All about cycling in the Netherlands
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.