All about cycling in the Netherlands
Another relaxed ride in the town of Boxtel in this week’s blogpost. I showed you an example in that town in an earlier blog post. That was a ride on separated cycleways next to a main road. This post shows a cycle route away from motor traffic. It runs parallel to the previous route, about 500 metres east of it, only this time I ride from south to north. This post shows that even the smaller towns in the Netherlands have a good cycle network with multiple options to reach your destination.
I rode this route on my way back from filming the silly cycle roundabout in Boxtel. That means it was filmed on a quiet Sunday night in July of this year. Part of this route was upgraded quite recently. Google StreetView only shows the old situation, but if we look from a side street, of which the StreetView pictures were updated in 2017, we can look into the upgraded street in its two stages and get an idea of what a big transformation it was.
In my “roundabout post” I already described the reason for this transformation:
Boxtel needed to renew a main sewer system in a street that could be a key street in a new main cycle route. In line with the cycling policy the town decided to combine the cycle ambitions and this sewer renewal. If the street was to be opened anyway why not reconstruct it completely? The street was also the location of one of the town’s black spots. A site with a high number of traffic incidents, which could be dealt with at the same time. Then there is a primary school that could do with a safer route to reach it. A good cycle route here would connect new neighbourhoods much further away too. Finally, the green zone was a bit tired, the park could do with a refreshing update.
In this post I’d like to zoom in on Doctor De Brouwerlaan . This residential street had on street cycle lanes and the speed limit was 50km/h (31mph). Under the Sustainable Safety policies of the Netherlands that is currently not considered best practice. A physical separation is recommended for streets with that speed limit. The municipality chose to reduce the speed to 30km/h (19mph). In theory it would then no longer need separate cycling infrastructure and the on-street cycle lanes could just have been removed. But that is not what happened here. The speed was indeed reduced, but the street got a bi-directional cycleway! The reason is that the municipality wanted to create a new main cycle route that partly runs in this street. In that case a separated cycleway, even right next to a carriage way with a speed limit of just 30km/h, has become best practice.
The municipality had several possible design solutions for this street. One of which would have meant making it a dead-end street with no connection to the main road in the north. Mostly because that would eliminate a crossing with an east-west cycleway at that location. However, this solution was met with such a lot of resistance from the residents who participated in the decision-making process that another solution was chosen for the final design. The entrance to the street is now on a raised table and that should reduce the speed of motor traffic in such a way that the cycleway crossing is safe enough. It should also make the street unattractive for through traffic and thus reduce traffic and therefore the number of potential conflicts.
The actual reconstruction took place in 2016. In the end not only the sewer was renewed. The organisations providing drinking water and electricity took this opportunity to also renew their pipes and cables. But first an investigation took place to find out whether the foundations of the homes would not be in danger of moving in the ground when the street would be opened up. Early 2016 the street was therefore dug up at some places to measure if and how the adjacent buildings reacted to those open “trenches”. This investigation to prevent damage to any buildings was a joined undertaking by the drinking water and the electricity providers.
The newly constructed bi-directional cycleway is one metre from the parking lane. The reason for this buffer strip is shown in the video at 01:30 (and on the still from the video in this post). You can see that an open car door doesn’t even reach the cycleway and thus poses no problems.
Map comparing the route on the main street (left) of the previous post, and this route in the traffic calmed areas.
In the cross sections two things are striking. The carriageway and the parking lane have been made 2.77m less wide, without changing the number of lanes! The other thing is the footway on the left hand side. It is considerably narrower in the new situation than it was before the reconstruction. This is acknowledged on the website informing about the plans. It literally says:
But I am not sure where we should look for the “more green”, because I don’t really see that.
Once the route reaches the area north of Dr. De Brouwerlaan there is a variety in types of infrastructure. The route alternates between separated cycleways and cycle streets. The route is attractive because of that. It is not so straightforward (read “boring”) as the route next to the main car route that I showed in the previous post. People may use the route that best fits their mood for a particular day or hour. You may want a quick but boring and noisy route to get to work in the morning, but a more varied and relaxing route when you return in the afternoon. Giving people choices is also one of the corner stones of the Dutch cycling policies. I have shown you other examples where people get the choice between riding next to traffic and a quieter back route. But note: there is never only that back route. The initial cycle network was almost always created next to the main routes for motor traffic, thus following people’s mental maps. The quieter routes, “unraveled” from the car routes are almost always a later addition.
My video of a ride in Boxtel.