The town of Goes is one of many Dutch places with a raised roundabout for motor traffic, that can be bypassed when you are walking or cycling, on a lower level. At many locations, this is called a “bear pit”, but that doesn’t seem to be a tradition here. Maybe because it is much more recent than the other examples.
I visited the town of Goes last year, because it was one of the 5 finalists to become best cycling city of the Netherlands. Goes didn’t win the title, but the jury and I agreed that it was a town with a very good cycling climate. The town has a circular road that carries most motor traffic around the town centre. This road is the connecting road between the through route, in this case the motorway A256, west of the town, and the access streets people can use to reach the end destinations. A distributor road such as this one is therefore designed to carry a lot of traffic safely and has no other functions. This means there is no parking and there are no end-destinations (at least as few as possible). That also means cycling is separated from it. Just last week, Mark Treasure, chair of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, explained this key principle of Dutch sustainable safe road design in a clear and comprehensive post.
The intersections in this distributor road are all designed to make them less dangerous. Some are roundabouts, with circular cycleways around them, some are standard intersections with underpasses for cycling. They haven’t always been that way. The raised roundabout at Tiendenplein, that I show you in this post, started as a standard four-arm intersection that was replaced in 1997. This was done because too many accidents happened here. Unfortunately they chose a two-lane roundabout, although much safer than a traditional crossroads, two-lane roundabouts have a bad safely record because weaving from one lane to the other gives a much higher risk of accidents than single lane roundabouts.
The roundabout at Tiendenplein has four arms for motor traffic. To the west one gives access to the motorway, to the north and south we find the ring road “Ringbaan-West” and the east arm gives access to the town centre. Because the roundabout is at the west end of the town, and because there are bi-directional cyclepaths on the town-side of the roads, there is no need to cycle to the northwest of the roundabout. That means there are only three arms for cycling. The designers in the 1990s were clever enough to design a T-Junction for cycling at the bottom of the raised roundabout. They didn’t come up with a useless three-arm cycle roundabout as they did in Sint Michielsgestel. It looks much more like the Berenkuil in Utrecht, that also has a T-Junction at the bottom. This may change, however, the town of Goes wants to change this intersection and it may look more like the four-arm cycle roundabout in Arnhem.
There is an obligation in the Netherlands to beautify underpasses with works of art. I’ve shown you exceptional examples such as the Silly Walk in Eindhoven, but almost all underpasses have some sort of art work. This roundabout in Goes has a work of art that is appropriately called “Inner Circle”. It was placed in 2003, but it had to be restored in 2015. The tiles in the art work had been damaged by the weather. Artist George Schade was happy with the restoration. The work has got a different feeling now, because other tiles were used than the original tiles that were no longer available. The new tiles have a different size and they have stronger colours. The artist also changed some of the patterns. He said “the work has a better look and feel now, but the original meaning and symbolism have been retained.” ‘Inner circle’ consists of a cylinder, a quarter cylinder, a prism and a beam. The artist said these objects symbolise the regional centre, the social centre, the crossroads and the quarter cylinder, of which the tip points to the town’s main church, represents the spiritual centre.
The work of art may look different now, but the entire raised roundabout of Tiendenplein in Goes will look a lot different soon. Goes has decided it wants to develop the area north-west of the intersection. A big chain of home improvement supply shops wants to open a mega-store here. A big Chinese restaurant and a few other entrepreneurs want to open new locations as well. That means a new access road to the area must be constructed. Plans have already been made to change the four-arm roundabout into a five-arm roundabout. The council takes this opportunity to make some changes. The late 1990s two-lane roundabout will be changed into a much more modern and safer type of turbo-roundabout. To make the new area accessible for cycling, a new, fourth, bicycle underpass to the north-west will also be constructed. That makes it necessary to change the cycling T-Junction in the centre of the roundabout. Considering the volume of cycling at this location, a standard four-arm crossroads just for cycling would be more than enough. I’ve seen them work with much higher volumes! But unfortunately, the plans reveal the town of Goes chose a different solution. A cycle roundabout seems to have been designed for the bottom of the pit. We know from the Sint Michielsgestel, and the Eindhoven examples, that that can feel like over-engineering for cycling. We can only hope local stakeholders will have told the designers that in time. The end report, from July 2016, on which the council decided to go ahead with this development, shows the cycle roundabout. Hopefully it is not going to be built like that.
Video of the cycling infrastructure of Tiendenplein in Goes.