Bicycle ride in a smaller town

Back to a basic type of bicycle infrastructure. After my posts showing exceptional cycle infrastructure in Den Bosch and Naaldwijk, a failed 1990s experiment with a bicycle street, a failed brand new bicycle roundabout and a new cycleway alongside an exceptional new canal, it is time to have a look at the mundane again. Time to focus on cycle infrastructure that the Dutch totally take for granted. So why not go to a random town and cycle a random route. That is exactly what I did.

A family of four cycling in Vught.

Vught is a town south of ʼs-Hertogenbosch and it has a type of infrastructure that is completely normal for The Netherlands. Cycling is possible on every street and the idea behind the cycle infrastructure is “separate where needed and mix where possible”. The general way of looking at cycling in this country.

The route I cycled in Vught from the left (the heath of Vught) to the station on the right hand side of this map.

I cycled 2.2 kilometres from the heath of Vught to the railway station. At the time I thought I cycled a good route, but that only shows how badly I know Vught. When you look at the map I took quite a long detour. It is possible to cycle a much shorter and a more direct route. But the aim of this post is to show you mundane cycling infrastructure and for that the route is fine.

You can ‘cycle along’ by watching the video at the end of the post. But let me explain some of what you will see first. The route has three distinct types of infrastructure. The first type is the traditional one-way separated cycle path on either side of a through road. The through road in this case has not been a through road for a very long time, but the old street design has remained. This was once a rural road, but it is now a town street. The speed here is 50km/h (31mph) so it is nice to be separated from traffic going that speed. There are grand homes on this street and they all have a driveway. But that is almost invisible. Neither the cycleway, nor the footpath are interrupted by the driveways. That they are continued makes clear who has priority. This type of cycle paths (one-directional on either side of the road) was the first type that was built in the Netherlands and it goes back to the beginning of the 20th century. This type is still used, but in the countryside we see more and more separated cycle routes, completely away from routes for motor traffic and in that case cycleways are bi-directional.

This picture from 1984 shows the cycle path in front of a restaurant in Vught.
The same restaurant in 2014 still has that cycle path in front of it.

At 2:44 the video below shows a more modern addition to this street: a roundabout. Vught abides to the national recommendations and that means people cycling get priority at this roundabout in the built-up area. This is the preferred way of arranging priority at roundabouts in The Netherlands. In this case the roundabout has only three arms and we do not cross one of the three.

A -relatively new- three-arm roundabout in Vught with priority for cycling. The give way sign is there because you have to give way entering the roundabout, also when you are cycling, but once you are cycling on the roundabout you have priority over all other traffic. This is the usual priority arrangement for roundabouts in the built-up area in the vast majority of municipalities in The Netherlands.

A low number of municipalities in the country (Tilburg, Assen, to name a few) do not give cycling priority on roundabouts and in doing that they make cycling more dangerous. Because there are now different regulations on similar roundabouts, which makes it unclear to road users what arrangement is valid where. Since clarity is key in road safety, it would be best if the dissident municipalities were ordered to change their minority view as soon as possible. Already in 2009 the Minister of Transport asked all municipalities to abide to the recommendations, and some cities did change their priority arrangements, but even to date not all of them did. It is good that Vught does give people cycling priority.

Aert Heymlaan in 1991. There wasn’t even a decent side-walk in this street.
Aert Heymlaan in 2014 with an up-to-date street design. Cycle lanes are only okay when speeds and traffic volumes are very low.

After the right turn at 04:07 the street is totally different. This once was a street completely designed for motor traffic. The picture from 1991 shows there wasn’t even a side-walk, even that recently. The street was updated since then and it is now a 30km/h (18mph) street. That means that separation can be ‘light’ and here it is mainly visual; a cycle lane in red. The surface is also different; smooth red asphalt for the cycle lane and rougher bricks for motor traffic. Note also, that there is no centre line for motor traffic. The space in the middle is for cars in two directions. There is no on-street parking and that means there fortunately is no door zone. The junctions with side streets are all raised to make very clear that this is a 30km/h zone. The speed of motor traffic is naturally reduced by these raised junctions. Cycle lanes are generally not the best option to separate cycling from motor traffic. But in this case, with that speed limit, no on-street parking, and in a 30km/h zone, it is an okay solution. At 6:53 the sign tells us we leave the 30km/h zone.

Stationsstraat Vught in 1971. There is almost no separation at all, not even between the road and the side-walk. Cars are simply parked where their drivers liked to do that.
Stationsstraat Vught in 2014. The beginning of the street is a cycle path and it continues as a cycle street. The buildings to the left have been partly replaced.

