All about cycling in the Netherlands
Driveways to people’s homes crossing cycleways are not a problem in The Netherlands, but the same goes for commercial driveways. I had already shown you the private driveways long ago, in this post I will show you how commercial driveways can also easily be combined with cycleways.
Some posts take years before they really materialise. They start off as a vague idea but they need something extra to really become a full story. ʼs-Hertogenbosch has one street that always reminded me of streets I saw in the South-West of the US, the difference being that the Dutch version has separated cycle tracks. I long had the idea to show you this street, but I couldn’t really find the right approach. Then, almost one year ago, I was at the Winter Cycling Congress in Leeuwarden (an annual congress, this year’s edition will take place in Minneapolis/St. Paul next month). At the congress I met Marven Norman, a follower of my blog, who asked me about commercial driveways in relation to protected cycleways. It struck me right away: that was the angle I was looking for. At the time Marven was vice-president of the Inland Empire Biking Alliance in Redlands (CA) and he told me that he had several people asking him to explain how commercial driveways crossing a protected cycle way could work. He knew that I had already made a video about driveways to private residences, but people thought that commercial driveways – with more traffic – could still be a problem. I promised Marven I’d make a video, but I already warned him it would take a lot of time. I have posts lined up for months in advance and they are also held up by posts with current events. So indeed, it took almost a year, but I finally have a video to show you how it works! I already shot the footage for this video last Summer in that street in my hometown ʼs-Hertogenbosch called Rietveldenweg, that at places reminds me of US streets.
Rietveldenweg is a road as so many exist all over the world. For the most part it has two motor traffic lanes in each direction and there are many businesses at either side. The road leads from a motorway wide around the city to the city centre. Although this type of design is common in the rest of the world it has become increasingly exceptional in the Netherlands. That is because this type of street design does not follow the current ‘Sustainable Safety’ regulations. Newer through streets do not have so many end destinations, they would for instance have a separate service street to reduce the number of potential conflicts in the main road. This street, however, was built before that policy came into effect. It is a road in a commercial district with warehouses and production halls that was developed from 1930 to 1970. In line with the design traditions of that time it was built without any cycle provisions. The – for the most part – four lane road had some painted on-street lanes at either side for cycling, but that was about it. The main road had a railway track alongside of it, to get freight to the factories and especially the Heineken Brewery here.
An upgrade of this business district – 285 hectares of aging streets and buildings – started at the end of the 1980s and it was only in the 1990s that the so-called ‘sustainable revitalisation’ studies resulted in actual work on the streets and to the buildings. The first separate cycle tracks in this street were built around 1996, only 20 years ago.
In the part of the street with 2×2 lanes for motor traffic a separate cycleway in each direction was built at either side of the street. In the part where there were only two lanes a bi-directional cycleway was built at one side of the road. In the mid-1990s bi-directional cycle tracks were not so common yet. That it was built here had several reasons. Firstly there was a strip of grass with space reserved for a road extension at one side of the street, that could easily be used. And secondly, on the other side of the street there was a freight railway line that led to the bigger factories from the main railway line. (Which only shows how old this commercial district was: built even before everything was transported in road trucks.) Thirdly, on that side of the street there are also no end-destinations. This is just one gigantic business location: the Heineken brewery (one of the Heineken breweries, the other is in Zoeterwoude). So people cycling do not need to be on that side.
The separated cycle tracks pass a huge number of business entrances, but that poses no problems with regard to who has priority. Under Dutch law turning traffic must always yield to traffic going straight on, on the same road. People cycling, and even people walking, are considered to be on the same road, even when they are on a separate cycleway, so if they go straight on they always have priority over turning motor traffic. What that motor traffic turns into is not important. Thus it makes no difference if motor traffic turns into a side street or a commercial driveway.
Traffic coming from a driveway must always yield to traffic on the main road. Again that also includes people cycling and walking. Here there is a difference with standard streets. If there are two equal streets, traffic coming from the right has the right of way (unless there are signs regulating the priority in another way). In most through routes it is different. There the priority is given to the through route, not to the side streets. This can be done by putting up signs. That is also the case here. It results in the situation that people cycling on the cycle track have priority over every side street and every driveway. That goes for turning traffic and traffic exiting driveways or traffic that wants to enter the main through street from a side street. This is a very clear situation and that’s why it works so well. Of course there are always drivers who don’t look well enough or who are distracted. Especially for the bi-directional cycleways there are extra signs telling drivers that people cycling can arrive from two sides. At some points where there is a reduced visibility the city even put up mirrors.
My video for this week explains how cycleways can be combined with commercial driveways
So how safe it this? I have no access to extensive recent figures about crashes for this street, but the crude ‘accident’ reporting site Ongelukken op de kaart does not report any incident of drivers of motor vehicles crashing into people cycling at these driveways for the period 2007-2014. So it is safe to say that cycle tracks combined with commercial driveways work very well.