All about cycling in the Netherlands
The cycleway surface on a busy main road in ʼs-Hertogenbosch was recently upgraded. The original concrete slabs were replaced by smooth asphalt. Not a major change you might think, but cycling has really improved because of it.
The road was constructed as a main east-west road in a city development project that ran from about 1970 to 1977. The project involved connecting several new residential expansions and an industrial area. The rail road line from ʼs-Hertogenbosch east to Nijmegen was raised in the same project and this road runs parallel to that now elevated rail road for a large part of the route. This was the time many new 4-lane roads were built in The Netherlands. Which was done to accommodate the growing number of private cars that many people could from that time on afford. This new arterial road was also built with 2 lanes in each direction. The route required a large bridge as well. That bridge was built from 1970 on and it was called Trierbrug (Trier bridge) after the city of Trier in Germany, with which ʼs-Hertogenbosch was twinned at the time. Because of this twinning the oberbürgermeister (mayor) of Trier opened the bridge in September 1973.
Interesting enough this major road did not get separated cycling infrastructure at that time. There was only a painted on-street cycle lane. The city archive of ʼs-Hertogenbosch has a picture from the Trier bridge in 1990 and the caption reads: “A dangerous situation for cycling”. I couldn’t agree more. An on-street cycle lane is completely inadequate as cycling infrastructure on such a big 4 lane road. Apparently the authorities agreed that the situation had to be changed and that must have been done somewhere between 1990 and 2013. That year I took a picture at the same location and the road layout had obviously been changed. The road did have separate cycle tracks (one-way on either side) at that time. Unfortunately they were created at the expense of the foot way, because that had been sacrificed for that protected cycleway. Not a real problem, however, because the road is very far away from end-destinations and very few people walk here.
The road is still a major arterial road today and that is why it stayed a 4-lane road. I showed you another example earlier of a similar 4 lane arterial road, also with on-street cycle lanes, that has now been given a road diet. Because that street was downgraded to a collector road, it went back to 2 lanes (one for each direction), but it also got separated cycle tracks.
The pictures below show that the foot way was removed on the entire length of the road now, not only at the bridge as was the case before. These side walks were obviously underused, otherwise they would not have been so overgrown with grass and weeds as the picture shows. That the foot ways were removed does not mean that pedestrians cannot use this road; they can, but they are supposed to walk in the cycleway. The width of the cycleway does allow for people walking in it as well.
The cycle route alongside of this road is not a main cycle route according to the current (but ending) cycling policy of ʼs-Hertogenbosch. It is a secondary route. Had it been a main cycle route, the cycleway and the roadway might have been separated completely, to run on a different location altogether. A policy that the Dutch call unravelling or unbundling of routes. You will see in the videos that there are almost no end-destinations on this road and only very few intersections. Where there are businesses a service street was built. That is because this really is a through road. Its only purpose is to get traffic from one point to the other, fast. End destinations and parking (movements) would come in the way of that purpose. This is perfectly in line with the Dutch sustainable safety policies. The speed limit on this road is 50km/h (31mph), but because it has no distractions that is also almost the average speed.
Under the 6 year cycle plan of ʼs-Hertogenbosch that ends this year, this is one of the last routes to be updated. Later this year I plan to show you exactly what has and what has not been executed of that 2009 cycle plan, that I then wrote about as well. (Hint: a lot has!)
This relatively minor update, a surface change from concrete slabs to smooth asphalt, can be seen as icing on the cake of a well-executed and award-winning cycle plan to update the previously outdated cycling infrastructure of ʼs-Hertogenbosch. Riding the paths is now much more convenient and that is what it is all about: cycling has to be so convenient that many people will leave their car at home and use the bicycle instead.
Ride showing the before and after situation (West to East).
Ride from East to West