The third type of infrastructure can be seen from 07:37, in the Stationsstraat. The picture from 1971 shows a traditional town street. Paved with bricks and with parked cars everywhere. No cycle provision at all. Nowadays the street is traffic calmed. Motor traffic cannot reach it as easily as people cycling can. The entrance from the main road is closed, because that part was turned into a short cycle path. The street is now in a 30 km/h zone and with the reduced volume of motor traffic the street could be changed into a bicycle street. To indicate that, the street has got a surface of smooth red asphalt. This means people cycling can use the full width of the street and they can stay well away from the many parked cars in this narrow street. I have the feeling a high number of these cars were parked there by people taking the train to further away destinations. In that case they shouldn’t really be parked here in a residential street.

Railway station Vught in 1970. The bicycle parking facility can be seen on the platform in the foreground. It is clear that there weren’t so many bicycles parked as there are today.
The bicycle parking facility on the platform has been expanded and it is used much more than it used to be.

When we arrive at the train station you can see that bicycles can be parked on the platform. The picture from 1970 shows that that was also the case back then. This makes cycling to the train station and taking the train to further away destinations very attractive. No wonder so many people do this. On average 40% of train passengers in The Netherlands arrived to the station by bicycle.

The only place where there is interaction with motor traffic. Crossing a main street.
The only place where there is interaction with motor traffic. Crossing a main street.

There is hardly any interaction with motor traffic on this entire ride. Even in the street with cycle lanes and the one that is a cycle street there is almost no motor traffic. The only direct interaction with motor traffic is crossing the main street at 07:01. But we only have to make a rolling stop of a few seconds to make the clear crossing.

The grids of cycling infrastructure like this in every town and city in The Netherlands make cycling so convenient and safe.

Video: a ride in Vught

This ride was filmed on Friday 6 June 2014 at 3:15pm.

37 thoughts on “Bicycle ride in a smaller town

  1. Hi Jan,

    Yes, in Amsterdam people ride very basic bicycles, because sooner or later it will get stolen and sold on to another person who lost his or her bike. But most new bicycles sold today have lots of gears. Which was not very common a few decades ago, when you had a Sturmy Archer 3 speed on your bike, if you were lucky.

    1. The ‘basic bikes’ in Amsterdam don’t seem to be related to theft. Bike theft is a problem (although i’m not sure if it’s worse than in other major cities), but most relatively expensive bikes and new bikes are also single gear, or three gears with coaster brakes.

      My assumption is that the bikes in Amsterdam are mainly chosen to be robust and maintenance free. Since 90% of the bikes spend 24/7 on the street, in a shared bike rack with not enough space, weather resistance and toughness are the major factors.
      Cables are a problem. Anything that can get caught in another bike will get tugged on and break down. And complex gear systems are usually delicate.

      I don’t know what ‘most bicycles sold’ today are. The most popular new bike here in Amsterdam is the Cortina U1, according to my bike shop and verified by personal observation. What would be the most popular model in the rest of the Netherlands, according to you?

        1. That does indeed make clear that there are huge regional differences. I think that in Amsterdam, inside the ring, there are very few e-bikes sold/owned. You almost never see them parked, and indoor parking is very scarce.

          However, I would consider e-bikes to be their own category. I doubt that you meant to say that ‘most new bicycles sold today’ are e-bikes, let alone that ‘modern bikes usually have an electrical motor’.

          Also, I expect that your brother-in-law’s store is not representative. According to the numbers I can find online, around 15-20% of the new bikes sold is an e-bike. That won’t make them a majority any time soon.

          1. Andre: I remember reading an article that was pointing out that e-bikes are not necessarily all good news. I remember they asked bicycle shop owners about the e-bikes, and he said, “We sell a lot of them, and we never see them again.” This was in contrast to the regular bikes, which they did see again every so often when something needed servicing. This indicated, to the shop owner at least, that people buy e-bikes, but then never use them. Does your brother in law see this pattern with e-bikes?

            Jan: What percentage of those e-bikes are sold in places like Nijmegen and Maastricht? Those places very close to the border with other nations can have many more hills, and people there might like e-bikes a lot more because of that. I strongly suspect that many of the e-bikes are sold in the hillier parts of the Netherlands.

        2. When you look at my “visit to a Dutch bicycle shop” post you see that 2 years ago the sales for e-bikes were 15% of the numbers but already 40% of the turnover (nationwide). Sales for e-bikes have gone up, we hear constantly. So it may well be over half of the turnover. I think that Amsterdam is not representative. I know Utrecht and ‘s-Hertogenbosch well and in Utrecht there are a lot more bikes with only 3 gears or less, but the majority seems to be bikes with more gears. That is certainly true in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. It also depends on where and when you look. In the weekend in the countryside you see totally different bikes around than in rush hour in the larger city centers.

