All about cycling in the Netherlands
Another “real ride” in this week’s post; this time filmed in Utrecht, where I rode from my work place to the city’s largest hospital to visit a patient. This was a friend of ours from ʼs-Hertogenbosch, who had to undergo an operation that could not take place in the hospital there, so he had been transferred to Utrecht. The operation in the university hospital in Utrecht went very successfully and he only had to stay a few days. Since I work in Utrecht, I was able to pay him a visit after work and I filmed the ride. It is quite a contrast to my earlier ride to the hospital in ʼs-Hertogenbosch.
The University Medical Centre Utrecht was relocated in the mid-1980s from a more central location in the city to the University Campus about 5 kilometres outside the city centre. The hospital is one of the larger in the country with 1,000 beds and a staff of over 12,000. The former location was then redesigned as a residential area in the late 1980s, early 1990s. Some of the original monumental main hospital buildings were spared and converted into apartments. Most annexes were demolished and replaced by mid-rise apartment buildings (up to 6 floors). To shield the new homes against noise from the railway line right next to it, one 600 metre long office block was placed between the new housing and the railway. I work in that building. So by coincidence that made this a ride from the old location of the hospital to its new location.
The ride starts in the residential area that was built in the early 1990s. That means this area was designed just before the current Sustainable Safety policies and its requirements for residential streets were adopted. The streets have indeed not been designed according to those policies. We do see 30 km/h residential streets with a brick surface, but they also have on-street cycle lanes, which has become unusual. When I almost reach the edge of the area the on-street cycle lanes even become protected cycleways. Residential streets with a 30km/h speed limit do not require protected cycleways under the current policies, but in this area they were built. It helps to know when a residential area was designed and built to understand why it was designed the way it was and why it doesn’t follow current design standards.
The design of the collector road past the history city centre, that has a speed limit of 50 km/h, is more familiar again. That street has one-way cycle tracks separated from the carriageway for motor traffic. The cycle track takes me past the original main hospital building, now an apartment building. The first larger intersection is then again a bit strange. There are two lanes for cycling separated by a line of trees. One right-turning lane and one left turning lane. Each with their own traffic light with a different phase. This only underlines that every intersection is designed for its specific location and nothing really completely follows the guidebooks 100%. This also goes for the following on-street cycle lane that for about 100 metres must be one of the narrowest cycle lanes in the city at circa 1 metre. Well below the minimal width of 2 metres in the CROW manual. If all the cycling infrastructure in the city would be like that it would not have led to the cycling we see now in Utrecht, but when it is only 100 metres of inconvenience where a street is very narrow, in an otherwise good system, then it can be tolerated as an exception.
I then had to make a slight detour due to the way I film now. The 360 camera is on a high pole and the normal route would take me under a very low underpass. I was afraid the pole would be too high and I did not want to risk smashing the camera. I therefore got to experience an intersection that I normally never see. I will certainly be avoiding it in the future, because the lights took very long. I could already see they were red from a distance and they only turn green over two-and-a-half-minute later. That is unacceptably long. Already annoyed by the lights I then got cut off by a right turning food delivery van. Fortunately I then quickly get to the normal route that is much better and the final 4 kilometres of the route is quite uneventful. The route to the University area has wide cycleways, good smooth surfaces and shorter waiting times at only a handful of traffic lights. Only on the campus itself it became a bit busy.
When I reach the hospital it turns out the hospital has a cycle way on their own property. That private cycleway looks exactly like a 1980s cycleway. Most of the public ones have been upgraded, but this one has been frozen in time since it was built. It has a surface of red tiles and it is quite narrow for a two-way cycle path. It leads directly to a bicycle parking area that is really not too generous for a hospital of this size. It was already almost full at the time I visited it. I expect it to be over capacity during the main visiting hours. I’ve seen other people complaining that this facility and other parking spaces around the hospital are often full. So even while this visitors parking space is conveniently located directly under the main entrance, the parking facilities for bicycles should really be updated, as maybe the cycleway should too. But those are minor complaints in the entire cycling experience. All in all this was again a very convenient ride.
This week’s video: a real ride to Utrecht’s largest hospital.