All about cycling in the Netherlands
Construction is ongoing right now to build a part of the F50. This will eventually be a fast north-south cycle route in the province of North-Brabant from Oss to Uden and further to Veghel. From Oss there had already been a great cycle route since 2003, at the time with the revolutionary design of a cycle street. This design has since been copied all over the Netherlands.
On 17 September 2003 the Fietsstraat (cycle street) from Oss to Heesch (about 4 km long) was festively opened. At the time the idea of a cycle street was very novel. It was a Dutch adaptation of the German cycle street and it drew a lot of attention in the press. It was studied by cycle experts all over the Netherlands.
Originally the idea had been an entry in a design competition organised by the Province of North-Brabant. It never won a prize but the province liked this innovative idea so much that money was reserved to do further investigations. Especially the legal implications had to be investigated. There was no such thing as a cycle street in Dutch law, could it be built and safely used anyway?
A few years earlier there had been a failed attempt at a Dutch version of the German cycle street in Utrecht. Utrecht had chosen to redesign a very busy main street. The municipality of Oss designed two new types of cycle street for already quiet residential areas. One with a raised strip in the middle that drivers of motor vehicles could drive over to safely pass people cycling at a larger distance. The other design was without such a centre strip, intended for narrower streets. Both designs had separate strips on either side of the street. These strips were level but in a different material and colour. They were intended to optically narrow the street and the strips would also entice people to cycle further away from the kerb-side. The main surface would be red asphalt. At the time red was already well-known as the colour for cycleways. The intention of these designs was to signal to all road users that people cycling were the most important road users at this location and that the car driver had to give these people more room than was usual at the time. The design of the space had to provoke this courteous behaviour since the traffic rules would remain the same as before.
The cycle street was built at a cost of nearly 2 million euros. The province paid 1.2 million, the rest was taken care of by the municipality of Oss. It was a very successful experiment. Almost 4,000 people used the street by bicycle every day straight away. The volume of motor traffic was far fewer than that. The quieter streets were liked by most residents although some complained that their routes to reach their homes had become longer. To get through car traffic out of these streets, bollards had been placed at strategic locations. A policy now known as filtered permeability.
Oss introduced a new sign to make clear to road users that this new type of street existed. That sign showed a symbol which looked like a hybrid between a bicycle and a crown and the word ‘Fietsstraat’ (bicycle street) on an orange rectangle. That shape also made clear that it wasn’t a real traffic sign, since no other orange-rectangular traffic signs exist. This sign was supposed to indicate that the bicycle is king in these streets. Nowadays the symbol can be found all over Oss – also stencilled on the surface – and it works there. Unfortunately this symbol wasn’t copied in the rest of the Netherlands. That is reason for Oss to announce that it will replace the signs and it will start to use the most used sign for a cycle street. That is the sign with a red car behind a white person cycling on a blue rectangle. This sign, however, is also still not legal in the Netherlands. Belgium uses the same sign, and Belgian law wás updated, but in the Netherlands this sign is still without any legal status. It is just accepted by most road users and that is perhaps even more important than whether something is actually legally binding.
The 2003 Cycle street route connects to a bi-directional path passing Heesch and that path takes users all the way to Nistelrode about 2 kilometres further south. This path has a concrete surface and it is well-lit at night. At the north-side of Nistelrode a busy entrance road into the village needs to be crossed. That crossing will become multi-level. In the second half of 2020 a cycle tunnel will be built. A tunnel is new for this small village and the villagers had to get used to the idea that this was really necessary. The underpass will then connect to a brand new part of the route. A few hundred metres of missing link will have to be built to reach the north-south part of the route through the village. Currently there is only a dirt-path at this location which I also took for the video. The new north-south path was just finished in the first part of 2020 and this is Nistelrode’s new cycle street. Not one street in this village is straight and that means this red cycle route twists and winds through the village as if it is the Yellow Brick Road from the Wizzard of Oz. The route wouldn’t be easy to find on your own, but now you just have to follow the red carpet for cycling. The route passes a primary school, which means this school now has a safe cycle route to reach it. The design was proposed to the villagers first and after a few modifications they are now generally very happy with it.
At the south-end of Nistelrode construction is ongoing right now. This is stage 2 of the project involving the cycle route from Nistelrode to the ring road around Uden. It is built in cooperation with the province again. The province finances the largest part of the project because the hidden agenda is to decrease traffic volumes on the provincial roads in this area. In the local paper the Uden alderman for traffic was quoted: “The road network in the Oss – Uden area is increasingly congested. This new cycle route can partly solve that problem even when motor traffic volumes decrease with just a few percentage points.”
The cost for this 8.2 kilometre long part of the F50 is expected to be 4.8 million euros (including the one tunnel). It is largely paid by the Province of North-Brabant and the rest by the two municipalities of Bernheze (Nistelrode) and Uden. This part of the route is planned to be finished by the end of 2020.
South of Nistelrode works have just begun. A road that now has one-way cycle paths on either side with concrete tiles will get a bi-directional cycleway on the north side of the road with a smooth surface of red asphalt. Where the built-up area of the village ends the path will switch to the south-side of the road. There it connects to an existing bi-directional path with street lights, but that path will be widened, partly relocated and it will be repaved with smooth asphalt. That reconstruction has already begun as well.
Finally, there is a separate project in the town of Uden. This part of the F50 now has on-street cycle lanes on a street with a speed limit of 50 km/h. That is not in accordance with the latest design recommendations. The reconstruction of this street is part of a project to improve a public transport route in Uden. At first the municipality had proposed to expand the bi-directional cycle way into this street, but at a public hearing, in 2018, the residents made clear they really did not like that idea at all. In the end the city reached a compromise with the residents. The design was changed and in January 2020 the decision was published that the street will get protected one-way cycle paths on either side of the new street. The reconstruction is expected to take a little over half a year and should be finished before 1 July 2021.
It is already very convenient to cycle from Oss to Uden as you can see in the video, but it will become much more convenient and probably also faster when all these reconstruction works are finished. The F50 will be extended even further to Veghel. That part of the route is in planning for 2021-2022.
This week’s video a ride from Oss to Uden on the (future) F50 in real-time.
If you want to get a quick idea of the route you can also watch the sped-up version.
The route of the F50 (the part which I cycled).