Cycling in the Netherlands Photos from a visit to Assen, Drenthe, September 2011
Roundabout The first roundabout that I had to tackle coming off the ferry – so much easier than having to mix with the cars and lorries from the boat. Cars give way to the bike track both entering and exiting the roundabout. And they really do!
Station underpass And here’s the first thing we saw getting off the train. This two-way bike and pedestrian underpass not only allows people to cross the railway and the busy road outside the station, but gives access to the various platforms as well
Bicycle road Bikes take priority over cars on this stretch of road. The centre ‘strip’ is raised brick – the bikes ride on smooth tarmac. Cars can only really use this road for access to the houses, whereas for bikes it’s one of the main direct routes into town. Kids often ride four or five abreast on their way to school here – there’s plenty of room. The cars just have to wait!
Ring Road Meanwhile the cars use the main through routes and the ring road. Bikes are catered for too, of course – the little traffic lights are for cyclists (pedestrians have their own) Usually, a sensor in the path picks up the presence of a bike and the light turns green without needing to press the button or wait.
Residential street On this older street, the speed limit is 30 km/h (about 20 mph). Brick paving, humped junctions and frequent give ways make it hard for cars to get up speed. Most of the roads are one way; they’re not a short cut to anywhere so there’s no rat-running traffic. Bikes, however, can go both ways on most one way streets. No need for bike lanes here – with little traffic and low speeds, the bikes mix happily with the few cars.
Wide bike path This bike path keeps bikes well away from the busy road on the left. It’s wide enough that even though the council have parked their vehicles on it (some things never change), there’s plenty of room. It’s well maintained too. In the winter, it’s gritted and ploughed just as the roads are.
How wide? The standard for a two-way bike path in the Netherlands is four metres wide. That’s quite hard to visualise, so here are some bikes to give you a sense of scale... This path had just been resurfaced and was beautifully smooth.
Bike bin This path is used by lots of secondary school pupils who are as fond of fast food as kids anywhere. The bin is designed to be used from a bike – and provide a bit of target practice for all the litter that generates. It’s harder to use than it looks...
Secondary School And here are some of those kids’ bikes... Cycling to school is the rule here, not the exception. After all, on a bike you can ride with your friends – not be stuck in a car with your parents – and there’s no waiting for the bus!
Primary School It’s not just the teenagers though – even the littlest kids ride as soon as they can. Kids on average get themselves to school on their own from the age of 8 ½ This is just a few of them heading home for lunch.
School run And here’s the end of the school day – bicycle congestion! Cars can’t even get close to the school gates so it’s easier and more sociable to come on foot or by bike.
Industrial Estate It’s not just residential areas or schools though. This new industrial estate is easily accessible by road, but just as accessible by bike, without having to worry about dealing with big lorries. Whether you drive or cycle to work is up to you.
Bike bridge This bridge over one of Assen’s canals is just for bikes and pedestrians. The main road is this side of the canal; the main route for bikes is on the other. Once more, bikes get their own traffic lights. They don’t have to wait long, either – the longest the light is red for bikes is just 8 seconds.
‘Scramble’ junction On busy intersections, there were ‘all ways green’ junctions for bikes. All cars are stopped and bikes get a green light in all directions. No need to negotiate cars when you’re turning – just other bikes. The result ought to be chaos – but it works
Bike lanes when you need them most Notice how these bike lanes appear just at the junction, when it gets complicated (where in the UK they tend to disappear!) Bikes can go in both directions on this road, cars in only one. If you’re turning right on a bike you don’t need to wait for the lights at all. Otherwise, bikes get a green light before the cars so they’re out of the way of turning traffic.
No bike lanes when you don’t need them This is actually a road – right in the town centre. It’s only used by cars and lorries making deliveries because you can’t drive all the way through. The result is bikes tend to dominate the traffic and everyone, young and old, is comfortable cycling in to do their shopping. But there’s no problem for shops getting goods in or customers making pickups either. It makes it rather a more pleasant place to eat out too!
In fact the only problem the Dutch haven’t solved... ...Is the weather. Or have they?
Thanks to... Hembrow Cycling Holidays (http://hembrow.eu/cycling/) for running the tour and showing us round The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain (http://www.cycling-embassy.org.uk/) for organising the visit. http://cyclingdumfries.wordpress.com