Some cycle tracks and junctions in Amsterdam

Inspired by a recent post from the Alternative Department for Transport about cycle tracks crossing minor junctions, I spent some of my time wandering and cycling round Amsterdam last week examining the kinds of arrangements of cycle tracks at junctions of various types and sizes.

Starting with smaller junctions, here’s what looks to be a rather old cycle track (judging by the undistinguished grey paving, which is no longer favoured) alongside a major road, crossing a minor side street.

The important elements here are the extensive pavement continuity and the steep ramps on both sides of the pavement/cycle track. It’s quite clear to any driver moving through this area that they should do so with caution.

Below, another older cycle track, across a minor road to the right, again with ramps and pavement continuity. Ignore the white car; it is parked, slightly illegally.

In this case there is actually no entry for vehicles into this residential side road (indicated by the circular sign at upper right), so conflicts for vehicles turning across the track don’t exist. Drivers will only be arriving from the right. Indeed, it’s very common for Dutch residential streets to have one-way restrictions like this; it cuts out through-traffic, as well as having the secondary benefit of eliminating many turning conflicts across cycle tracks and pavements.

A more recent example, in a new development in south Amsterdam. The track is smoother.

Again there is pavement continuity on both sides. The tactile paving on the right is to alert the blind or partially-sighted that they are crossing a side road.

Nearby, this example involves a track crossing a one-way minor road. In this case only entry by vehicles is possible, not exit.

This is the Google Streetview image of the same location.

Note that on-street parking stops some distance before the junction, providing good visibility for any vehicle that might wish to turn into the residential side street.

Another side road with vehicles turning in off the main road, into a residential cul-de-sac.

The cycle track is set back, after a raised ramp and large paved area.

Here’s a cycle track in the centre of Amsterdam, running alongside a one-way street, and crossing a side road, into which the van is waiting to turn.

Again, it’s obvious to the driver that he will be crossing an area in which there will be pedestrians and cyclists.

In the example below, a cycle track has continuity in a situation in which drivers are forced to turn right across it.

Interestingly this cycle track is created just in advance of the junction; it’s a cycle lane alongside a vehicle lane beforehand. The movements are deliberately separated. The zebra crossing and the ramps, along with the sharp turn, serve to keep vehicle speeds low.

This cycle track crosses a larger side road, with priority -

As in the previous example, being placed adjacent to a zebra crossing helps to lower vehicle speeds, as well as to establish priority.

Not all junctions are minor, of course. Where turning traffic might be more substantial in volume, cycle track crossings become signalised.

With these types of junctions, turning conflicts are almost completely eliminated, as the straight-on movements of bicycles are separated in time from the right-turn movements of the vehicles, as in this example -

Right-turning vehicles are held at red, while bicycles have a green light to progress across the junction.

The light sequence coincides with a green crossing for pedestrians.

While you may have to wait for a green signal, you do have the benefit of a ‘free’ right turn (or, equivalently in this country, a left turn) at any time. I also came across induction loops placed in the cycle tracks; these are triggered by bicycles, and give you a green signal instantly, depending on traffic volume.

Even larger junctions are crossed in one signal. I moved through both these large junctions on just one green light.

It’s smooth, easy and simple. So often I caught myself instinctively looking back over my left shoulder for a UK-style ‘life preserver’ safety check, which simply wasn’t necessary.

An article published yesterday by David Arditti about the London Assembly Transport Committee on cycling safety (worth reading in its own right) contains an interesting fact, as reported by Rachel Aldred – namely that there were only four right-hook (the equivalent of our left-hook) cycling deaths in the entirety of the Netherlands last year, despite their vastly higher cycling rate.

I don’t know how many of the cycling deaths in the UK last year involved left hooks, but I can immediately think of five in just London alone; Paula Jurek, Paul McGreal, Daniel Cox, and the two deaths at Bow Roundabout, Brian Dorling and Svitlana Tereschenko. This leads me to suspect that a substantial proportion of UK cycling deaths involve left hooks, certainly far outstripping the mere four recorded in the Netherlands last year.

This is important, because we are consistently told that separation is unsafe, especially at junctions. This may be true of the way off-carriageway provision is currently designed and implemented in Great Britain, where priorities are often unclear, and cyclists often have to cross roads while yielding and looking in several directions. Indeed, the latest Department for Transport guidance on Shared Use Routes for Pedestrians and Cyclists [pdf] contains this picture of a particularly hopeless two-way pavement cycling route which is almost inviting a collision.

However, it is certainly not true of the way the Dutch separate cyclists at junctions. I hope the pictures of Amsterdam in this post have illustrated that there is a way of treating junctions correctly, to allow cyclists to progress through them safely, without abandoning them like the current British fetish for ‘shared use pavements’ seems to do, as shown in the picture above, which continue, sadly, to be the only official way of accommodating cyclists’ movements away from the carriageway.

With Dutch design, motor vehicle turning movements are often eliminated altogether, but where they are not, the design is clear, vehicle speeds are kept low, and at junctions where turning movements are greater in number, the movements of bicycle and motor traffic are kept separated in time. Dutch cyclists are very often safe at junctions because of separation, not in spite of it.

This entry was posted in Department for Transport, Infrastructure, One-way streets, Safety, Subjective safety, The Netherlands. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Some cycle tracks and junctions in Amsterdam

  1. Richard Mann says:

    There’s nothing to stop highway authorities in the UK from creating a separate carriageway that is restricted to bicycles alongside an existing road. It’s how it was done before the Cycle Tracks Act (and we have some in Oxford). The problem is that there frequently isn’t enough space. That’s why we’ve often ended up with a design bodge. {Sometimes of course, there is enough space, but provision for cycling is too low a priority. But that’s a different matter.}

    However, the 1:5 ramps that they use in the Netherlands aren’t currently permissible.

  2. disgruntled says:

    In Scotland, left hooks are the commonest reason for serious cycling injuries (with admissions to hospital) – a bigger issue even than HGVs

  3. Anonimica says:

    The not enough space is a funny one: Amsterdam is an old city, with narrow streets. The cycle provisions here are the result of choices, not of having so much space! In the dead center, getting around in a car in Amsterdam is as much pain in the behind as on a bike in London. (though your chances of getting out alive are better).
    1 of the right hook incidents was in my county (rural village with through road, combined with a frolicking teenager and a lorry). It was deemed utterly unacceptable, even though it WAS clearly an accident, even by the company of the lorry. So county is redesigning the road…..
    Government bodies can influence things, and make choices, even if they are not allowed to use 1:5 ramps.

  4. Fred Smith says:

    I went cycling in the Netherlands this summer and after reading your blog I miss it. What a great place to ride a bike.

    Anonimica is right about Amsterdam, it turns out there is space if you look for it. Saying ‘there isn’t enough space’ is a convenient excuse for people who don’t want to prioritise cycling. As if the only way to provide for cyclists is to make every road 2.5m wider – there are lots of little and big things which can be done to make a difference.

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