  2. Lovely to see that work vehicles, skips and cars park well clear of the bike paths. Something about bike paths (even cycle tracks) scream “PARK YOUR VEHICLE HERE!” to Australian drivers. Also noted that most people drive quite calmly, whereas the mopeds seem to be a law unto themselves (gosh they are noisy!) I suspect car drivers are likely to also ride a bicycle, but perhaps those with a motor scooter are unlikely to ride a bicycle?

  3. Mark, your comments above about “dissident municipalities” and roundabout safety are really too much. The idea that municipalities which have chosen a design proven to be safer can somehow be blamed for “making cycling more dangerous” in towns which have not chosen the safer design is, quite frankly, an absurd twist of logic. You’ve let your opinion run away from the facts.

    There is no proof that drivers are confused by there being two sorts of roundabouts (amongst dozens of different types of junction in total), but even if it were true then argument of consistency and clarity is actually entirely on the side of the safer design because variations on that design are used over the whole country. This is so because all Dutch municipalities use the proven safer design for roundabouts outside city centres and only some of them chose to use a different design within cities. Here’s an example right in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Note that no cyclists have been injured there.

    When cities like ‘s-Hertogenbosch which have adopted your preferred design are themselves not self-consistent, what sense is there in blaming “dissident authorities” such as Assen, 200 km away, for causing a lack of clarity and contributing a relatively high cyclist injury rate at your roundabouts ? And if you think a relatively small difference in roundabout design 200 km from ‘s-Hertogenbosch has a negative influence on road safety in your city, please remind yourself that the Netherlands is not an island and just 40 km south of your city the roads continue into Belgium where there are huge variances in road, cycle-path and junction designs from Dutch standards. It’s highly likely that drivers and cyclists alike from s-Hertogenbosch visit Belgium more often than do Assen.

    The official accident statistics show us that all cities which have adopted the roundabout design which you prefer within the town have a heightened rate of cyclist injury at their roundabouts. Cyclists in s-Hertongenbosch are certainly not exempt from this. It took just a few minutes of looking at accident statistics online to find a single roundabout in ‘s-Hertogenbosch which all on its own has a cyclist injury rate which is more than double that ofall 21 of Assen’s roundabouts put together (for readers from elsewhere, Den Bosch has double the population of Assen so you might expect double the number of injuries overall, but more than double at one junction vs. 21 ?). This is far from a unique event. Take a look around that map and you’ll see that many cyclists have been injured across the roundabouts of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, as in other towns which have adopted the same design of roundabout.

    Let me remind you that the most comprehensive study made so far of roundabouts with and without cyclist priority showed a very clear result of a seven times difference in safety on the same roundabout. The researchers calculated that adopting the safer design would save between 52 and 73 people each year from receiving injuries which would require hospitalization. Results from real life examples of the safer roundabouts, which have a different layout to that used in the experiment, appear to show that there is actually a much greater effect than this.

    To hold a personal opinion of preferring one thing over another is just fine. Any of us can chose to hold any opinion we like. However we can’t choose our facts. In this case the statistics are quite clear about which roundabout designs are safer than the other. We have both the study and the actual accident stats to refer to.

    The idea of “priority” may be appealing, but do you really want to stand up and say that you think it is worth the cost of dozens of people having painful injuries and requiring hospitalization ? Does it still make sense to you to push for this preference to foreign readers when it’s quite likely that there would be a much higher injury toll if the same design were adopted outside the Netherlands ?

    I cannot support a design which I know will injure people. That is why I have long stated a preference for a roundabout design which is proven to reduce injuries. To prefer a design which reduces conflict and reduces injury is the true meaning of sustainable safety.

    1. Thanks for voicing your opinion David. That gives me the opportunity to point out that what you say is indeed your opinion. Your analysis of what you claim are facts, is in my opinion not based on very solid facts. The number of incidents you base your view on, comes from a site that gives only little information about these crashes. How easy you can go wrong on such limited information is proven by your example of the roundabout in ʼs-Hertogenbosch, that you claim has double the number of incidents than all the Assen roundabouts combined. That is simply not true. If you look at the dates of the crashes you will see that 7 of the 10 reported crashes happened before 2009. That is because early 2009 the four-arm junction was reconstructed and it became a roundabout. That takes away the basis of your analysis. I am unable to tell if your analysis of the Assen or Groningen roundabouts has flaws like these. But I do think that the facts are not as solid as you present them. They are not based on scientific research, but on your own limited investigation.

