Streets are never finished. Their design needs constant monitoring. Traffic flows may change over time, people’s travel habits may change and views on which is the preferred mode of transportation may change as well. When the municipality of ʼs-Hertogenbosch established that two intersections in the north of the city did no longer meet today’s requirements, they were changed to especially make the crossings safer for cycling and walking.
Residents have been complaining for some time that the streets in the north of the city of ʼs-Hertogenbosch are no longer safe enough for everyone. This area of the city was developed from the 1970s on through the 1980s until the early 1990s. Some intersections have been changed in recent years. Most of the larger signalised intersections became roundabouts, which led to a cycle route with priority for cycling for 5 kilometres. But the residents feel that especially the wide and long straight roads in the area encourage speeding by motorists which makes the interactions on the roundabouts and other intersections with people walking and cycling too dangerous. A group of residents and the local green party say that there were over 100 crashes in this area since 2014, resulting in 3 deaths. The spokesperson of the local green party told a newspaper “We would like a number of traffic experts to look at the situation with the residents, so that they can together come to a solution to get a safer neighbourhood with a reduced number of traffic accidents.” It is interesting that even a road that was narrowed from 4 lanes to two, as recently as in 2013, is still perceived as too dangerous. The views of what roads should look like in a residential area are changing rapidly in the Netherlands. The municipality acknowledges at least some of these ideas and published a statement to explain why the two intersections were changed now:
As a municipality, we believe it is important that everyone can travel from A to B in a comfortable, clean and safe way. We are committed to accommodating that. Our roads are designed to have as little chance of accidents as possible. And we give plenty of space to cyclists. Unfortunately, accidents do still happen. We think every accident is one too many. That is why we remain constantly focused on improving road safety.
The crossings at either end of Zevenhontseweg, a connecting east-west road between two north-south main roads, were changed as follows:
- The bicycle crossings are now on a raised table, so that they stand out more for motorists.
- The roadway was narrowed at the raised table and directly in front of it. This measure and the previous one should reduce the speed of motor traffic.
- Some of the verges and traffic islands will be greener (with grass instead of black and white concrete slabs).
The reconstruction took place from 16 November 2020 and was finished about a month later. It is noteworthy that all the changes were for motor traffic. Nothing really changed from the viewpoint of walking and cycling.
Unfortunately, another crash took place on the crossing of Zevenhontseweg and Rompertsebaan on Saturday 23 January, after the reconstruction. A cyclist was hit by a driver. The local press showed a picture from the far distance showing an ambulance, but privacy laws in the Netherlands make it impossible to state anything more about possible injuries the woman on the bicycle may or may not have sustained. Naturally, it is very unfortunate that a crash occurred so soon after the reconstruction, but one crash does not say much about the effectiveness of the reconstruction. The object was to reduce the number of crashes as much as possible, not eliminate them altogether. Only after quite some time it will be possible to tell whether that was successful. When you look at the intersection now and the current design recommendations for such types of crossings, all the boxes were ticked and it can be expected that the crossings are indeed safer than before.
This week’s video showing the reconstruction of two cycling crossings.