All about cycling in the Netherlands
A cycle route in ʼs-Hertogenbosch leading to an industrial zone was not well-connected to the rest of the cycling network. To get from the normal cycle network to the start of this cycle way you had to know your way through a maze of residential back streets. It was okay to cycle there, but you really needed to know where you were going and the route was not optimised for cycling.
So the city chose the best route through that residential area and decided to change the ordinary streets into cycle streets.
All the streets were already in a 30km per hour (18mph) zone, but motorists certainly did not always obey this limit. To make the streets better for cycling they were completely redesigned. Before that was done, and as is usual in the Netherlands, all sewerage pipes and other utilities under the street surface were first renewed. The street profile went from a standard street designed for motor traffic with black asphalt from kerb to kerb (curb), to one that is optimised for cycling. There is now a central ‘red carpet’ of smooth red asphalt. At either side of that red asphalt there are bands of bricks that optically narrow the streets even more, but that do give drivers the opportunity to go there with their cars, when they need to pass other drivers or people cycling. Priority also changed. It went from default priority, which means all traffic coming from the right had to get priority at every side street, to priority for traffic on the cycle street. That means people cycling can cycle continuously without having to stop so often.
At three locations the route takes a sharp turn. To make clear which direction the cycle route goes to, the red asphalt also makes that sharp turn. Signs were put up to designate the turn the continuous road. This makes what was considered straight-on before the reconstruction, now technically a turn. But in reality that still feels like going straight-on and even though these curves have been designed in a clear way, these particular spots are the few places where it does not feel so good. When you cycle to such a curve you can see cars coming towards you who will enter the cycle route, the drivers have to give way even though you turn in their path, but will they? That is always the question. Apparently most do, there have been no incidents reported and this cycle way has been there for over a year now, but it doesn’t really feel safe. It proves once again that what feels safe doesn’t have to be safe and the other way around.
There was one short-cut between two separate residential areas and to make sure it could only be used for cycling there was an old-fashioned solution with a chicane and horrible barriers. That short-cut has been widened and the cycle route now continues straight-on. At first the city had experimented to have this short-cut without bollards. Bollards are only there to keep cars out and they are dangerous to people cycling. In the choice between two evils, municipalities sometimes chose to accept the fact that every now and then one car will use the cycle way because that can be safer than having these dangerous bollards all the time. But in this case, in this particular neighbourhood, the route was used so often by motorists that the bollards really had to come back.
All the downsides to this treatment have to do with the behaviour of motorists. They still speed and they do not give the turning cyclists priority where they think they go straight-on. You will also see cars in the middle of the red asphalt where they are supposed to be on the brick band to the side. They then pass you very closely. Interestingly enough the city chose not to use the new signs for a cycle street, the ones that say “cars are guests”, something which most other municipalities do. But the sign is not in the law yet and ʼs-Hertogenbosch seems to not use it for that reason. I do think it would make the status of the street clearer than it is now. Cycle streets are so new that most motorists have not dealt with them when they learned how to drive.
My video with background information about this cycle route.
After about a year I do think the pluses outweigh the minuses on this particular route. It is a joy to cycle on the smooth red asphalt and you cannot get lost so easily if you do not know the area very well. That it can be too crowded on the route with just a few cars is especially annoying in rush hours when many school children use this route. But apparently the speeds are low enough for last second adjustments in behaviour. No real crashes have been reported since the reconstruction. So all in all this route upgrade should be considered an improvement.
A before and after side by side of the entire route.
The return ride in the new situation only.