See also part 2 of this blog post
It is one of my most viewed videos, the video in which I explain that common Dutch intersection design would not take up more space than typical US crossroads design. That you can indeed change your old fashioned intersection and replace it with modern Dutch design is now proven even better. Recently Utrecht reconstructed an intersection that was first designed in the 1960s and that had not been fundamentally changed since then. It now got this typical Dutch design and that was not before time!
All four roads leading up to the crossroads did already have cycling infrastructure, but it stopped right before the intersection. The Netherlands is no different than any other country. It first started to build cycling infrastructure alongside roads and larger streets, but not where it is needed most: at intersections.
Fortunately that changed in this country and most intersections now have safe infrastructure for cycling. But for a few places with a design legacy that was for some reason ‘forgotten’ to be updated. I have shown you earlier that there is a whole range of solutions for safer intersections, but for an urban area like this one – with relatively narrow streets and a lot of traffic – this design – with protected cycleways all around the intersection – is really best.
The blueprint for the reconstruction showed the before situation in thin blue lines. So I was able ‘reconstruct’ the before situation and both drawings alternate in this slide show. You can choose which picture you want to see by clicking the picture and then using the arrows. You can also see the larger versions of the before and after situation. (Original blueprint courtesy of the Utrecht Municipality.)
For people from other countries, the before situation may look like something to strive for. In fact, a lot of Copenhagen’s intersections are very similar. Some advocates in the UK will be happy to see all the ASLs (advanced stop lines) and bike boxes. So they can point out that they are really Dutch. But this is old-fashioned design that has proven to be inadequate! This was one of Utrecht’s blackspots: an intersection of the city’s inner ring road and a main route into the city centre. The latter, Amsterdamsestraatweg, featured in quite a number of my videos, is used by 17,000 private cars and 13,000 people cycling per day (Figures Fietsersbond 2012). St. Josephlaan/Marnixlaan, the ring road, is used by circa 18,950 motor vehicles per day (Figures Utrecht municipality 2012). Where the two meet a total of 21 crashes, which injured 7 people, were reported for the period 2004-2006. Four people were injured so severe that they needed medical treatment in a hospital. That may not sound like a lot to some, but in this city there was only one intersection in that period with one more casualty.
No wonder the city made plans to improve traffic safety at this location.
The narrowest part of the city’s ring road (St. Josephlaan) measures just 21.9 metres (almost 72 Ft) from façade to façade. In that space we find 4 lanes for motor traffic, two one-way cycle tracks of 2 metres wide and side walks on either side. Not easy to fit this junction design in such a tight space, but Utrecht found a solution.
The city informed the residents of its plans as follows.
At this intersection there is little room for the many people cycling. From St. Josephlaan the cycleway even stops right before it reaches the intersection. People cycling have to manoeuvre between motor traffic to get to the traffic light, which is dangerous.
- In the new situation the cycleways from all four directions will continue until the crossroads and also on the intersection itself.
- The dedicated right turning lanes for motor traffic will be merged with the lanes for going straight-on. This way space becomes available in all four corners of the intersection for protected cycleways with sufficient space for waiting areas, that are large enough for the number of people cycling here.
- The traffic light installation will be replaced and the new installation will be tailor-made for the new situation.
The works started in March 2014 and were finished in June 2014, but for the new traffic light installation that will be installed at the end of the summer. The gas company took this opportunity to replace gas pipes now that the streets were open anyway. Other cables and pipes were not replaced this time.
My video showing a before and after of this intersection and how that changes going straight-on and making a left turn and a right turn.
The reconstruction was part of a plan to reconstruct 28 locations in the city to improve traffic safety. The municipality informs about the progress of all these projects on a website. This is “measure number 8”.
The city considers the reconstruction of this intersection the first step towards a downgraded west-ring. The city has expanded so much to the west that a ring road here is no longer in the right location. In a concept report, published in January 2014, the city shows what it would like this road to look like in 2020. Downgraded to only 2 lanes for motor traffic and much more friendly to people (either walking or cycling).
This is the first post about this intersection reconstruction. This post and the video focus most on the before and after situation. In a follow-up post (scheduled for next month) we will look into the new situation in more detail. I can try to explain questions you might have about this design. So please use the comments to inform me of what you would like to know.