Small details

Mark Wagenbuur has published a piece today about Maastricht, with an accompanying video showing a typical journey by bicycle in the city. In response, Paul James observed on twitter that

Never realised until Mark’s video of Maastricht – Dutch drains are set into the curbs so they are not a danger to bikes

This is something I hadn’t noticed either, despite having cycled over a hundred miles in the Netherlands this year. It’s not a big detail, but it makes on-road cycle lanes just that little bit more pleasant. In the picture below, you can see how the drain – instead of being a hazardous grate directly in the cycle lane – is set into the curb to the left, and is completely inconspicuous.

Beilerstraat, Assen

Notice also where the potentially slippery manhole cover is positioned.

Beilerstraat, Assen

Outside of the cycle lane.

And again, in the centre of Assen –


The manhole covers have, very carefully, been put out of harm’s way.

A final example I found, looking back through my photos of Utrecht –


The manhole is in the centre of the ‘car’ lane, leaving the cycle lanes free of potential hazards.

On-road cycle lanes aren’t quite as pleasant as cycle paths, but it’s nice to know how much effort is being taken to make them as good as they can be.


UPDATE – and here are some examples of perfectly-positioned drains in British on-road cycle lanes, all in Horsham –

Spot the difference.

This entry was posted in The Netherlands, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Small details

  1. Joe Dunckley says:

    The bottom photo also shows a traffic calming solution that is not uncommon in NL, but which our cycle infrastructure guidelines completely fail to consider: putting slow rough surfacing on the car lane, and fast smooth surfacing on the bike lanes. The UK’s LTN 2/08 manual merely states that cyclists don’t like setts.

    Of course, that’s because UK engineers can’t imagine a bike lane that isn’t full of parked cars, so none of this would work anyway…

    • I’ve updated the post with additional photos, but I would guess it’s quite clear you are referring to the last of the Dutch photos…

      Good point on the smoothness of the cycle lanes relative to the ‘vehicle’ carriageway, which I forgot to mention. While the cycle lanes in the Assen pictures are not as smooth as those in the Utrecht photo, you can see that the setts have been oriented, and laid, in a way that makes them considerably smoother than those in the central carriageway. Another small detail.

  2. Guess that’s what happens when you properly plan cycle infrastructure rather then just put a few bits of white/green/blue paint down on the bit of road used by all the other road users with a picture of a bike on it…..Still it does keep us UK cyclists on our toes, nothing like a good ol’ slalom as you try and negotiate the bike lane, especially fun now as all the done-on-the-cheap repairs after last winter’s big freeze are starting to sink faster then Greece’s credit rating!

  3. livinginabox says:

    Thanks for this!
    With the modern craze for gangs of Chavs to range around stealing anything metal – including drain-gratings and manhole-covers, the Dutch attention to detail means the potential hazard to cyclists is much reduced compared with that in the UK.
    Another reason for good bike lights now the hours of daylight are lessening.

  4. Don says:

    Come now, we should be grateful that they don’t put the drainage slits parallel to the direction of travel, thus sending us A over T as the front wheel catches.

    Or is it just that they haven’t got the imagination to think of such a wheeze? 😮

  5. Frits B says:

    Dutch comment (from Assen even): drains have been set into the kerbs for a very long time, and not really out of consideration for cyclists. That just happens to be a fortunate side-effect. Drains are usually located at the side of the road, and in the kerbs, for several practical reasons. They catch more water that way as rain runs along the kerb, they cost less because they need not be laid out to tolerate the weight of cars, vans and lorries, and if work has to be done on them such as cleaning or repairs, you don’t need to be in the way of traffic as the work can be done from the pavement. Benefits everywhere.

  6. Richard Mann says:

    Oxfordshire has taken to installing in-kerb drains as standard when it rebuilds main roads in Oxford. They keep some grills, but use a flat (and not-too-big) design.

    It probably adds up costwise (the aim is to do something that’s largely maintenance-free), but they would have probably replaced like-for-like if it weren’t for the fact that many of the engineers ride bikes. {Incidentally, the trouble we have with meetings with officers is that they all ride bikes, and they all have different opinions. Could be worse, I suppose}.

    • If the drains have been put into the kerbs, why is there still a drain in the road at that location?

      It’s not really an improvement if you still have the drains.

      • Richard Mann says:

        A friendly engineer replies:
        “It was not possible to continue with the drainage kerb through some locations due to utilities at shallow depth. Some of these were very large and any diversion would have been unjustifiable on cost and programme grounds. Utilities (up to 500mm dia.) were in some places as shallow as 150mm. For instance water mains should have 900mm cover in carriageways but quite often these and other utilities are within the road construction layers.”

        This gives you an idea about some of the issues they have to deal with.

  7. Joe Dunckley says:

    Well, I guess it might kinda help a bit if it means that there are fewer puddles…

    I’d be more worried about what they’ve done just up the road:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.