      The SWOV report that you mention is highly criticized. Not by me, but by a lot of organisations and not least by the Minister of Transport. I can quote a part from an earlier blog post: “His first point of criticism was that the figures dated from the time that mopeds (also the faster types) were still using the cycle paths and no distinction was made between crashes with bicycles or mopeds. His second point was that the SWOV investigation made no difference between roundabouts with separate circular cycle paths and those with on street cycle lanes. Under Dutch law, cyclists must have priority on that last type, so it would only make it more confusing if the ones with circular cycle paths around them would not have priority. Also the “extra number of casualties” as calculated by SWOV was deemed as estimated too high.”

      So I have not let “my opinion run away from the facts”. I am merely repeating what others say. And the Minister of Transport (of the time and also his successors) isn’t the only one who sees it this way.

      A quote from that same post: “After thorough investigations CROW (Dutch technology platform for transport, infrastructure and public space) finally came with recommendations to harmonize the dimensions and the priority rules on Dutch roundabouts in 1993. They were supported by the minister of transport, the provinces, most municipalities and organizations like VVN (‘Safer Traffic Netherlands’), ANWB (Dutch Motorist’s Union) and the Cyclists’ Union.”

      ʼs-Hertogenbosch does not use different rules on roundabouts in its built-up area as you say. The roundabout you point out, without priority for people cycling, is outside the built-up area. Even though it belongs to the municipality, the area is very clearly in the countryside. As you know, at such locations motor speeds are much higher and that would make it more dangerous to give cycling priority. ʼs-Hertogenbosch does abide to the recommendations.

      On my site I only show the infrastructure of the Netherlands and I try to explain why we built it here as we do, based on generally accepted views in this country. I have no agenda to try and export our infrastructure. I think I also often make clear that what works in the Netherlands will not necessarily work in other countries. Any infrastructure that is built anywhere will always have to be adapted to local laws and customs.

      That leads me to the one part where you and I agree. I also think that in societies where people cycling are still a tiny minority and where it is not usual to give them priority anywhere, it would indeed be wise to be very careful about giving them priority on roundabouts first. But that is purely based on what I know of the situation in other countries, their laws, and the behaviour and expectations of drivers abroad. It is not based on the safety situation in The Netherlands, that I think you misrepresent. In my opinion roundabouts with priority for people cycling in the built-up area are the safest option in this country. You have the right to disagree, but it is my right to point out that your view is a minority view in this country.

      1. Mark, I base my argument on the results of only proper study which has been performed of the differences due to priority rule and the official accident stats. These are not opinions.

        That it is not possible to tell how crashes occurred on the ongelukkenkaart is actually not that important. Extra information may be able to indicate possible remedial measures, but what we’re looking at here is only the overall safety of junctions. We can’t expect to know more than that given the source.

        The one blind spot of importance on the ongelukkenkaart is that it doesn’t indicate when junctions were redesigned. I took great care in my blog post comparing the safety of different designs of roundabouts to ensure that every example which I used had in fact existed for entirety of the 2007-2012 time frame of the data, So rest assured that that data is quite solid. However I do not know ‘s-Hertogenbosch so I must bow to your knowledge about the single example which I quoted above having been a roundabout only since part way through 2009, which is about half way through the time-period of this data. Thank you for that correction.

        Now that I have this new information I can see that there was one injury at the end of 2009 and another in 2010. This allows me to accurately state that in the shortened time period of mid 2009-2012 a single roundabout in ‘s-Hertogenbosch equaled the number of cyclist injuries which occurred at all 21 of Assen’s roundabouts combined in the longer period of 2007-2012. This is not actually substantially different from what I said before. The cause of accident is given in both cases as “Geen voorrang verlenen” and we know that cyclists had priority so it seems reasonable to say that in both cases the crash resulted from car drivers not giving way to cyclists on the roundabout.

        Two cyclist injuries over that time-frame on one roundabout is of course only a small amount of data. It could of course just be bad luck. But I referred in my previous reply to the fact that there have been other cyclist injuries at other roundabouts in your city. Please look into those rather than dismissing my argument based on one point of data ?

        It took me a few seconds to find another roundabout in Den Bosch which apparently accounted for another two cyclists being injured.

        Scrolling around the map a little more turned up a third example which injured another three cyclists.

        At that point I’ve reached seven injuries so far, having considered just three roundabouts in your city. It’s quite possible that both of those new examples are also newly built roundabouts. Help me out: you know your city while I do not pretend to. Please find out.

