Denmark for instance. In those countries it is the law that cyclists must stop immediately when passengers leave a stationary bus or tram. Since there is also no such obligation in the UK it would have been advisable to give passengers their traffic island there too.

It is a pity that what is advertised as “Dutch design” in the UK is not really Dutch at all every now and then. It is not the first time that what is really Danish design is passing as Dutch in the UK. It is understandable that the UK wants their own type of design (even though it is usually best to copy what has proven to work) but calling something Dutch when it really isn’t, is simply not as it should be.

45 thoughts on “Riding around the bus stop

  1. I was looking at bus stops on Google Maps earlier today, and I noticed that the bus stop was raised. Then I found out that Dutch buses don’t have stairs. Here the U.S. they do and that makes it spend a lot of time at each stop. Everything in the Netherlands is just so efficient!

    1. The reference to Denmark (and Germany) was with regard to the obligation to stop for people getting off a bus or tram in case there isn’t a floating island and you can pass the vehicle on the passenger side. But as it turned out, that obligation also exists in NL. Largely unknown, simply because that situation hardly ever exists. This situation seems to exist in Denmark a bit more often than in The Netherlands. But if best practice is different, that is very good.

  2. Hi Tim. I have no issue with quality infrastructure. I just wish I could find some, and didn’t have to contend with the rubbish we’re so often lumbered with. Riding around Brisbane, where footpath riding is legal, there’s no need to guess why so many abandon riding on the road. The road designs are so car-centric it makes cycling there unfriendly.

    Just this morning I rode 60km along a major arterial road. 2 lanes each way for the most part, and often with a hard shoulder as well. Plenty of space. At many intersections and junctions, the left lane just became a left turn only lane, and any person walking or riding had to suddenly navigate a way across a lane of traffic that may be traveling at up to 80km/h. Not fun, and not safe – but safe and convenient for car traffic. Thankfully I was there early and there wasn’t much car traffic to speak of.

    I disagree that respect is what’s needed. Respect is earned. What’s needed is for the operator of the heavier and faster vehicle to be more concerned with other people’s safety than their own, and for roads to be redesigned with the safety and convenience of the most vulnerable road users first, and the convenience and safety of “protected” road users second.

  3. I was very interested to see this, my only modification for London’s streets would be a small zebra crossing between the pavement and bus island, crossing the cycle lane. We can sometimes have large numbers of people dismounting from a double decker and it just gives the cyclist and pedestrian a pause to understand there is a crossover point.

  4. Thanks for discussion, but also for the term “farcilities’ James from Au – playing with words helps since the facts don’t seem to work, right?
    So it seems much of the world is “carrupt” eh, not just in North Americar….

  5. Vancouver has (at least) one bus stop a bit like these.


    The island is long and fairly wide. The bus shelter though is not on the island but on the sidewalk and people have to cross the two way cycle track to get to it. (The shelter narrows the walking area on the sidewalk quite a bit as well.)
    The cycle track rises to the same height as the sidewalk which is a good indicator to pay attention to the area. There are signs for both people walking and cycling to watch for the other.
    This is the only bus stop on this street. It’s the beginning of the route for this bus.

  6. The city of Los Angeles is supposed to have its first cycle track completed by the end of 2014–preliminary drawings have the cycle track behind bus stops–or else the city will lose the $20 million set-aside specifically for it. There is a new council member for the area who looks like he may be getting cold feet about it. The objections from the numerous car dealers and automobile club on that street seem to be having an effect on him. He has a motion that will first go to a city council committee meeting that proposes to study this project some more before proceeding. If this gets council approval then it could doom the project by delaying it with needless studies.

    Mark, Its also worth noting that the NAACTO guidelines–national association of city transportation officials–that you wrote about previously have recently been given an endorsement from the federal government.

    Recent survey results that where obtained from several U.S. cities show that about 31% of respondents felt strongly that the current guidelines that they are using were inadequate for designing innovative bike projects.

    Also, 50% of the responses said that they get guidance on innovative bikeway designs from European and International sources–frankly, any northern European country probably has better bikeway design than the U.S., although I’d hope that the Dutch designs have the strongest influence on them.

    At least two thirds of the responses also did not believe that the city staff or consultants went above average for expertise in innovative bikeway design.


