My final Dutch city report is about the place where I was based throughout my time in The Netherlands (I just took day trips by train to visit the other centres). Enschede (pop. 150,000) is near the eastern border of The Netherlands and like most cities here has a historic town centre around which a larger modern city has been built. Apart from a brief overnighter in Delft coming into The Netherlands, I started in Enschede, ended here, and spent most of my days wandering around it. I chose this as my base because our previous visiting Dutch experts to Christchurch, Leo de Jong and Mark Brussel, live and work here (formally I was based at Mark’s ITC Dept of Urban and Regional Planning and Geo-Information Management at the University of Twente).
When I first arrived at Enschede and walked from the station to my hotel, I was intrigued to see standard painted bike lanes on the road leading there. “But, but, The Netherlands don’t do painted bike lanes!” many people splutter. As you have seen in earlier posts however, they do crop up with more frequency than you might expect, especially on roads of medium traffic volumes. Enschede however did tend to have more of them than most cities I visited. Where they tend to differ at least from NZ cycle lanes is that they become separated from the roadway approaching main intersections, which allows some protection from turning traffic and also separate traffic signal phases.
What I hadn’t realised before I came to Enschede is that the city was actually the pioneer for two interesting developments in Dutch cycling infrastructure:
- Providing priority to people cycling around roundabouts: Back in the early 1990s this concept was first trialled here. Where I was staying there was a busy inner-city roundabout right outside the front door and it was fascinating to watch it in operation (I even had the option of being able to view it from my 15th floor balcony!). So would they work in NZ? I don’t see why not if designed correctly, and maybe with raised path platforms also to reinforce the crossing priority (note: we are only talking about single-lane roundabouts!). There is actually some debate in The Netherlands about the relative safety of this configuration vs a “motorist priority” layout, but I think they have considerable merit.
- Allowing an “all-ways green” Barnes Dance for cycling at signalised intersections: You are probably familiar with a typical pedestrian Barnes Dance crossing where all traffic stops and people can walk across in any direction at the same time. The same concept was applied to cycling to/from any direction at a number of busy intersections first in Enschede in the early 2000s. Since then it has shown up in many other cities (e.g. the ones seen in Groningen). Unlike the separate signs used there, Enschede sometimes uses a special green cycle signal with arrows in it instead.
Again, like other cities visited, there were other interesting features also noted about cycling around Enschede, including:
- The relatively new 50+km “fast cycle highway” F35 linking Enschede to neighbouring cities (so numbered to match the parallel A35 motorway route).
- A very beautiful cycle overbridge, across a busy intersection, that winds back on itself.
- Use of “2 minus 1” road cross-sections; these are particularly common on narrow country roads (together with a 60 km/h speed limit). Cars can only use the advisory cycle lanes (or “suggestion lanes”) for passing each other when the way is clear of bikes. Would love to see some of these on a few NZ country roads.
- Countdown indicators like those seen in Zwolle, to let you know how long until the cycle signal goes green
And a few more interesting pictures of note:
As you can see, plenty to whet your appetite there. Some very clever traffic engineering is evident in many places (not just for cycling – some great busways too), but I do wonder whether greater use of on-road painted cycle lanes is limiting cycle numbers a bit. Hard to know, because there were still huge numbers of bikes (apparently ~26% of trips).
So that is a flying summary of some of the main cities that I visited in The Netherlands. I will wrap up next time however with an overview of my general lessons learned and (more importantly) how they could apply to Christchurch.
If you had to pick just one, what has been your highlight of the things shown around the Netherlands?