        Even better, by considering an entire city rather than just individual roundabouts we have a larger sample size and this makes our data far more solid. No need to worry any more that a particular junction had merely been ‘unlucky’.

        If you really believe that “with priority” roundabouts are “the safest option” why don’t you try to prove it ? I’ve given you the link to the data, so use your superior knowledge of ‘s-Hertogenbosch to do a full audit of how many cyclists have been injured at all of the roundabouts in the city over the 2007-2012 time-frame, just as I have already done with Assen.

        I found the remarkable result of only two cyclist injuries in total from all the roundabouts over that time-frame.

        If you do the same for your city then we will have two reliable sets of data for the total number of cyclists injured across whole Dutch cities, one in ‘s-Hertogenbosch with “priority” roundabouts and one in Assen with the safer design.

        This will give us two complete sets of data and provide a much better indication of which is safest than merely asserting one way or the other. Rather than arguing from an absence of data, please work on a full set of data for ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

        As for your other points:

        I pointed out the roundabout in a more rural setting within your municipality for no reason other than that it is a lot closer to your city than those of Assen. This was necessary only to show how illogical it was to make a claim that the safe roundabouts of Assen had somehow affected the drivers of ‘s-Hertogenbosch and other cities which have priority roundabouts and made them drive in a less safe way. Your city, like all Dutch cities, has this other design right on its doorstep. You don’t need to imply that other cities are to blame for your higher roundabout accident records.

        As for how many organisations or people with titles have expressed one opinion or another, and whether or not mine is a majority or a minority view, I have absolutely no interest in any of that at all, I am far more interested in being correct than I am in being popular.

        A title does not make any one person’s opinion any more valuable than anyone else’s. As Wikipedia puts it: “authorities can come to the wrong judgments through error, bias, dishonesty, or falling prey to groupthink. Thus, the appeal to authority is not a generally reliable argument for establishing facts”.

        1. David, none of your calculations will convince me, for the simple reason that the samples are too low and the data is unreliable with so many unknown factors. That is also why I will not do any calculations myself. I would not dare to claim to have the knowledge nor the authority to dispute the findings of so many organisations who did do scientific research for so many years. If this was about one expert claiming something, it would indeed be wise to dig deeper and to do fact checks. But this view – priority for cycling on roundabouts in the built-up area in The Netherlands is better – is so broadly supported by not only pro-cycling organisations like the Cyclists’ Union, but also a motorists’ organisation like ANWB, as well as experts on infrastructure like CROW, and the traffic safety expert organisation that incorporated the “Stop de Kindermoord” organisation, VVN, that I am more than willing to acknowledge their findings. As a regular cyclist who has cycled in both cities that do and that do not comply with the recommendations, I also have a personal preference for the version of roundabouts with priority. With that, I think that it is perfectly clear where we both stand.

        2. David Hembrow’s reasoning is flawed in several ways. For example, first he says that in Assen cycle routes are arranged so that cyclists can mostly avoid crossing roundabout arms. And guess what – very few crashes happen there. This is likely to be true also in other cities with similar roundabouts: they are considered as places where motor traffic has priority, so it’s better when cyclists are kept away from them. But in most Dutch cities it’s quite the opposite: urban roundabouts are busy with cyclists, because they are seen as places where you can cycle in comfort.

          As for consistency in road design: outdated CROW recommendations should be updated urgently, so that drivers could become used to yielding to cyclists on cycle paths on every roundabout, without even looking at signs (or surroundings, like the presence of buildings). Care must be taken so that car speeds are reduced below 30 km/h while turning, like with other junctions with cycle paths outside build-up areas.

          I’m certainly not supporting design which injures more people. How giving people some right (like right of way, not an “obligation of way”) can be creating danger for them? It’s nonsense. It’s tiny minority of cyclists who chooses to endanger themselves on such roundabouts because “they’re in a hurry” (which results with a few more crashes per few years when there are thousands of people cycling), it’s not the design that injures people.

          I agree with everyone saying that Dutch designs should be adjusted to local circumstances in countries without established bicycle culture. Even more care should be taken to slow down cars at bicycle crossings, the road design should be even more intuitive and even more has to be done to get people cycling.

