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Inspiration from Dutch cycle infrastructure

Bikes in Zandvoort, Netherlands

Bikes outside a house in Zandvoort, by HedgehogCycling

On a recent visit to the small town of Zandvoort, Netherlands, I took a few photos of the infrastructure for cycling there. Like all Dutch towns, considerable space is given to cycling, and thought and intelligence has gone into creating a system of bicycle routes which is joined-up and usable in a safe and easy way.

The photos are here, with some comments about what I think the intention of the planners/designers is, and how we might adopt and implement some of them in the UK. This isn't a comprehensive assessment of Zandvoort's cycle infrastructure, nor a complete template for the UK - it's just a few ideas based on what I saw.

Inspiration from Dutch cycle infrastructure: priority over side streets

Bike lane and side street, Zandvoort

Zandvoort bike lane with priority over side street, by HedgehogCycling

This is vitally important. If you want to build convenient bike lanes that people will use, they need to offer cyclists a bit of continuity. That's the case here: a person riding a bike and going straight on has priority over a person turning into or out of the side street. Note that there's also a pedestrian crossing of the side road, with space for one vehicle between the pedestrian crossing and the bike lane.

There's some momentum behind building cycle infrastructure in the UK. There are a few quality cycle superhighways in London. The Birmingham Mayor has announced an intention to spend £10 per head on cycling. In Harrogate, Councillor Don Mackenzie has spoken about a proposal for a cycle route alongside Otley Road from the Prince of Wales roundabout to Cardale Park.

This is very welcome, but it's crucial that any bike lanes which are built are of the right quality. If what's created is glorified pavement cycling, where the bike lane gives way at every side road, there's no point in doing it. Parents and children who currently cycle slowly on the pavement because of (understandable) fear of traffic will continue to do so; everyone else will ignore the new lanes.

This is the solution: bike or car, if you're going in a straight line, you get priority; if you're turning, you give way.

Cycle lane Zandvoort

Cyclist on bike lane with priority over side street, by Hedgehog Cycling

In some places in the heart of town, turning into a side street involves going up a little ramp to a different level, and the side street is paved with small blocks. This discourages drivers from swinging into the side street at speed, and emphasises that they are entering a residential street. They should expect to encounter people on foot, and therefore they should drive slowly and carefully.

Turn onto a side street, Zandvoort

Ramp onto differently paved side street, by Hedgehog Cycling

Inspiration from Dutch cycle infrastructure: protection

Protected bike lane, Zandvoort

Zandvoort bike lane separated from the road by two types of paving, by Hedgehog Cycling

As can be seen from the earlier photos, some of the bike lanes are just painted. Where appropriate, though, there is physical separation. In the photo immediately above, the road is separated from the bike lane by two different types of paving (which would feel and sound different to the road if you drove on them). Also, the bike lane is slightly raised from the road, and there is clear delineation between bike lane and pavement, as the surfaces are quite different.

There are also kerb-protected bike lanes in places:

Kerb-protected bike lane, Zandvoort

Kerb-protected bike lane, Zandvoort, by Hedgehog Cycling

And at this fork in the road, there's an imaginative and well-thought-out design. Bike riders taking the left fork have to cross over the right fork, but they get priority, and protection from kerbs and a planted area:

Bike lane and fork in road, Zandvoort

Imaginative bike lane design at a fork in the road, Zandvoort, by Hedgehog Cycling

Inspiration from Dutch cycle infrastructure: a solution to limited space

Bike lanes on road with limited space, Zandvoort

Central Zandvoort road with bike lanes either side, by Hedgehog Cycling

This is a design you see quite a lot in the Netherlands, and it's a solution to lack of space.

There isn't space for two traffic lanes and two decent bike lanes. Instead, the main carriageway is reduced to single track, and there's a generous bike lane on either side. This means that cars drive in the middle, but then 'borrow' the bike lane when they have to pass oncoming traffic. Drivers give space to people riding bikes, because the vehicles are 'guests' in the bike lanes. The design tends to make drivers slow down, because they have to 'negotiate' their way past oncoming traffic. This is a good thing. Spaces in the centre of town should be for people to go about their business in a relaxed way, not dominated by motor vehicles.

In the UK, we would get two traffic lanes, and the bike lanes would either be non-existent, or they would look like they had been on an extreme diet. (Very thin, I mean). The result would be traffic squeezing past bike riders leaving very little space, and the drivers thinking 'as long as I'm not actually in the bike lane, it's ok.' This in turn puts people off cycling altogether, because they are afraid of being hit by vehicles, and don't like close passes.

I'm not sure we're ready for this design in the UK. Probably more segregated, protected lanes are needed first, to increase the percentage of journeys by bike; then maybe a design like this later, if and when more people are getting around on two wheels.

Inspiration from Dutch cycle infrastructure: Lieutenant Columbo

Columbo's catchphrase was 'just one more thing'. In this case, it's a few more things.

In Zandvoort, roads with block paving in some central areas encourage drivers and bike riders to feel and hear the road surface, and to slow down:

Paved surface, Zandvoort

Paved bike lane surface, Zandvoort, by Hedgehog Cycling

A sign at the entrance to a residential street shows the purpose of all this. It says 'Denk aan onze kinderen' ('think of our children'):

Sign on Brederodestraat, Zandvoort

Denk aan onze kinderen, Brederodestraat, Zandvoort, by Hedgehog Cycling

The Dutch seem to be further ahead than us with street charging points for electric vehicles. Here's one being used by a Tesla owner:

Tesla at a charging point, Zandvoort

Tesla at a street charging point, Zandvoort, by Hedgehog Cycling

Save our wildlife - don't drive so fast

3rd July 2017

Brown hare, North Yorkshire

An otherwise delightful Sunday morning bike ride was blighted by the sight of too many fresh animal carcasses, the creatures killed by speeding cars. Could we change the law, or change our driving culture, and save our wildlife? Read about save our wildlife - don't drive so fast.

Zandvoort Waterleiding duinen

Sleeping fox in the Waterleidingduinen

Sleeping fox in the Waterleiding duinen, by Hedgehog Cycling

Along the coast near Zandvoort is a large area of dunes (5km x 10km), which is managed by the water authority. They are called the Waterleiding Duinen.

There are canals here. Water is pumped into them from the river Rhein, and it spends 3 months percolating through the various watercourses. It's purified in a natural way, then it goes to a station at Leiduin for further purification, before supplying the water needs of the people of Amsterdam.

Fallow deer, Waterleiding duinen

Fallow deer in the Waterleiding duinen, by Hedgehog Cycling

The dunes are also a haven for wildlife, including fallow deer, foxes, wildfowl, herons, and kingfishers. The area is open to the public. For a small admission fee, you can walk along the paths among the dunes, and enjoy the wildlife that lives here.

Zandvoort bike lane Bike lane, ZandvoortBike lane at fork in road, Zandvoort

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