A band on a bike rode up and down the new bicycle viaducts over the also new turbo-roundabout between Vught and ʼs-Hertogenbosch on Monday morning 20 December last. The second bridge had opened the Friday before, while the first one was opened in September. Unfortunately, the lockdown and the closed schools meant that few people saw the band, but it was festive all the same!
The former roundabout with priority for cycling was opened in 2011. The roundabout connected the north ring road around Vught and the south ring road around ʼs-Hertogenbosch, which were both new at the time. The roundabout was designed below ground level so that it was easily connected to the new underpass under the nearby railway line. That meant that on their way to the roundabout cyclists picked up a lot of speed before they reached the crossings, which often caught drivers by surprise. Most drivers came directly from the motorway and the higher speeds there were still very much in their system. All this caused a lot of near misses, but -to my knowledge- no deadly crashes.
The local branches of the Cyclists’ Union, in Vught as well as in ʼs-Hertogenbosch, had asked for a grade-separated solution for the cycle crossings from the beginning, but it took until 2014 before the council of ʼs-Hertogenbosch (where the roundabout is officially located) started investigating possibilities. That didn’t work out well at first. The city even missed 700,000 euros in subsidies when plans were not finished in time. But after elections and new councils in both municipalities the plans were picked up again. Especially when the flow of motor traffic seemed to suffer from the roundabout’s design. An ordinary roundabout works best when traffic is spread evenly on all directions, but at this location most traffic wanted to drive from the motorway to the centre of ʼs-Hertogenbosch and that meant some congestion in the evening rush hour mainly. To solve that, the city thought about a turbo-roundabout, which can handle more traffic. A turbo-roundabout has an extra lane, but without the possibility to switch lanes on the roundabout itself, and that increases the capacity. A turbo-roundabout, however, is best not combined with level crossings for cycling. This was the moment when the plans for the grade-separated cycling crossings came back into the limelight. The plans were finalised in 2019. A video shows how the roundabout was designed and it is almost exactly as it was built. The total cost for the project was 4.8 million Euros. Shared between the Province and the municipalities of ʼs-Hertogenbosch and Vught.
The new turbo roundabout was built in 8 weeks (from 1 November to 17 December) after the old roundabout was removed in just a couple of days. It has a bypass for traffic from the motorway to the city centre and there are now two lanes for motor traffic in most other directions. The old roundabout was a single-lane roundabout.
The first cycling viaduct had opened last September. I wrote about it on my blog. That meant that cycling could continue throughout the reconstruction. Motor traffic had to take a long detour. The second viaduct was constructed at the same time as the reconstruction of the roundabout. The prefabricated bridge deck was placed in three parts. Two parts of 25 metres long that were placed on 2 December and a final – shorter – part of 15 metres, that was placed in the early morning of 3 December. The job started in the dark and was finished at sun rise. I made a short time lapse for Twitter.
The final two weeks of the reconstruction were for the connection of the bridge to the existing cycleways. Everything on the level for motor traffic was also finished. On Friday afternoon 17 December, two days before the planned opening on Sunday evening, the fences could be removed and the roundabout could be used.
But the Netherlands was (still is) in lockdown and that means that all schools, shops, restaurants, museums and so on are closed. As a result, just a few people cycled in the morning of Monday 20 December, when the cycling band was there to festively mark the opening. While it is now very easy and safe to cycle from ʼs-Hertogenbosch to Vught and back again, the access to the Postweg, the north ring road of Vught, is a bit less intuitive. A right turn into it and from it is easy, but for the left turn one level-crossing remained on the Vught side of the roundabout, the arm with the lowest volume of motor traffic. There, you can cross the street if you come from the Postweg and need to go to ʼs-Hertogenbosch, or if you come from Vught and want to turn into the Postweg (in which case you cycle on the ‘wrong’ side of the Postweg on the bi-directional cycleway). Few people are expected to take these routes because there are alternatives, completely away from traffic, but it is possible. Most people will simply cycle between ʼs-Hertogenbosch and Vught and that has become much better.
The next post and video are planned for Wednesday 19 January 2022.