          However, I disagree with the idea of some people that in countries where hardly anyone cycles, bicycles shouldn’t have priority where they’d normally have in Europe. Imagine that this becomes true, and after many years, when everybody is used to the fact that cyclists give way at junctions, some cycle campaigners say: “Well, now more people cycle, so we want that cycle paths have priority when a parallel road (including roundabouts) has priority”. Then officials would say something like: “Gee, but is it really safe? Let’s make a 10-year trial at a chosen location and after that maybe we’ll think about it”. After that they may say: “On the experimental roundabout 1 person on a bike was injured during the trial period, which is on average 56 times more than on other roundabouts*, so we’ll just stick to the old design” (* on which almost nobody dares to cycle because people are scared off by the motor traffic. No cyclists = no cyclist injuries). I’m exaggerating a bit, but well established rules and habits are difficult to change. Priority for cyclists at junctions should be something which nobody really questions, because “it has always been in this way”.

          In 2001, one Polish minister said that priority of cycle paths at junctions gives cyclists “a false sense of security”, so the law has been changed so that cyclists had to give way at all bicycle crossings in the country, without changing any signs. This was done, of course, “for their own safety”. I have no idea if this change reduced the number of injuries among cyclists. Maybe it did, but it doesn’t matter. Certainly it didn’t improve safety of cycling, it only improved convenience of driving. This law was reversed in 2010 due to lobbying from cycle campaigning groups. In fact, it was never really valid, because it violated the rule from the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, which says that traffic going straight on has priority over the turning traffic. Creating strange rules just because there are few people cycling really isn’t a good idea.

        3. At least you two are settling this argument like grown men, rather than the not too helpful debates in the rest of the world where they even have to debate whether Dutch cycling infrastructure, cycling priority on roundabouts or not, is safer than designs like mixing bikes and cars on twinned roads where the curbside lane is extra wide, like 4.2 metres, which is a bit childish to debate considering the overwhelming evidence of happiness, ease of travel by any mode you want and reduced congestion and a much more sustainable country.

      2. I ask why mopeds being injured more often would be a rational explanation? I mean a 25 km/h (often more, but many cyclists can go more than 30 km/h) cyclist is in exactly the same position as a moped rider on a priority roundabout. If a moped rider can get injured, a cyclist will just as easily.

        Neither has much protection, moped riders would technically often get more protection because those with yellow license plates would need a helmet (a motorcycle helmet I might add which actually does more to protecting a skull, but helmets are a different discussion, and I do not support helmets for either. Whether mopeds should be on the carriageway or not is also not the subject of this discussion because of the similarities between the two in terms of crash protection.

        Also note that because there are so few mopeds compared with cyclists, if the cause of the collisions really would be the moped riders, then cyclists should have far more injuries because they are far more abundant.

        And the previous paragraphs assume that the danger is the mopeds, not the roundabouts. Expecting perfect behavior and poor geometry and the fact that cyclists do have priority are the reasons why the annular design and why priority designs in any case are dangerous. The annular ring gives poor geometry and low reaction times, especially when the 5-6 metre verge is not met, expecting perfect behavior and that cyclists have priority means that cyclists (and light mopeds’) safety is entirely dependent upon motor vehicles to give cyclists priority, and the need for them to do so many things at once even at a relatively low speed is just another factor.

    2. I cycle in Tilburg regularly and I do whatever it takes to avoid those annoying roundabouts. Not only do I have to give way to cars, the geometry of the cycle lanes at the roundabout is such that I have to slow down significantly (because I’m supposed to give way of course, I understand that – but then I have to slow down even if no traffic is coming).

      At one roundabout where I usually have to take a left turn (crossing two arms), I avoid the roundabout by crossing the street well before the roundabout. I then ride on the wrong side of the road (on the cycle lane, against traffic), make my left turn at the roundabout (while staying on the wrong side of the road), and then cross the road again after I’ve cleared the roundabout.

      It’s a lot less safe than following the cycle path, but I put up with it because the roundabout has been made that annoying. At least if I get hit by a car it won’t count against the roundabout in the statistics.

      1. Peter, I don’t know Tilburg and I don’t know the roundabout which you find to be problematic. However, I did have a quite look at the ongelukkenkaart for your city earlier today and found one example of the sort of horrific ’roundabout’ which I thought only the UK built and another example which is of the sort of thing I’ve never expect to be safe (and which isn’t).

        Please don’t take my championing of a particular design which we have and which has proven to be both very convenient and very safe as implying that I’m in favour of any other design.

        1. Tilburg has some very nice infrastructure but the roundabouts are ridiculous. I appreciate you’re not advocating that particular design. The intended point of my example was that other factors than just safety might play a role in design decisions.

          For instance, convenience might be considered. If a roundabout is very safe but inconvenient (as the one in my example), cyclists might start avoiding it. Then the problem is shifted some place else or people decide not to cycle. If the roundabout is very convenient and slightly less safe (but still more safe than a junction) cycling is encouraged. I feel some loss of safety is acceptable if it increases the convenience.

