donderdag 19 december 2013

What 'going Dutch' is NOT

On this blog I am trying to show something of Dutch infrastructure, of what it means to 'go Dutch' and what can achieved with it. But it is also important to know what is not going Dutch. If only because sometimes bad infrastructure can be as bad or worse as no infrastructure at all.

First, cycle paths along every road is not Dutch. The Dutch build cycle paths along all main roads with much traffic, but in other places other solutions prevail. That may for example be streets that are traffic-calmed, so that the speed difference between cars and bicycles is not too large, or streets where cars are allowed, but which are little used by them because they cannot function as through routes for cars, but can for bicycles.

Having said that 30 kmh everywhere definitely isn't Dutch. In Dutch infrastructure, roads are divided in arterial roads, distributor roads and residential roads. Residential roads are often 30 kmh, distributor roads only sometimes and arterial roads never. Roads that have higher maximum speeds (usually 50 kmh in cities) usually have some separate cycling infrastructure in the form of cycle paths (or at least cycle lanes). Perhaps even more important, 30 kmh is not the end of cycling infrastructure. Many of these roads have additional traffic calming measures to ensure that not just the official, but also the actual speed of motor vehicles is 30 kmh - or even lower. Also, their connections to the main network are often restricted to ensure that using these roads by cars is only useful for those who are in that area, and they cannot be used as through routes. Finally, if a road has a 30 kmh limit, but also a large amount of motor vehicle and/or bicycle traffic, separated bicycle infrastructure may still be called for.

More generally, the same recepy everywhere is not Dutch. Roads differ in their usage by car drivers, usage by bicyclists, available space, possible alternatives etcetera. Because of this, sometimes one solution is chosen, sometimes another.

And what is true in space, is true in time too. Dutch infrastructure is not constant in time. Infrastructure that was once exceptional becomes normal, infrastructure that was normal becomes outdated. One development that can be seen over a long time is a greater and greater separation between motor vehicles and bicycles. Cycle lanes became protected cycle lanes which were physically separated; protected cycle lanes became cycle tracks which were separated by space; and now protected cycle lanes become unravelled routes where cycleway and motor vehicle road actually form different routes between the same points and areas.

Another important point is that going Dutch is not something to be done on a single road. Dutch cycling does not get a road here, a route there, a path somewhere else. It is provided for on the full network. Cycling infrastructure does not only take you everywhere, if you want to take another route, in all likelihood cycling will be provided for there too. Cycling infrastructure on one road, or a single route, cannot really be 'Dutch style' - however good it may be.

Going from the general to the more specific, cycle lanes, and in particular unprotected cycle lanes are not Dutch. It's the most basal kind of infrastructure, and neither safe enough nor comfortable enough by current Dutch standards. Of course you can build cycle lanes and say you're going Dutch, but you'll be going Dutch 1980s style, not going Dutch 2010s style.

Another piece of infrastructure that is considered outdated infrastructure in the Netherlands is Advanced Stopping Lanes. The place where cyclists wait at Dutch junctions is not in front of motor vehicles, but at places those motor vehicles do not come at any time.

Related to that, early green for cyclists is not Dutch. The idea behind early green is to get cyclists onto the junctions, and preferably off it again, before other vehicles do. That's not good enough by Dutch standards. Dutch junctions either use simultaneous green phases for cyclists, or have cyclists cross at a different spot completely, with no motor vehicles crossing their path having green at the same time. Minimizing the amount of conflict at crossings is outdated - the Dutch prefer to eliminate it.

It's not Dutch to have a shared use pavement. Putting cyclists and pedestrians together is probably not as dangerous as putting motor vehicles and cyclists together, but it is as uncomfortable, and not really a solution to anything. Usually, a Dutch road will have both a cyclepath and a pavement, the pavement going along the cyclepath. Sometimes there is no pavement, and pedestrians need to use the cyclepath, but that is only done when there is very little pedestrian traffic anyway.

And finally, however much I myself and presumably most of my readers have their main attention there, Dutch infrastructure is not just about cycling. If one has to give a single word to describe it, safety comes before cycling. It is also not anti-car. Rather, it depends on the kind of car use: Using the car for short trips, especially to city centers, is indeed discouraged, but those who use the car for longer trips, and thus don't mind some trouble in the beginning and the end if that means the part in between is fast and comfortable, are well taken care of.



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