All about cycling in the Netherlands
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 bypass” tested. 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.
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.
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.
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.