          Another factor might be the principle of equality. Not to get all philosophical here, but why should motorists have priority over cyclists? If I’m on my bike and cycling along a road, I have to yield to traffic from the right at a roundabout. If I’m in my a car and riding along the same road, I don’t have to yield to traffic from the right at that same roundabout. Why is that? Just because it is safer on a roundabout that way? Is it even roundabout specific? Why not give junctions the same treatment? No more priority for cyclists ever – that would fix a lot problems with motorists failing to yield.

          But let’s just roll with the inequality at roundabouts for a moment. If cyclists and motorists get different treatment, why not turn things around? Perhaps it would also be safer to have motorists always yield at roundabouts and always give cyclists priority. Has that a chance of being introduced? Of course not, that would be too inconvenient for all the motorists.

          I believe that if cyclists and motorists are considered equal in traffic, they should be treated as equal at roundabouts.

    3. It’s not necessarily the priority that cyclists have, it is likely that the speed and acceleration of cyclists who after making their turn onto the roundabout and the angles that create danger. Also, many roundabouts of the priority design do not have the recommended 6 metre verge, so that likely skews it to some degree. No reaction time. There is too little space in my opinion between car ring edge and the inner edge of the cycle ring to make it safe enough. Cyclists also are at a fairly bad angle. This will decrease the larger the cycle ring is, but of course space is limited, so 90 degree turns are likely required. And cyclists, when slower, like everyone else, make better decisions.

  4. An (almost) Dutch-style roundabout is planned to be built soon in the municipality of Jaworzno – the first such a roundabout in Poland and possibly also in the rest of the world except the Netherlands. The article in the local newspaper says: “(…) Searching for the best possible solutions, together with the designers they have taken inspiration from examples well known in Western Europe*. In order to improve safety of both cyclists and car drivers on this junction, it will be converted to a roundabout. A novelty in our city will be the fact that aside from the roundabout on which cars will be moving, on its external perimeter a second roundabout will be created, for cyclists. Thanks to the bicycle crossings on every arm, a cyclist will be able to go around the roundabout safely and choose to go in any direction. For drivers this will mean an obligation to give way to the cyclist before they leave the roundabout.”
    (* Well, such roundabouts are popular only in the Netherlands. Danish, Swedish and German roundabouts with priority for cyclists are not so good. But the author probably thought that “Western Europe” would sound better than “the Netherlands” – many people wouldn’t know why copy something from the Netherlands instead of some other country.)

    I’ve used your videos to convince the municipality and the local cycle campaigning group that such a roundabout would be a good solution. Here is my post on Skyscrapercity where I’ve done it:
    Many thanks!

    My post also includes my sketches of possible cycle infrastructure on the roundabout (including not recommended, compromise solution with cycle paths without priority for bicycles – fortunately they haven’t chosen it).

    I have serious reservations about cycling infrastructure further up the street – despite plenty of space, cyclists probably will have to choose between painted on-road cycle lane and shared bus and bike lane on one side of a road or a cycle path on the other side – which ends in the middle of a street and cyclists have to give way before continuing riding on a painted lane anyway… But I think that the roundabout itself is rather good – except that circular cycle path is a bit to narrow (1,5 m – I proposed 2 m) and that turning radius for cars is well above the minimum. Still, this roundabout will make possible for cyclists to cross this junction safely without loosing priority.

    I agree with your point that it’s more dangerous when there are different rules on different roundabouts. What’s more, I think that cycle paths should have priority on roundabouts even in rural areas. After all, basic rule says that traffic going straight on (bicycles in this case) has priority over turning traffic (cars) – no matter if cycle paths are bidirectional or unidirectional, there are more cars than bicycles or the other way round, or the road has a shape of a circle or a straight line. This would result in greater uniformity and contribute to better safety.

    1. The design of roundabout which you have chosen has been proven to be seven times more dangerous than the same design without cyclist priority and is very probably I am surprised that you are pushing for a design which is known to result in seven times as many injuries when implemented in the Netherlands, with Dutch drivers and Dutch cyclists.

      Do you believe that Polish drivers are more likely to take care of the safety of cyclists than Dutch drivers ? If you do not then you must consider that the likely outcome is that this design will prove to be even more dangerous in Poland than it has proven to be in the Netherlands.

      1. No, it’s your incorrect interpretation of statistics. I’ve explained to you that the design you support gives absolutely no more protection for people cycling. Some cyclists deliberately take more risk when they have priority (which is reflected in statistics) but it’s their problem. That there are more collisions on some roundabouts simply means that car speeds need to be reduced more (sadly, this error is likely to be repeated in Jaworzno). Requiring cyclists to give way is not cycle friendly solution at all and people cycling simply don’t want it.

