Maastrichtseweg 5 years later

We humans adapt so well to our environment that we quickly forget how different things sometimes were. In the last five years a lot of the (cycling) infrastructure in my home town of ʼs-Hertogenbosch has changed, changed for the better! But because it is so easy to take things for granted, it is good I still have the images of how things were.

From clearly a service street to one that is a cycle street. The bricks and the speed bump were replaced by smooth red asphalt. The centre line makes it much clearer that cycling can be done in two directions. Cars are guest here.

The complete citywide makeover was part of the cycle plan “Lekker Fietsen” (Fun in Cycling) that ran from 2010 to 2015. The city invested 16.5 million Euro in cycling in that period. It led to streets that got a completely different design. This also had to do with the categorisation of all Dutch roads and streets under the Sustainable Safety policy and the vision in this policy: streets should be designed for their purpose. The design of a street should make clear what a street is for. So let’s take a route in ʼs-Hertogenbosch and compare the state of it in 2010 and 2015.

The red line is the route cycled in the video below. The second part of this street can no longer be entered by motor vehicles. Motorists must follow the dark line and use a tall bridge to reach the other side of the canal to finally reach the same end destination. People cycling can still follow the old and more direct route that leads to a level bridge.

Maastrichtseweg was once a main entrance road into the city centre. The first part still is, the part that leads from the exit of the A2 motorway to a more circular route. (I already showed you a before and after video for that part in 2011.) From there the city wanted motorists to take that other route, or – when they must be in the city centre – they were encouraged to use the bridge in that circular route to get to the other side of the canal to continue their way. But that is a slight detour, that involves two loops to get across the canal. People kept using the old route for that reason. Even when a left-turning ban was implemented at the end of Maastrichtseweg, people still took the illegal left turn to cut their journey short. So a more drastic measure was needed.

To make sure motorists can no longer use the second part of Maastrichtseweg the entry to it was completely removed. The entry for cycling could be relocated to a more logical place now. It is impossible to recognise there ever was an entry to the street for motor traffic. (Both pictures from Google StreetView).
The left turning lane to enter the second part of Maastrichtseweg has been made inaccessible. You can still see the arrow to the left that was blackened. This was a temporary situation until this road was also reconstruced (Picture Google StreetView)
The left turning lane has now also been completely removed, so you can no longer see that there ever was a left turning lane.

The neighbourhood alongside of that second part of Maastrichtseweg was rebuilt. Many of the old homes were not up to modern standards and they were replaced. That also involved changing all the pipes and cables in the entire area, giving a perfect opportunity to also redesign the streets in the area. Maastrichtseweg was indeed redesigned. The new design reflects its purpose much more. It is now a 30km/h zone. No longer a through street for motor traffic, but simply a residential street. A street to be used only by its residents or the visitors of the few shops there are in this street. To make sure through traffic no longer takes the street, the entrance from the first part of Maastrichtseweg was completely removed. Cycling into the street from both directions is still possible.

In the first part of Maastrichtseweg not much changed since the 2011 before and after video, but the setting of these traffic signals was altered. Motor traffic got a head start which was very unusual. Now people cycling get a head start, a much more common setting.
The second half of Maastrichtseweg got a big makeover. The service street was completely removed. The street became bi-directional for cars again. That was necessary because the street was closed on one end so traffic needs to be able to turn and leave the street again. Parking to the far left has changed, cars now park lateral. This reduced the number of parking spaces. There is now more green space alongside the canal to the left.

Now that it has become a 30km/h zone, the service street construction was no longer needed. That made sense alongside of a main arterial (that is why the service street in the first part stayed as it was) but it doesn’t make sense alongside a residential street. Because it is now a 30km/h zone where only residents drive and because the street was designated to be a main cycle route, it could become a Fietsstraat (cycle street) now. That is why it got red asphalt and a raised median (that you can easily cycle over if needed) to make clear that motorists are guests who shouldn’t overtake people cycling.

The cycleway to connect two service streets was no longer needed and removed. The new speed bump is friendly to cycling but not so friendly to motor traffic. Note that all the housing to the right has been replaced.
Another cycleway that could be removed. A strip of grass came in its place. In a 30km/h zone cycleways are not needed. When there are low volumes of motor traffic with low speeds the space on the streets can be shared.

Interestingly enough this new design led to the removal of several cycleways (in fact only shortcuts that connected two parts of the service streets). So yes, sometimes improving the situation for cycling can even involve removing separated cycling infrastructure.

It is almost hard to imagine that this is actually the same street, but the buildings and that campervan give it away. Interesting that some of the vehicles appear in both videos, even with a 5 year difference, parked in roughly the same spots.

After the redesign Maastrichtseweg is now truly a main cycle route and certainly no longer a through street. This example shows that street design is really very important to improve cycling. And it shows another thing: if you want motor traffic to take a different route, you need to design the former route in such a way that motor traffic has no other choice than to take the new route.

Video comparing the ride on Maastrichtseweg in 2010 and 2015.

23 thoughts on “Maastrichtseweg 5 years later

  1. LOL, just finished reading your post. You noticed the van too! That’s what I get for skipping to the video first, then reading.

  2. “ʼs-Hertogenbosch”

    When I read this I thought it was a typo, until I looked up Maastrichtseweg in Google Maps. What an odd city name.

