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The joy of cycling in the Netherlands

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 14 April, 2014 - 10:29

Last week I posted, quite deliberately, about the bad bits of my cycling experience around the Netherlands. The purpose there was to show that the Dutch still have difficulties to overcome, in particular locations, to make cycling attractive and safe, and also that many parts of the network simply haven’t been dealt with yet.

But those bad bits were, of course, the exception. In over 300 miles of cycling, those tens of examples are the only ones that stand out. 99% of my cycling experience was blissful – utterly stress-free. Everywhere I went, I was wafted along, on deliriously good infrastructure.

Across fields.
Through city centres.

Through towns.

Under motorways.


Across rivers.

Beside canals.

Under ring roads.

Through forests.

Alongside main roads.


Alongside country roads.

Under railways.


Through residential areas.

Through industrial areas.

Over bridges.

Around roundabouts.

Past junctions.

Past roundabouts (turbo ones).

Along main roads in cities.
Complete comfort, ease and safety, everywhere I went.

I didn’t seek this stuff out. This is simply what I saw as I cycled around, from city centre to city centre. To Dutch people, this is just background – utterly mundane. These photographs give a fair impression of my day-to-day experience.

This comfort and safety covers all routes; wherever you choose to cycle. In urban areas it can be created in different ways. Every single city and major town that I visited either excluded private motor traffic completely from its centre, or limited it to access only. Gouda -

Delft -

‘s-Hertogenbosch -

Nijmegen -

Wageningen -

Veenendaal -

And Utrecht.

Not one of these examples is ‘shared space’. They are all places where motor traffic is largely (or totally) excluded, with walking and cycling utterly dominant as a result. And that means the attractiveness of cycling on routes between towns and cities extends right to their very centres.

On a single day, travelling from one city centre to another city centre, I estimate that I had to deal with around 10-20 direct interactions with motor vehicles. That’s all. The quality of the Dutch cycling environment rests on this complete modal separation, wherever you cycle. It’s what makes it such a joyous experience.


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All Quiet

Chester Cycling - 11 April, 2014 - 19:33

Yesterday, for the first time in almost two years I seriously considered buying another bike. I have yet to decide whether or not I will buy (yet) another bike, but I discovered something about my relationship with cycling in the process.

More astute readers may have noticed that the pace of posts on this site has slowed down somewhat. During this quiet time, cycling has remained my main mode of transport and I cycle approximately 9 miles every weekday as part of my commute, in addition to running errands at the weekend. Despite this, I have not felt the inspiration to post much of anything, or to ride much beyond what I need to do to get around. However, since I started to seriously entertain the possibility of acquiring another bike I have been feeling the call of the pedals and the desire to blog once more.

A scene from this evening’s commute home

It strikes me that a big part of my enthusiasm for cycling (and blogging about cycling) stemmed from a near-constant series of acquisitions of bicycles and bicycle-related stuff in the quest for the ‘perfect’ set-up. Once I had a set-up which worked well for me, the quest was over, or at least it slowed down. Whilst my ideal set-up will naturally change over the course of my life, the significant amount of research, trial and error required to get to what I have now was what kept this blog regularly updated for as long as it was. The problem with having a set-up which works well for your needs is that there is little left to discover, nothing to be researched into meticulously for hours on end. Nothing to blog about.

This realisation led me to notice a pattern. For example, during the time the blog has been quiet, I spent quite a lot of time researching kitchen stand-mixers, intended mainly for the benefit of Ms C’s baking. I wanted to make sure we got the best one that I could also service myself, have good spares availability for years to come at the best price point. Similar to bicycles, there is a surprising amount of information, opinion and even tribalism (Kenwood vs KitchenAid discussions can get just as heated as any obscure bicycle forum thread) surrounding stand mixers. That peculiar world, and many others like it held my attention for much longer than I would have expected them to. Once the stand mixer had been chosen, I ended up learning about bread making, flours grains and a similar series of events occurred all over again.

I suspect that my inspiration to write about bicycles and bicycle-related issues will wax and wane over time as the set-up I have becomes more or less suited to the situations life throws my way. Perhaps the simplest solution would be to turn this blog into one which discusses whatever it is that I’m trying enthusiastically to perfect at any given time.


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All Quiet

Chester Cycling - 11 April, 2014 - 19:33

Yesterday, for the first time in almost two years I seriously considered buying another bike. I have yet to decide whether or not I will buy (yet) another bike, but I discovered something about my relationship with cycling in the process.

More astute readers may have noticed that the pace of posts on this site has slowed down somewhat. During this quiet time, cycling has remained my main mode of transport and I cycle approximately 9 miles every weekday as part of my commute, in addition to running errands at the weekend. Despite this, I have not felt the inspiration to post much of anything, or to ride much beyond what I need to do to get around. However, since I started to seriously entertain the possibility of acquiring another bike I have been feeling the call of the pedals and the desire to blog once more.