    1. The NACTO endorsements is a mixed blessing. On one hand NACTO does recommend cycle tracks for the types of streets the Dutch would build them on. Unfortunately, they also recommend cycle lanes on those same streets, and intersection ideas like bike boxes are only used as a last resort in the Netherlands or are outdated infrastructure that will be updated soon. NACTO*s idea of traffic light timing so that cyclists do not have to stop so often is good, but only works when you have lots of lights to worry about. In most of the Netherlands, there is a very low density of traffic lights. A few exceptions in Amsterdam, the Hague and Rotterdam and maybe Utrecht, but fortunately most Dutch cycle trips can be made without encountering more than 4 traffic lights. A significant number of them can be made without any stops at all. Intersection crossing markings, colour and median refuge islands (as long as you do not use those islands in the way the UK often does) are all things I would adopt from NACTO, but combined right and bike lanes, not good. They can be found in some places like Zwolle but they are considered outdated, which is good.

  7. “This is different in Germany and Denmark for instance. In those countries it is the law that cyclists must stop immediately when passengers leave a stationary bus or tram.”

    You seem to be suggesting that this is not the case in the Netherlands, but that is not quite true. Article 52 of the Dutch rules of the road state that all ‘bestuurders’ (everyone except pedestrians) must let passengers get off a tram.

    1. You are right. It reads “Artikel 52; Bestuurders die een stilstaande tram of autobus willen voorbijrijden aan de zijde waar passagiers in- en uitstappen, moeten aan hen daartoe gelegenheid geven.” Which means: Drivers (and that includes cyclists in Dutch law) who pass a stationary tram or bus on the side where passengers are getting in and out, must give them the possibility to do so.”
      With the current design of most bus stops that is always possible without any ‘action’ of the “driver” (no stopping required). That is probably why the knowledge of this rule is fading away.

      1. I seem to remember that this rule came up during my driving lessons, even though only three cities had tram networks at the time. So although the rules’ usefulness is limited (I only know one tram stop this applied to, in Rotterdam Noord), it is probably to some extent general knowledge … if you have a driver’s license.

        1. I do have a driver’s license! For 30 years now, but Utrecht didn’t have a tram at the time (the Utrecht tram line opened December 1983). It does seem to apply to buses too though. But as you also say: there aren’t many bus stops where it is applicable.

  8. Never underestimate the british ability to execute a good infrastructure idea cheaply or stupidly. There’s a cycle lane here, on Lincoln’s outskirts that is half on the sidewalk/pavement including raised bus-stop kerbs and half on the road.

  9. Interesting that you don’t have bus platforms. Here in the UK the kerb is raised substantially and many buses have a dropping mechanism, which helps wheelchair users and the elderly. I also note that you don’t have tactile paving in the cycle route. Whoever designed the segregated bike path in Goodman’s Yard, London, obviously thought this was vital, with two strips of tactile paving within 200m.

    1. Maybe not so easy to see but the bus stops are (being) raised all over the country now. There is a subsidy program so all over the country you see bus stops being raised to about 20cms. The floors of the buses are low, so that is enough. see picture.

      1. That’s what I wanted to comment: the bus stops are being raised, but the bike paths in front of it as well. For about 20ms of length, and flush with the foot path, so that it’s even easier to enter or leave the bus. It helps the cyclist being aware of the bus stop as well, due to the sudden, noticeable rise in level of the bike path.

    2. Unfortunately William, it is a legal requirement in the UK for engineers to meet certain design specifications (including the use of Tactile paving). All legal requirements are set by politicians. As with a computer, so a politician – garbage in, garbage out.

  10. An ok example I noticed in my last trip up to Montreal:

    Note the raised pavement to sidewalk level, difference in texture and color, waiting area with stop shelter on the side (there is ample room if they reduced auto capacity a bit) a middle platform for getting off (the bus stops before the planters) and additional signage and markings for pedestrians and bikes. The track could be wider (it is two-way) but overall pretty good for something in North America!

    1. Looks like a 3 metre wide cycle track and a 2 metre wide cycle track behind the bus stop. The angled curbs that are rather tall is probably the biggest reason why this would feel so narrow. Montreal can have some decent stuff, but junctions need to be improved, cycle tracks need to be widened and traffic light timings need to give cyclists an exception from the no right on red rule and have more green lights in a row.