        If roundabouts with cycle paths giving way to every roundabout arm weren’t invented first (before 1990s), the Dutch probably wouldn’t even check if such thing is safer or not. Why even come up with an idea that turning traffic should have priority over traffic going straight on?

  5. Jealous. I live in Abbotsford BC, Canada, and a few roads have a bike lane that is just a painted line separating the bike lane from the 50+km/h traffic, the rest of the time just riding on the right side of the traffic lane with no infrastructure for bikes. We do have a few completely separate trails, but they are recreational trails mainly under right of ways for high voltage transmission lines, and are pretty useless for actually getting anywhere.

  6. Would you consider making a video sometime about people getting on and off bicycles? I have noticed a pattern on your videos, like the start of this one, that seems very graceful and effortless. You can find videos on YouTube about how to “safely” mount and dismount that look unnatural almost to the point of torture. Yes, I am looking at the infrastructure too. Thanks!

      1. That is interesting to know. The video clip shows people already on a bicycle so I can’t tell how they got on or off. They clearly are benefiting from a frame geometry that allows them to place a foot on the ground while still seated. There’s a difference between temporarily stopping and restarting vs getting on and off at either end of a trip, which is really what am wondering about.

        1. Chris: I’m not sure, but what do you think is not ‘reasonable’ about that video? That’s exactly what was taught to me in dutch school.

          From a dutch perspective, the only interesting thing is that the ‘swing leg over back wheel’ is a typical male action, while women would have a step-through frame. (In practice, you’ll find of course every possible combination of ‘female on step-through but swinging leg’, ‘male on normal frame stepping over bar because of kid on the luggage rack’, etc.)

          1. I think it would be that cyclists look over their shoulders quite that often, and that you should stand on the footway right after you get off the bike. People often walk on access roads in the 30 km/h zone on the lower volume roads. Also, I might be wrong here, but I don’t think you call shoulder checking things like “lifesaver looks”. Coincidentally I have a bag of livesavers sweets, although that isn’t related to road safety in any way.

            Also I imagine that the helmet and high viz jacket looks strange from a Dutch perspective. I know that students do wear these things the veerkeresexam, but that would be so that the teachers can identify students to grade them, and teachers themselves wear these things when taking students on trips around places, but that is because there are so many cyclists that the teachers need be able to be followed among the crowd. Also that not all of the students might be able to go through a crossing in one go or something like that.

        2. Jan, it just seems like a grim and dangerous undertaking, as if the intrepid lass is being trained by the Soviets for a space launch.
          I don’t doubt there is as much diversity in methods of mounting and dismounting as you say, so it would make a fascinating topic for Mark’s camera. I haven’t seen it with my own eyes, I would surely like to.
          Mark’s “women cycling in the Netherlands” video had examples at the beginning and again at 2:10 (I belive that’s what first caught my attention). I just say, more of that please!

        3. I think that the basics in that video are not so dissimilar how Dutch would typically do it (ignoring ladies bikes with a lowered frame). The main difference is that in the video everything looks quite dramatic because of the hi-vis, helmet and overly explicit way of showing things.

          First, I wouldn’t hold my brakes while swinging my leg over; this would even be impossible on an old-Dutch-style bike with backpedal brakes. Secondly, if you can’t reach the ground with your toes when on the saddle (which I think you should just be able to on a well-fitted city bike), then you can first stand, straddling the frame. From that position you would raise yourself into the saddle and set off by stepping with one foot onto the front pedal.

          From there on, the video is really not much different from how many Dutch would start, except that starting on a cyclepath/pavement you wouldn’t have to be so careful with the “lifesaver look”.

      2. The elderly people at the beginning of the video are doing just fine. Admittedly, they take three or four steps with their right foot before getting onto the saddle, while younger, fitter people might need only one step, but the technique is essentially the same. You put your left foot on the pedal, take one or more steps to get some initial speed, get your right foot on the right pedal and finally sit down.

        1. Modern bicycles usually have an awful lot of gears, so you can start off in a very light gear. On my old, very heavy 1-speed bike, I tend to run a few steps beside it, then jump on it when it’s moving. At traffic lights, I’ll keep my feet on the pedals, and hold on to a post or pole and push off with my arm to get the bike going. Maybe I should make a video to show how to get a 25kg, 1 speed Dutch bike moving.

        2. André: Interesting observation, but not true everywhere. Here in Amsterdam, the majority of bikes is still single gear, followed by a lot of 3-gear bikes that almost never leave 2nd gear.

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