A scene from this evening’s commute home

It strikes me that a big part of my enthusiasm for cycling (and blogging about cycling) stemmed from a near-constant series of acquisitions of bicycles and bicycle-related stuff in the quest for the ‘perfect’ set-up. Once I had a set-up which worked well for me, the quest was over, or at least it slowed down. Whilst my ideal set-up will naturally change over the course of my life, the significant amount of research, trial and error required to get to what I have now was what kept this blog regularly updated for as long as it was. The problem with having a set-up which works well for your needs is that there is little left to discover, nothing to be researched into meticulously for hours on end. Nothing to blog about.

This realisation led me to notice a pattern. For example, during the time the blog has been quiet, I spent quite a lot of time researching kitchen stand-mixers, intended mainly for the benefit of Ms C’s baking. I wanted to make sure we got the best one that I could also service myself, have good spares availability for years to come at the best price point. Similar to bicycles, there is a surprising amount of information, opinion and even tribalism (Kenwood vs KitchenAid discussions can get just as heated as any obscure bicycle forum thread) surrounding stand mixers. That peculiar world, and many others like it held my attention for much longer than I would have expected them to. Once the stand mixer had been chosen, I ended up learning about bread making, flours grains and a similar series of events occurred all over again.

I suspect that my inspiration to write about bicycles and bicycle-related issues will wax and wane over time as the set-up I have becomes more or less suited to the situations life throws my way. Perhaps the simplest solution would be to turn this blog into one which discusses whatever it is that I’m trying enthusiastically to perfect at any given time.


Categories: Views

Shared Space revisited. The hype continues but in reality it still doesn't work.

A View from the Cycle Path - 11 April, 2014 - 07:52
If you're unsure about what the term "Shared Space" means, please read the wikipedia article. Note that I disagree with much of that article. Shared Space has been over-sold around the world. Claims have been made of a reduction of danger which I showed earlier this week doesn't seem to stand up to investigation. It is also often claimed that Shared Space creates a "place" where people feel safeDavid Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com7http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/04/shared-space-revisited-hype-continues.html
Categories: Views

Nothing useful to say

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 10 April, 2014 - 22:12

Some comment on a detail from the recent inquest into the death of Venera Minakhmetova at Bow roundabout last November.

Coroner Mary Hassell

said she had “nothing useful” to say to Transport for London as the roundabout had since “been altered to such an extent that it’s very significantly safer for cyclists”.

Do I need to point out here that ‘significantly safer’ is not the same as safe enough?

It is true that the approach to the roundabout where Venera died has ‘been altered’, but only because prior to the arrival of the Superhighway Extension there was nothing in the way of cycle infrastructure at this location.

Westbound at Bow roundabout, 2012. Courtesy of Google Streetview. It was on this layout that Lana Tereschenko died in 2011.

But the central issue shouldn’t be whether improvements have been made, or whether the junction is a bit safer than the death trap it was before. Rather than a relative standard of safety, surely we should be looking at whether Bow roundabout meets objective criteria, good enough to ensure that the risk of further deaths, or serious injuries, at this location is as low as possible. ‘A bit better’ isn’t good enough, if what was there before was lethal.

The reported comment from the coroner may, of course, have been stripped from context, but taking it at face value, it appears that this issue has been ducked. Because the new layout at Bow roundabout is not good enough. It is a bad bodge. Effectively it amounts to nothing more than an Advanced Stop Line, with a confusing array of signals that attempt to stop people from entering it at the wrong time.

This video from @sw19cam – shot just two weeks before Venera died – shows just how confusing it can be. Because people cycling have to deal with two sets of lights simply to enter the junction, this chap appears to have interpreted the green signal to enter the ASL as a green signal to progress through the entire junction, with nearly disastrous results, as two lorries bear down on him.

Now the inquest appears to have established that the lorry that killed Venera passed through two green signals before turning left, and on that basis the ‘most likely’ explanation for the collision was that she had passed a red light to enter the ASL. Even if we accept this explanation, questions need to be asked about how easy it is end up doing this, in innocence. This picture from Charlie Lloyd shows the problem.

Picture by Charlie Lloyd

The red signal to stop people from entering the ASL (to the left) is drowned out by a sea of green signals which, combined with motor vehicles flowing through the junction, could all contribute to this signal being jumped inadvertently. Low-level cycle-specific signals have subsequently been added here, but the overall arrangement is still extraordinarily ambiguous.

What is desperately, desperately needed is clarity. No multiple lights just to enter an ASL, before waiting again – the ‘always stop’ junction. Instead, just one signal for cycles; one signal for left turning motor traffic; and one signal for straight ahead motor traffic.

