All about cycling in the Netherlands
The city of ʼs-Hertogenbosch redesigned a major intersection. Until the 1970s this intersection was part of the main north-south route in the country. Fortunately, most through traffic now uses the motorways around the city. Even though this intersection is still part of the main road network, the city wants to see it much more as a green gateway to the ring around historic centre than a main thoroughfare. That needed to be reflected in the design. The intersection was therefore reconstructed from April to July 2020. A lot of asphalt was taken out, it is to be replaced by a lot of green.
The intersection Orthenseweg / Aartshertogenlaan in ʼs-Hertogenbosch is an important link in the city’s main road network, but it is no longer a main through road. The Orthenseweg gives access to the city centre ring that will become a 30km/h zone in the future. The city has had these plans for many years, but it takes a lot of time to slowly update the entire network to make that change possible. Street by street the city works towards this new situation, as I have shown you in earlier examples. The street designs in that ring look a bit unusual now, because they are made in anticipation to the change. I have shown you one example of these streets on my blog and also of an intersection with an unusual all brick surface.
Now that the traffic light installation needed to be replaced at this intersection, and with all the considerations I mentioned above in mind, the city made a completely new design for this intersection. They tried to make it as sustainable as possible: greener, with less asphalt and more attractive and safer for cycling and walking. The new design includes a much more compact signalised intersection and a so-called priority square where signals are unnecessary. This relatively new type of intersection was also used in Utrecht (and has been altered a bit recently there.)
After 4 years of careful planning with many stakeholders the reconstruction started in April 2020 by relocating many of the existing trees. Six trees could be relocated to their new location immediately, 17 were relocated elsewhere and 37 trees had to be ‘stored’. They were planted in a temporary location and they will come back after the reconstruction. With those trees and 62 new ones the new intersection will have many more trees than the old situation. A lot of shrubs will be planted too and flower seeds will make sure there will be many colours next spring. All the existing street furniture was removed; the asphalt, kerb stones, foot path tiles, existing shrubs, street lights and the old traffic light installation. The roads had to be partly closed. While one direction of Orthenseweg was replaced the other former half was used for both directions. When the first part was finished traffic could use that new part and the rest of the intersection could be finished.
On 15 July 2020, the alderman for sustainable mobility and accessibility, Ufuk Kâhya, opened the new intersection by starting the new traffic light installation. The city of ʼs-Hertogenbosch is known for its state of the art traffic light installations that cater for every road user individually. Advanced detection loops and even an app for cycling make that possible. This sustainable traffic light installation is yet again more modern to even better optimise that individual treatment. The aluminium posts of the signals can be recycled up to 95% and the installation is solar powered. It generates more power than is needed for all the signals. The lights for pedestrians are exceptional for the Netherlands. They are on the near-side, which was only legally possible after a law changed on 1 July 2019.
The near-side lights are a result of road user input. Catering for every road user separately leads to very short green times of sometimes only 5 seconds. That is fine for motor traffic and cycling because for these road users the signals are only on the near side in the Netherlands. People cannot see the light changing to red only seconds after they started traversing the intersection. There is more than enough time for them to finish the crossing, but other people should no longer start. That system didn’t work so well for pedestrians. They saw the light change on the far side of the intersection and that confused a lot of people. They complained the cycles were too short to complete the crossing conveniently. Some started to run, others even went back. There was enough time for the crossing, but that was not always understood.
This new installation therefore has near-side pedestrian signals. People can now start a crossing and then they have no idea the light changes back to red behind them. This must give them a more relaxed user experience. ʼs-Hertogenbosch was the first city to make use of the law change which allowed near-side pedestrian signals. The lights are placed in such a way that the pedestrian automatically looks in the direction where traffic comes from. There is an acoustic signal indicating that it is safe to cross (standard) but also a buzz function on the button. Next to the visual and audible clues (light and sound) you can now also feel the state of the light. The new pedestrian signals were designed in collaboration with the Gehandicaptenplatform (platform for people with a disability). The platform specifically asked for the buzzer and ʼs-Hertogenbosch was able to create it.
The cycling infrastructure was also updated. This intersection is part of the F59 fast cycle route from ʼs-Hertogenbosch to Oss. The cycleway was widened. The new traffic light installation interacts even better with the app Schwung that was designed to give people the opportunity to get a green light even sooner than with the advanced detection loops. The detection loops are now invisible. They were placed in the base layer of black asphalt and then covered with the top layer of red asphalt.
After the re-opening the new areas started to get green all by itself, but with weeds. The planned new shrubs are not yet there. The trees would return around this time of the year, but they haven’t yet. Traffic flows well but the final part of the reconstruction, the new green, will only be visible next spring.
This week’s video: a reconstructed intersection in ʼs-Hertogenbosch.