When in 2014 the temporary situation on the south-west corner of the ʼs-Hertogenbosch city centre was finished, it was many times better than the previous sea of asphalt that had been there. The former 1960s design had only been optimised for moving motor vehicles. But after those roads had been removed there were no funds to redevelop the location of the former city wall and gate. The area was turned into a grass area with a road around it. The road did have protected cycling infrastructure, but the red tiled surface indicated that this was only a temporary situation. Fast forward to 2020 and the city finally allocated some money to what was called “phase 1” of the redevelopment of the Wilhelminaplein as this area was once again called. When the plans materialised, in the first months of 2021, it was clear that the desire to show some of the history of this location had been more important than designing a safe main cycle route.
Early 2021 the temporary cycle tracks directly next to the travel lanes for motor traffic were removed completely. They were replaced by a path that followed the former road through the old city wall. There was no money to reconstruct the city gate that used to be here. In 2016 further excavations had revealed the exact location and measurements of that gate, of which the fundaments were still largely intact. In the new design the gate would be represented by hedges, and they constrained the width of the new path going between those hedges. That new path was to be shared by people walking and cycling. This meant that the area went from two separate wide bidirectional cycle ways at a logical location to a narrow shared-use path at an illogical location for quite a few cycle routes traversing the area. No wonder people complained. Not least the local branch of the Fietsersbond (Cyclists’ Union).
The north part of the area has now been redesigned as a mini-park and of course most people enjoy the fact that some trees were planted and a nice green area appeared. The low walls to indicate the location of the former city wall are great to sit on and the whole area is a lot nicer than a simple grass field. But why did the cycle routes have to be removed? Why do people cycling have to take illogical detours and why is there a shared space in a main north – south cycle route from the city centre and the station of ʼs-Hertogenbosch to Vught?
The local branch of the Cyclists’ Union asked me if it would be possible to show what they think is wrong with the current design of this space, especially regarding cycling. I went there and filmed for a little over an hour on a Saturday afternoon late August 2022. In that hour I saw a lot of near misses (more than I could record with my camera in time). I witnessed dangerous interactions between cyclists and between cyclists and drivers, drivers of cars as well as buses. Not to mention the many conflicts and near misses between people walking and cycling in the same constrained space. On top of everything three people asked me for directions! Several people made remarks to each other about how terribly stupid the cycle routes had become since the last reconstruction. The Cyclists’ Union wishes to show this video to the new alderman for traffic with whom they had a talk planned (I also talked with him at the presentation of the new council, earlier this year) and they hope to persuade him to authorise significant changes to the area.. Trusting to thus improve the situation for walking and cycling. If a hedge showing the location of the old city wall must be sacrificed for a better traffic safety, I am all for it. After all, no walls or hedges were planned at the location of the roads for motor traffic, even though the city wall was there just as much. Such a difference in how the different types of traffic are being treated is unworthy of the municipality of ʼs-Hertogenbosch, which had been chosen as “Cycling city of the Netherlands” in 2011! I do hope the new alderman is willing to listen and act.
See for yourself in my video and in this post on the pictures what the complaints about the new design of this area are.
This week’s video. Mistakes are made in the Netherlands too.