All about cycling in the Netherlands
The city of ’s-Hertogenbosch upgraded a protected intersection. It used to be partly protected, with long diagonal cycle crossings on the carriage way, but it now became a fully protected intersection.
The reconstruction of Brugplein in ’s-Hertogenbosch took place already in September and October 2015. The whole intersection was replaced in a little under three weeks, during which it was completely closed to all traffic. The former design of the intersection felt very old-fashioned. It was partly protected, but especially the left turns had to be made in a peculiar way on your bicycle: diagonally and on the carriageway for motor traffic. All motor traffic had to be stopped to let cyclists make their left turns. That is how “all-directions-green-at-the-same-time” works. But it still surprised me to find a picture that showed this actually was an “all-directions-green” intersection in the past. The ’s-Hertogenbosch city archive has that picture from April 1993 on its website. It must have been a short-lived experiment; the city no longer has such intersections and doesn’t want them either. They prolong the total light cycles and that is unnecessary.
The intersection has five arms, two of which lead to bridges. Hence the name “Brugplein”, which literally means Bridge Square. It was turned into a five-arm roundabout when the largest bridge, a then new main route for motor traffic, was opened in 1941. Already in the 1950s, one of the arms was closed to motor traffic. That street provided a shortcut for motor traffic that the city did not want the main traffic flow to take. Traffic calming and traffic diversions have been common in the Netherlands for a very long time. The wear of the street in the old picture shows that the main traffic flow is in one dominant direction. In that case a roundabout is not such a good idea. Indeed, the roundabout disappeared well before the 1970s, when the square became a signalised intersection.
The city now also wanted to further restrict access to the smaller bridge, leading into the city centre, as part of traffic calming on the city centre ring. It was already forbidden to enter the bridge from the west, but motor traffic can also no longer turn onto the bridge from the north. This meant the left-turning lane could be removed. The city wanted to make the intersection better for walking as well. Not all streets had pedestrian crossings, they do now. Last but not least, the city wanted to make the square better for cycling. The space that became available after the left turning lanes were removed was partly used to widen the cycleways and to make them bi-directional. One pair of diagonal crossings was straightened out, the other now has a centre traffic islands. This improves the intersection for cycling. The bi-directional cycleways make it possible to reach the long closed street on your bicycle. That had never been possible, unless you rode against traffic or on the sidewalk.
I use this intersection quite often, both on a bicycle and sometimes even in a car as a driver. That this protected intersection is a bit strange, with the diagonal crossings for cycling, is not something you notice when you use it. The protected intersection is so well-known and so standard in the Netherlands, that slight variations are very possible, without negative consequences for the safety of the traffic users.
My video explaining the reconstruction of the Brugplein in ’s-Hertogenbosch.
Two rides (left turns) traversing this intersection in the before and after situation.
One of my readers asked on Twitter about traffic volumes, especially cycling compared to motor vehicles during the day. Eric Greweldinger, the traffic light expert of the city of ’s-Hertogenbosch, was so kind to provide information gathered from the traffic lights loops in an average week in October 2016. These figures are meant as an indication of the volumes and how they are spread over the day. Especially for cycling it should be mentioned that not every cyclist is not always measured individually, there is a margin of error. However, as an indication these figures give some good information I think.