    1. The seat of our gouvernment is in ‘s-Gravenhage & a little village near me is called ‘s-Heerenbroek. It’s from really old, now obsolete Dutch grammer, German still has it. There the word “the” can be die, das, der, dem etc.
      In Dutch the term ‘s-morgens, in the morning, is another example. It is “des morgens” which was shortened with time.
      ‘s-Gravenhage, des graven hage, the shrubbery of the earl. Now often shortened even further to The Hague
      ‘s-Hertogenbosch, des hertogen bosch, the woods of the duke. Now sometimes Den Bosch.
      ‘s-Heerenbroek, des heeren broek, the wet pastures of the lord. Broek is the Dutch word for trousers, but in olden times it meant low lying lands that flood during the winter which are used to graze cattle in summertime.

      1. And brook in English means a stream or small river, so the similarity with the old Dutch meaning for broek can be seen.

  3. What a great improvement, that’s awesome. I especially like the strong, but not radical measures to reduce car traffic.

    “So yes, sometimes improving the situation for cycling can even involve removing separated cycling infrastructure.” – Oh my god, don’t tell this that guy from copenhagenize, as he will call you a vehicular cyclist!

  4. We can certainly agree that there is a lot of improvement, so let me point to the negative: Conditions for pedestrians in the first part of the street were terrible in 2010, and they have become even worse in 2015 (0:22 – 0:55). Just look at 0:38! Imagine someone in a wheelchair or a parent with a pushchair trying to pass that vehicle. We probably agree that it should be possible for two friends to cycle next to each other to talk. The same should be true for pedestrians! In the first part of the street it is probably not even possible for a single person to pass someone going in the opposite direction without getting awkward. That is not good enough.

    Don’t get me wrong. I like the redesign, I think it is a great improvement and I wish people over here had the courage to make such changes. But pedestrians are too often forgotten. They are an important part of making our cities better places. Such a redesign should improve conditions for pedestrians, not make them worse.

    And don’t tell me “there is not enough space” for pedestrians. That is the kind of excuse I always hear in Germany about space for cycling. The Netherlands prove that it is almost always possible to MAKE space for cycling. The same should be true for pedestrians. In this case, I see three ways of making space for pedestrians: By narrowing the large street on the left and shifting both the hedgerow and service street to the left; by moving parking to the left side of the service street, possibly replacing part or all of the hedgerow, or (probably the best idea) by eliminating parking in the service street by moving it to the large parking lot that can be seen around 0:09.

    Do you know if there were any discussions about this problem before they implemented the redesign?

    1. In an ideal world you may want wide side walks, but are they really needed everywhere? I don’t really see this as a problem and I doubt there was any discussion from other people about it. Where space for walking is truly needed (in busy shopping streets, around stations etc.) we do create space for walking. But here… the only persons walking here will be residents going from their parked cars to their home. In this country we don’t walk distances over roughly 600 metres. We take our bicycles. This video shows exactly two pedestrians, one of which indeed gets into a car. So there isn’t much demand and we much rather use the space there is for cycling than for walking. And if you have a baby carriage or a wheel chair that doesn’t fit between those parked cars and the hedges in the front yards nobody will blink an eye if you take them on the red part and walk there. I know that from personal experience when I push my dad around in his wheelchair. You couldn’t do that in the old situation, because that was much more ‘car space’, but now it is people’s space and people on bicycles can much better share their space with people walking than motorised traffic ever does.

  5. Are there any plans to improve the last section of the route in your video? As I recall, there are several of these bridges crossing the canal, and they’re almost all very unfriendly to cyclists (please correct me if I remember wrongly). I worked many times in the city center of Den Bosch, and when I had to drive my White Van across and along the canal, I always pitied the cyclists there. Along Maastrichteweg the houses and the whole neighbourhood didn’t look inviting at all, so I’m curious to see how it looks now…

    1. These bridges are all narrow yes, but they don’t feel so scary to use on a bicycle as it may look here. Motor traffic goes very slow. But yes, there are plans to change the whole area. By 2020 the whole ring around the historic city centre will be a traffic calmed 30km/h (18mph) zone. Motor traffic volumes will be reduced drastically because it is then more attractive to use the faster ring roads a lot further out.

  6. “The neighbourhood alongside of that second part of Maastrichtseweg was rebuilt. Many of the old homes were not up to modern standards and they were replaced.”

    I think this is the first time you’ve mentioned something like this happening. Who owned the homes, and who replaced them?

    I’m well aware of the Dutch policy to be continuously evaluating street standards and systematically bringing non-standard-bearing streets to meet the current standard. But when it came to housing I didn’t think a similar policy was in place!

    1. It was most likely social housing. (That’s what it looks like anyway). That means of course a lower renting price, but also that a ‘woningcorporatie’ or the municipality is the owner. They can say and do whatever they want with the properties.

    2. When it comes to housing it is roughly like this. If certain standards are not met the rent can’t be raised as much as for housing that does meet those standards. So older houses bring less and less for the owner of those houses. Sometimes the rent doesn’t even cover the maintenance costs anymore. At one point it can be better to completely replace such houses than to update them. Especially when the requirements of size are no longer met (which seems to have been the case here, those previous houses were tiny) then it is almost impossible to update the houses. That can be done when kitchens, bathrooms or heating systems have to be updated, but not when the whole place is simply too small.

  7. “The neighbourhood alongside of that second part of Maastrichtseweg was rebuilt. Many of the old homes were not up to modern standards and they were replaced. ”

    I am curious. Is this publicly owned housing?

    1. The old homes were from the municipality I think. The new ones may be owned by a housing society or a developer, I don’t know, but it is social housing in the lower rent segments.

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