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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.