A standard junction arrangement in the Netherlands (flipped). Absolutely clear who can go, and should stop.

This kind of arrangement would also allow pedestrians to cross Bow roundabout, on a green signal, at the same time that cycles and straight ahead motor traffic have a green signal. There are still no pedestrian crossings at this roundabout.

All the fiddles and bodges that have been implemented at Bow are a flawed compromise, intended to fit cycling in around the margins of motor traffic flow, rather than coherent design. It’s a great pity the inquest seems to have ignored the issue of whether it could be substantially better – good enough to eliminate future tragedies.


Categories: Views

Nothing useful to say

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 10 April, 2014 - 22:12

Some comment on a detail from the recent inquest into the death of Venera Minakhmetova at Bow roundabout last November.

Coroner Mary Hassell

said she had “nothing useful” to say to Transport for London as the roundabout had since “been altered to such an extent that it’s very significantly safer for cyclists”.

Do I need to point out here that ‘significantly safer’ is not the same as safe enough?

It is true that the approach to the roundabout where Venera died has ‘been altered’, but only because prior to the arrival of the Superhighway Extension there was nothing in the way of cycle infrastructure at this location.

Westbound at Bow roundabout, 2012. Courtesy of Google Streetview. It was on this layout that Lana Tereschenko died in 2011.

But the central issue shouldn’t be whether improvements have been made, or whether the junction is a bit safer than the death trap it was before. Rather than a relative standard of safety, surely we should be looking at whether Bow roundabout meets objective criteria, good enough to ensure that the risk of further deaths, or serious injuries, at this location is as low as possible. ‘A bit better’ isn’t good enough, if what was there before was lethal.

The reported comment from the coroner may, of course, have been stripped from context, but taking it at face value, it appears that this issue has been ducked. Because the new layout at Bow roundabout is not good enough. It is a bad bodge. Effectively it amounts to nothing more than an Advanced Stop Line, with a confusing array of signals that attempt to stop people from entering it at the wrong time.

This video from @sw19cam – shot just two weeks before Venera died – shows just how confusing it can be. Because people cycling have to deal with two sets of lights simply to enter the junction, this chap appears to have interpreted the green signal to enter the ASL as a green signal to progress through the entire junction, with nearly disastrous results, as two lorries bear down on him.

Now the inquest appears to have established that the lorry that killed Venera passed through two green signals before turning left, and on that basis the ‘most likely’ explanation for the collision was that she had passed a red light to enter the ASL. Even if we accept this explanation, questions need to be asked about how easy it is end up doing this, in innocence. This picture from Charlie Lloyd shows the problem.

Picture by Charlie Lloyd

The red signal to stop people from entering the ASL (to the left) is drowned out by a sea of green signals which, combined with motor vehicles flowing through the junction, could all contribute to this signal being jumped inadvertently. Low-level cycle-specific signals have subsequently been added here, but the overall arrangement is still extraordinarily ambiguous.

What is desperately, desperately needed is clarity. No multiple lights just to enter an ASL, before waiting again – the ‘always stop’ junction. Instead, just one signal for cycles; one signal for left turning motor traffic; and one signal for straight ahead motor traffic.

A standard junction arrangement in the Netherlands (flipped). Absolutely clear who can go, and should stop.

This kind of arrangement would also allow pedestrians to cross Bow roundabout, on a green signal, at the same time that cycles and straight ahead motor traffic have a green signal. There are still no pedestrian crossings at this roundabout.

All the fiddles and bodges that have been implemented at Bow are a flawed compromise, intended to fit cycling in around the margins of motor traffic flow, rather than coherent design. It’s a great pity the inquest seems to have ignored the issue of whether it could be substantially better – good enough to eliminate future tragedies.


Categories: Views

"Shared" no more. An Assen city centre street reclaimed for pedestrians and cyclists

A View from the Cycle Path - 10 April, 2014 - 19:28
When we moved to Assen, the Ceresplein had quite recently been converted into a de-facto Shared Space. This area accommodated pedestrians, cyclists and drivers mostly on the same surface and it looked like this: June 2009 image from Google Maps. The turn that the car is making in the image above was into a street which has been a cycle-path for some years now. However, there's more. Last year David Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com3http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/04/shared-no-more-assen-city-centre-street.html
Categories: Views

The “Bicycle Apple”

BicycleDutch - 9 April, 2014 - 23:01
Bicycle parking facilities are not always the most attractive buildings, but there is a very interesting exception in the town of Alphen aan den Rijn: the Fietsappel or Bicycle Apple. … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

The “Bicycle Apple”

BicycleDutch - 9 April, 2014 - 23:01
Bicycle parking facilities are not always the most attractive buildings, but there is a very interesting exception in the town of Alphen aan den Rijn: the Fietsappel or Bicycle Apple. … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

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