All about cycling in the Netherlands
Goes is a historic town in the south-west of the Netherlands. The town has tried to become Cycling City of the Netherlands several times before. In 2008, Goes was already one of the finalists, but it just lost to Houten. The town has kept investing a lot in cycling since then and the people in Goes can be proud of what they have achieved. Goes was a very pleasant surprise when I visited it. In my opinion the town makes a very good chance, now that it is again one of the five finalists in this year’s competition.
Cycling City of the Netherlands Competition
The municipalities of Goes, Groningen, Maastricht, Nijmegen and Utrecht are the finalists in the Fietsstad 2016 competition for which the overall theme is “Bikenomics”. The Cyclists’ Union in the Netherlands regularly organises a competition in which municipalities can try to become Cycling City of The Netherlands. The last city to win the title was Zwolle (2014), which followed ´s-Hertogenbosch (2011), Houten (2008), Groningen (2002) and Veenendaal (2000). Before 2011 municipalities were chosen on the basis of the results of a cycling quality investigation by the Cyclists’ Union. From the 2011 election on municipalities have to enter the competition themselves. The 5 finalists were chosen by a jury on the basis of the written motivation, the policies and the figures about mode share, traffic safety and the type of cycling infrastructure in a municipality. On my blog I will feature a video portrait of each of the 5 candidate municipalities. These posts will be published every other week from now, leading up to the announcement of the winner on 19 May 2016.
Goes is a town in the coastal province of Zeeland. The municipality has 37,190 inhabitants, Goes proper has about 27,000. The density is about 394 people per square kilometre. Goes is a historic town. Technically it is even a city, because it gained city rights in the year 1405! The residents are proud of their “little town” which was the reason for a song by the local band Racoon. For such a small town the investments in cycling are impressive. In these times of austerity the budget for cycling was the only budget that grew. To create coherent cycling policies the town allocated 380,000 euros in 2011. For the years 2014 to 2017 the budget is 30,000 euros per year to keep the policies up to date. For maintenance of cycling infrastructure the budget is 1 million euros per year and that is still not all. For bicycle parking in the town centre 100,000 euros were reserved and for larger projects another 2.9 million euros were invested in just the last couple of years. That last sum includes building a cycle tunnel, intersection reconstructions, surface upgrades and street redesigns. All in all a considerable amount of money per head which was invested in cycling recently and it shows!
The modal share for cycling for journeys up to 7.5km (which are almost all journeys in such a small town) is 50%.
Even though the budgets are mentioned for one mode here, the town’s policies are integral and for an entire area and not for separate modalities. Cycling benefits from upgrading the ring road for motor traffic, because it will be using the ring road more and there will be fewer vehicles in the town’s streets. A number of these streets were redesigned as cycle streets. But even with an integral approach it is possible to zoom in on investments for cycling, which were planned and documented in the Cycling Policies drafted in 2012.
Main points from these policies are:
The main cycle routes get priority where possible. Other crossings are designed well, at some locations the town even constructed a tunnel. The design was completely according to the CROW recommendations. At another location, where a main cycle route crosses the ring road, a signalised intersection had a bad safety record. To replace that dangerous situation a novel type of intersection was designed to maximise the safety for cycling. This led to an oval shape for motor traffic. The cycle route cuts through the oval at the shortest side in two stages. Because of the shape, motor traffic can only come from one direction at every stage of the crossing, a bit like a roundabout. This increases clarity and thus safety. But motor traffic wanting to turn left into one of the side streets has to make a full 180 degree turn right after the cycle crossing.
For the surfaces of the cycle routes red asphalt is the standard, except where the cycleway is completely separate. Red asphalt is more expensive so it is nice to save money where you can. That doesn’t mean the town doesn’t spend money where it is necessary. Getting the smaller details right is expensive, but very noticeable on the streets. Road markings are not made of a thermoplastic material because that can become slippery in rain, instead paint was chosen as much as possible. On top of that, the block markings of a cycle crossing are not in the cycleway but on the outside of it. That way the crossing doesn’t look narrower than it really is. With these markings Goes follows the latest recommendations by the Cyclists’ Union. Kerbs (curbs) are all sloped to reduce the number of cycle accidents without the involvement of other vehicles. Where possible the cycleway and the footway are completely flush. Tactile markings help the visually impaired to find their way at such locations. The number of bollards is kept to a minimum and where they cannot be avoided the town of Goes has an exceptional way of marking bollards. This does indeed enhance their visibility.
There aren’t many signalized intersections, but where there are traffic lights, the signals for cycling turn green twice in every cycle. The two stage left turn for cycling has a coordinated green cycle so you can do the two stages in one go.
Most of the infrastructure looked brand new and incredibly well maintained. So aren’t there any negative points that can be mentioned? Not really, but the shortage of parking spaces could be seen as an issue. Of course I also found some older infrastructure with worn surfaces that is narrower than it should be. But when I looked up the plans for the future these cycleways were already mentioned to be updated. There was one thing that didn’t really get a lot of attention in the bid book though and that is the theme of this year’s competition: Bikenomics. Not much more than mentioning bike racks outside supermarkets and organizing events. However, treating the people who cycle in your municipality as well as Goes does is already good for the economy. All in all I think Goes is a very good competitor in this year’s competition, a dangerous little outsider. I would not even be surprised if it did get the title, Goes would very much deserve it.
My video portrait of Goes.