Recently, I had to cycle all the way through the town of Boxtel, from north to south, on my way to film the fast cycle route between Oirschot and Boxtel. I choose a different route in Boxtel, the fastest and most direct route, bypassing the route to the station that you can see in that other video. Since I knew I would find quite a number of different types of infrastructure, in a relatively short ride, I decided to film this ride as well.
A video of my ride through Boxtel.
Boxtel is by no means a special town. It is a typical town with quite standard cycling infrastructure, which is in fact a bit older. The route I took used to be the main north-south route in the country, until the motorway bypass around Boxtel was built in the 1970s. I can remember driving here with my parents in the early 1970s from Utrecht to my great-grandmother (my mother’s mother’s mother) who lived in Helmond, more south-east in the province of Brabant.
A map of the ride.
You can still tell this used to be a main motor traffic route, but all the streets have been converted to 50km/h streets with mostly separate cycling infrastructure, sometimes on a service street. Between 2010 and 2015 one part has been reconstructed from on-street cycle lanes to a modern bidirectional cycleway on one side of the road and a more traditional unidirectional cycleway on the other side. There are also four roundabouts in this ride. One already existed when this was a main motor traffic route. That is the one that is not built according to modern standards. Caused by the simple fact that it was there before those standards existed. All four roundabouts are in the built-up area and fortunately Boxtel chose to give cycling priority as the guidelines dictate.
Last April roundabouts were in the Dutch news. A commercial channel had published preliminary results of an investigation into the safety of roundabouts without the consent of the investigators and against agreements that were made. “We are very disappointed about the unauthorised use of the results by RTL news” said the director of traffic investigation bureau VIA. What was even more poignant: the investigation was done to correct earlier mis-information by the same news channel, when a reporter had misinterpreted figures in earlier investigations. What it comes down to is that due to the very low number of incidents, underreporting of incidents and not knowing the exact locations and circumstances of incidents it is near impossible to draw scientifically sound conclusions about the detailed safety of roundabouts. What is clear is that roundabouts are 75% safer than ordinary intersections. What is also clear is that there are more incidents on roundabouts that are not built following current Dutch guidelines. Namely, that roundabouts in the built-up area need a circular cycleway outside the roundabout and that cycling should have priority. “Of the 253 roundabouts on which most incidents were reported, 65% were not built according to these guidelines”, wrote TV-channel Max. Some cities and provinces keep refusing to follow the now 20-year-old guidelines, notably the city of Tilburg and the province of Drenthe (with Assen as its capital). The new minister for transport Cora van Nieuwenhuizen said in a reaction that she will soon put traffic safety firmly on the agenda. In the same Max article she called on road managers to follow the guidelines, as did her predecessors. Wim Bot of the Cyclists’ Union said: “municipalities and provinces should better motivate why they would like to construct a roundabout that does not follow the design principles.” The Cyclists’ Union would like the minister to oversee this better and if necessary laws should be passed if that still doesn’t help.
My route from the north end of town to the south end starts and ends with on-street cycle lanes on a 50km/h road. These streets should not exist that way, according to current guidelines. Such streets must have protected cycleways. Fortunately, closer to the town’s centre, where more people cycle, that is indeed the case.
Below some pictures of the route with an explanation in the captions.