  11. It’s just so freaking simple. My mind boggles, I just cannot understand why everyone else in the world gets it so horribly wrong every time, except the Dutch. Why do our stupid British engineers feel the need to reinvent the wheel, making bus-stop bypasses more inconvenient and dangerous for peds and cyclists, when all they have to do is open their eyes and see how it should be done?

  12. Here in Australia, some traffic engineers – I use the term lightly – decided it would be sensible to make bike riders ride behind 4 tram stops. In all cases pedestrians don’t look for bikes and make riding there hazardous.

    But it gets worse. In one direction you have to ride away from the main road and cross a side road metres before the tram stop, so you’re no longer considered part of the flow of traffic, and drivers often fail to give way. In the opposite direction, the first tram stop is on the side of a hill, so you’re gathering speed, and if you try to go behind the tram stop, there’s the inevitable pedestrian danger and a side road to cross, where again the motorists are not expecting to see a bicycle, so fail to give way.

    When these tram stops were first commissioned, and thankfully I’ve never seen any like them anywhere else around Melbourne, there were literally dozens of bike crashes in the first month or so. Since then the regular riders have learned to deal with them by not using the bike lane, but to ride the thin bitumen strip between the hard concrete edge of the tram stop and the first tram track, or to bunny hop and go between the tram tracks.

    This is the one in the downhill direction, with street crossing right after.

    This is the one in the opposite direction (it’s under the trees), with the street crossing just before, and you can see the bike lane moves away from the main road before the street crossing.

    I blame the designers for being bicyclist haters (GTA Consultants?), and the Australian Road Design Standards being terribly lacking to allow for such a travesty.

    1. Your examples look somewhat like an afterthought to me. It is as if the cyclists are sent up the side walk. Also the turns are sharp and the difference between side walk and cycle path is not very clear. I think that is all rather different from my Dutch examples. So even though the system seems the same. It is all in the details of how things are built that decide if it works well or not.

      1. Absolutely. A large part of the problem is that the tram stops were built so close to the side roads. That detail alone makes them a failure.

        Time and time again I come across special bike facilities around Melbourne that are so poorly designed they make bicycling more dangerous than if they weren’t there at all! To give you examples of some of our failed bike facilities, or what I call farcilities because they are a farce…;

        1/ bike lanes marked in the door zone,
        2/ bike lanes marked to the left of left turn only lanes,
        3/ Copenhagen bike lanes that mix bike riders with pedestrians and turning traffic,
        4/ bike lanes that get narrower and narrower until you have about 30 cm of bike lane width to a hard concrete gutter edge with bluestone cobbles forming a good part of the 30cm width,
        5/ bike lanes that are no more than a hard shoulder that disappears over bridges and never kept free of debris,
        6/ bike lanes with narrow chutes made of raised concrete sections, through curves downhill and with T junctions.
        7/ bike lanes that direct bicyclists up on to the footpath – where it is mostly illegal to ride.

        Another evil side effect is that all these bike lanes seem to make drivers think less about and of bicyclists and more that roads were built only for cars. They breed intolerance and anger rather than patience and courtesy.

        Roads are the correct place to ride a bike and are fine as they are.

        Motorists need to be changed (in the head) to accomodate bicyclists on the road.

        1. James, I feel your pain when it comes to poor cycle-specific facilities. We have no shortage of similar issues in the UK and there’s even a good comedy website documenting some choice examples:

          But I would have to disagree with you that these “farcilities” mean we should give up on the idea of quality infrastructure for cycling. Imagine a town where the provision of sidewalks was patchy, where they didn’t continue along bridges, and they were all cluttered with rubbish and awkward to use. Would we argue we should give up on sidewalks; let people walk in the road where drivers would now give them the proper respect? I think most people would just call for better continuous sidewalks (or give up walking).

          Certainly British roads were not originally built for cars ( http://www.roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com/ ) , but the cars are there and they aren’t going away (unless we make them). If roads are fine for cycling, I have to ask why so few people ride in them whether crappy cycle lanes exist or not? In the UK it’s between 1% and 2% modal share, even for short journeys. Roads might be fine for *you* but there’s a bigger picture here…

          I don’t hear the Dutch complaining that cycle specific infrastructure is ruining cycling for them. And a lot of stuff I’ve seen (including the huge amount of time which must go into this blog) indicates the Dutch are understandably proud of their bike friendly cities and the benefits they gain from them.

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