The city of ʼs-Hertogenbosch has a new cycle street. A very special version of a cycle street, where is not the cars which are guest but buses! The street is closed to private motor traffic. The Van Berckelstraat in the city centre had been closed since August 2020, but this spring the street was redesigned and reconstructed. The closure for private motor traffic is now permanent.
Residents and the Cyclists’ union had waited more than 30 years for this to happen. The background to that history can be found in the post I wrote 2 years ago, when the street was closed with temporary measures.
The city gives the following reason on the municipal website:
We want comfortable, safe and clean transportation for everyone in ʼs-Hertogenbosch. We also want to ensure an accessible city in which it is pleasant to live and work. The Van Berckelstraat is an important route for cycling and public transport. This is so important that the municipality has chosen to design this road as a bicycle street where the bus is guest. In this way we give cyclists plenty of space and the street is a lot safer for cyclists and pedestrians. It is also pleasant to live in.
The recent reconstruction reflects this desire. The street was designed with all stakeholders involved. One of which was the local branch of the Cyclists’ Union. On their site they report that the organisation was pleased with the final design. The chair said: “Especially when you know that there were scenarios on the table in which cars were still allowed to drive in the Van Berckelstraat. And that was not the intention.” What makes this design special is the combination of buses and cycling in the same space. That is not totally uncommon in cycle streets, but then also in combination with car traffic. Bus/bike lanes do not exist in the Netherlands. This unconventional solution works well for this 175 metre long narrow street that was always a bottleneck in the network, especially for cycling.
The design (including plans, before and after descriptions and the traffic sign plan) was published on the site of the municipality (but it has since been removed). Much to the surprise of a cycling lobby group in Austria. Apparently that much modern transparency is not common in Austria (yet).
The reconstruction works started early March 2022. At the time when I was in hospital for my own personal reconstruction work. However, on several of my rehabilitation walks I was later able to film the final bit of the activities in the street. On 22 April, the alderman for traffic Ufuk Kâhya cycled through the street to open it. In the presence of the Cyclists’ Union who tweeted about it. (I say 24 April in the video by mistake, due to the date of this tweet.)
The street looks much friendlier after the redesign. The roadway is narrower and has red asphalt. The entire area is now in a 30km/h zone which means that that is the maximum speed for the buses as guest. Most bus drivers seemed to drive even slower when I watched the street. A lot of new greenery was planted but that will need some time to grow.
A local newspaper interviewed two residents who were pleased with the redesign, because they feel the street is safer now and greener, but they hope the car traffic is monitored. That is indeed the case, told me Ufuk Kâhya when I asked him. Cameras photograph the registration plates of all cars in the street. Drivers get one warning letter at their home address and the second time immediately a fine. I looked up what that would be and I understand it is €100 for using a street that is closed to all traffic. (Violation against traffic sign C01)
Drivers who know the street is closed but use it anyway, will probably learn from their mistakes when they become costly. But drivers who don’t understand the street is closed and who are maybe only visiting once may keep using the street by mistake. I wonder if it is really clear enough that the street is closed. I hope the city will evaluate how things go after a certain time.
The newspaper also asked one entrepreneur if he feared income loss due to the street’s closing, but that was an odd question since the street had been closed since August 2020. The answer was “no”, customers had found his shop since the summer of 2020 and there is no reason why that would change now.